comparison is the killjoy of success

Comparison: the sneaky killjoy ruining your life!

It was a regular workday. I was trying to get some work done while my kids interrupted me every other minute. To be fair to them, it did look like I was drumming the keyboard for fun. Meanwhile, I was snooping, scrolling through LinkedIn, reading updates from others about their professional escapades.

And behold, like a rat who is so lost in sniffing cheese, realizes a second too late, that the trap has snapped shut behind her, I had fallen prey. The trap hadn’t just shut behind me, but I was snowballing right into a deep hole too.

Now you must be wondering what on earth had happened to me. It’s so common you’d want to high-five me and facepalm yourself.

My otherwise neutral day was going to turn into a cloudy one within a matter of minutes. Because it was partly my fault and part of the bragging rights are reserved by social media. I was scrolling through my feed until I saw an update from an old friend.

Alas! I did what I shouldn’t have. I opened her profile and saw a big list of accomplishments. Was that wrong? No, but I fell into the age-old trap of COMPARISON. And I regretted it badly!

I know many of us do this to ourselves even when we know that we shouldn’t. Despite knowing we shouldn’t be jealous of other’s success, we can’t help ourselves. Even though it’s a normal response but it needs active work to be controlled or even changed.

When we browse through social media, watching people we know, leading what appears to us as amazing lives, we can feel jaded about our own life. At that moment, we either want to be them or we smirk at them.

Comparison is the killjoy of your success. The success that you worked hard at, so you could someday live a version of life that you want to live, the feel-good you exist in, and the milestones you achieved to get here.

What do you think happened after I dropped into that rabbit hole?

I have lost count of all the negative thoughts that went through my head. My accomplishments started to look small in comparison.

My success didn’t seem like much of one, in comparison.

Victories I was proud of up until that moment, didn’t seem shiny enough, in comparison.

I felt like a despondent failure, in comparison. All because I innocently (read foolishly) fell into the trap of COMPARISON!

Do you know where it all started? In the womb!

Your mother is thinking, my baby is going to be ‘better than’ that snob who flaunts her babies in everyone’s face as if potty training achievement is breaking news. Dad takes it a bit further and goes on reminding you how awesome Mr. Neighbor’s Son is all through your growing up years and now it’s become your inner voice.

We need to call out Comparison for what it is.

Comparison is a trap!

There is no truth to it. It’s a maze of misplaced benchmarks between two completely unrelated entities. You can never come out of it unscathed.

If two things have to be compared fairly, they need to be given the same environment to be in. Were all things similar between you and your friend growing up? You and your colleague? Or your brother? You and that social media influencer you envy? Not a chance!

We all have a lot of uniqueness to us, as ironic as that sounds. For starters, even the DNA in twins coming from the same womb isn’t the same. Each one of us differs in the way we are raised, our exposure to the world, our experiences, and relationships, so and so forth.

What comparison does?

Comparison kills the pride we feel in our own stories. We all have a trajectory that we have to follow. Envying someone else’s isn’t going to make ours any better or for that matter, worse.

What comparison does is snatch, kill, and destroy.

  • It kills our joy in our success. No aptitude for math; scored a B but couldn’t get a celebratory candy because the class nerd scored an A.
  • It destroys our relationships. Ever noticed that bitter taste in your mouth at the family dinner, talking to the cousin who has been the bane of your existence since time immemorial?
  • It snatches our ability to appreciate others. I have felt my throat choke with bile when I had to appreciate a friend my dad thought was the epitome of grace while I was as clumsy as anyone could be.

Comparison can leave you feeling raw for days where you overthought decisions, overanalyzed the achievements that brought you where you are now.

What comparison gives?

  • Comparison places a magnifying glass over our messes. It gives rise to discontentment. Like an overly critical parent, it raises self-doubt bit by bit.
  • Comparison takes the crown for the insecurities we develop towards our capabilities.
  • It gives us a hard time opening about vulnerabilities, thus, stops us from seeking help from our peers.
  • It comes in between partnerships that could have been potential game-changers. The greatest gift it gives us is that of a sore loser attitude.
  • At the worst, if left unchecked, it can alienate us to the extent that we are rendered friendless.

What to watch out for?

Comparison usually starts with the first berating thought (usually directed to yourself) that comes to mind, when you come across something that you desired. Thou shalt not covet, anyone?

Then it will play a game of mudslinging at the other person with negative thoughts, playing down their good points. It will usually start with words like ‘I wish’, ‘I couldn’t’, ‘they had it easy’, ‘maybe I don’t deserve it because…’ etc.

Watch out for the kind of thoughts that start flying around in your mind when you are mindlessly scrolling through your feed. If you let one of the negative thoughts nest, you will hear the trap door snap shut.

How to escape the comparison trap?

There is only one way I see around it. GRATITUDE.

Practice gratitude!

comparison needs practicing gratitude

When you feel an onslaught of comparison raging at you with negativity, count your blessings. Remind yourself of those times when you outdid your expectations.

Redefine what success means to you. Remember your battle scars and how proud you are of them.

Celebrate the sacrifices you made to get where you are today. As the list grows in your mind, you will feel the sting fade. You will be able to appreciate that person as well as yourself. You will be able to respect their journey in all its uniqueness.

At this point, I want to be honest with you. 

You will not be able to completely stop comparing yourself to others!

The thought will flit at your mind’s window but don’t let it in. It’s a flaw in our parenting system. This seed is sown from a young age. It’s well-meaning at the time, aimed to inspire and motivate but we can’t control the harmful aspect of it. But as we grow up, we have to intentionally unlearn this habit. We can stop ourselves from landing all the way at the bottom.

Since you have been kind to stick this far with me, please also read this story from Paulo Coelho that would hit you just as it did me and we can call it a home run.

A Samurai who was known for his nobility and honesty, went to visit a Zen monk to ask him for his advice.

When the monk had finished his prayers, the Samurai asked, “Why do I feel so inferior? I have faced death many times, have defended those who are weak. Nevertheless, upon seeing you meditating, I felt that my life had absolutely no importance whatsoever.”

“Wait. Once I have attended to all those who come to see me today, I shall answer you.”

The samurai spent the whole day sitting in the temple gardens, watching the people go in and out in search of advice. He saw how the monk received them all with the same patience and the same illuminated smile on his face.

At nightfall, when everyone had gone, he demanded: “Now can you teach me?”

The master invited him in and led him to his room. The full moon shone in the sky, and the atmosphere was one of profound tranquility.

“Do you see the moon, how beautiful it is? It will cross the entire firmament, and tomorrow the sun will shine once again. But sunlight is much brighter, and can show the details of the landscape around us: trees, mountains, clouds. I have contemplated the two for years, and have never heard the moon say: ‘why do I not shine like the sun? Is it because I am inferior?’”

“Of course not,” answered the samurai. “The moon and the sun are different things, each has its own beauty. You cannot compare the two.”

“So you know the answer. “We are two different people, each fighting in his own way for that which he believes, and making it possible to make the world a better place; the rest are mere appearances.”

Story credit: Paulo Coelho

Have you had any similar incidents that killed your joy of success? Do share in the comments.

Hello, I am Sheryl. I am turning into a master juggler with two toddlers, my writing and creativity explorations tossed among other things as I try to make sense of life's many puzzles. On my blog, 'Sherbeth', join me in exploring all of life's flavours; sweet, bitter and everything in between.

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