Comparison is the Thief of Joy

I think we’ve all been told about a million times to not compare ourselves to each other, to not compare our mess of a life to someone else’s perfect Instagram life, but for a long time I ignored that advice. I was hoping that maybe if I compared what I had to what others had, it would inspire me to make changes. I know, it’s okay to roll your eyes at me, because it really does seem ridiculous when I write it down like that. But I am here to tell you, you will never find any joy in comparing yourself to someone else.

I think it is easy to compare what we have with others, especially this time of year. We all have friends with the perfect color-coordinated Christmas tree and perfect Christmas card and perfect body in their perfect outfit, all while still eating all the holiday goodies. It is easy to scroll through Instagram and see transformation photos and wish you had been able to make that much progress this year. It’s easy to see the piles of presents under other people’s trees and wish your kids had 10 presents each. But when we focus on all the things we don’t have, we miss out on the things we do have.

We miss out on the joy in our children’s eyes as they help decorate the tree with mismatched ornaments or share a cookie we made together that has too many sprinkles. We miss out on all the things we did accomplish this past year and on making new memories because we are too worried about what our life looks like on Instagram.

It’s not just comparison around Christmastime or on social media either. It is so easy to look at your friends and family and compare your life with theirs. To compare their clean house with your dirty one, their well-behaved children with your screaming monsters, their fit bodies with your still-doesn’t-fit-in-prepregancy-jeans body. But here’s the thing: there is always more to the story. There is always life behind the scenes you know nothing about.

I always clean my house before friends or family come over, but in the middle of the week when I am not expecting company, it looks like a bomb of toys, bibs, and bottles exploded in my living room, and I haven’t washed the dishes in a week. The child who says please and thank you out at dinner yells at me and says, “Okay, fiiinnnneee,” no less than five times while we try to get out the door. The times I workout and post about it on Instagram are far outnumbered by the number of times I eat a bowl of cereal and fall asleep on the couch before my husband gets home.

When I focus on all the things I don’t have or all the ways someone else’s life is better than mine, I am miserable. I feel like a bad wife, bad mom, bad friend...bad everything. But when I focus on my life and all the things I have, I am humbled by how blessed I am and by how good my life really is. Sometimes the thing you are complaining about and hating in your life is the very thing other people wish they could have.

Life is hard and messy and exhausting and sometimes downright awful, but comparing yourself to someone else isn’t going to make it any better. Don’t make the hard times harder by comparing your worst to another person’s best. Don’t discount all the things you do have by focusing on what you don’t. Don’t miss the joy and beauty in everyday moments while you are looking for social media-worthy ones.