Apparently, comparison is the thief of joy
Social media probably plays a pretty big part in this – with people putting their lives on display for all to see. We forget that it’s a highlight reel, and instead, we’re surrounded by everyone’s picture perfect lives and find their latest achievement at every turn. It’s a difficult environment to navigate, particularly as a twentysomething who’s still trying to find her place in the world.
It doesn’t help that I’ve always had a lot of older friends, who are at different stages of their lives than me, so as I work my way through exams and lectures they’re off working full-time jobs and doing “grown-up” things. I often forget that I’m 22 and that I don’t need to have my shit together quite yet.
Another popular “motivational quote” is the idea of comparing your chapter one to someone else’s chapter twenty – which was a gamechanger for me. Everyone’s journey is different, people want different things and have different approaches. It might look like they’ve got it all together on the surface, but that might not be the case.
Then I changed my approach.
Realistically, you will never know exactly what happens behind the scenes in other people’s lives. Chances are, no one out there will be in an identical situation to yours, and therefore a direct comparison is basically impossible. It’s not fair to put yourself through that when you don’t have all of the information at your disposal.
Ultimately, although someone may look like they have it all, they could still be unhappy. Maybe they’re sitting there, comparing themselves to someone else, and feeling like a failure too. The thing is, we’re not failing just because we haven’t reached a certain milestone yet. Last year I felt like a failure for having dropped out of university as I watched my friends graduate, but I think I would’ve felt even worse if I’d forced myself through the rest of a degree I hated instead of starting the journey all over again. Yes, I’m maybe a few years behind education wise, but I’m so much happier overall.
Instead of comparing myself to other people, I now focus on my own journey, and how far I’ve come in comparison to myself. This time last year I was a bit of a mess and I wasn’t coping well, I was in denial about the state of my mental health and wasn’t strong enough to admit I needed help until it was too late. The tiniest thing would push me over the edge and I’d disappear into hiding for weeks at a time. This year, life has thrown obstacles aplenty in my way, but I’ve persevered. I saw the signs when they were there, and I tackled them head-on.
Really, the only person I can truly compare myself to is me. I know what I’ve overcome and what I want to achieve. I know what matters to me and what I could care less about. I have all of the facts when it comes to my own journey, so I can make proper comparisons and assess the situation armed with the facts.
Previously, using other people as a benchmark for my success was making me miserable. I wasn’t appreciating what I’d achieved and I was never happy with what I was doing. Taking a step back and focusing on my own journey has been revolutionary for my state of mind. It’s helped me recognise my own achievements and give myself some credit, taking the time to praise myself instead of getting caught up in what so and so on Twitter has done.
That’s not to say I don’t get caught up in the comparison trap every so often – I do. But I’m the one who defines my own success and comparing myself to strangers on the internet will never do me any good. Instead, I’m fuelled by the desire to outperform myself. I want to better myself at every step, and so far I think I’m doing okay.