You’ve probably heard the Theodore Roosevelt quote ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ plenty of times before. But how or why is comparison the thief of joy? You may wonder. After all, comparing yourself to others can be good and helpful sometimes, and may result in feelings of gratitude and happiness.
It all depends on the people you are comparing yourself to and why you are doing it.
In this post, we shall discuss some of the reasons why comparison makes you unhappy. We will also give some tips on how to stop comparing yourself to others so you can be happier and more fulfilled in life.
But before we go to the reasons why comparison is the thief of joy, let’s start by stating the meaning of this quote and identifying what makes people compare themselves to others. Read on…
What Does Comparison Is the Thief of Joy Mean?
The quote comparison is the thief of joy means that comparing yourself to others makes you feel unhappy and discontent, where you were previously happy and content.
Comparison may be harmful to your overall mental health. When you compare yourself to others, your joy is stolen from you if you find yourself lacking in something that someone else has or is better at.
The ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ quote is often incorrectly thought to have originated from the Bible, Mark Twain, or Oprah Winfrey, among other sources, but it was Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, who said it. The others repeated his words or said variations of the phrase.
So, if comparison is bad, why do we engage in it? Let’s see…
Why Do We Compare Ourselves to Others?
Nowadays, it has become a lot easier to engage in comparison due to increased social media usage and people’s willingness to share details about their private lives, including their achievements, relationships, day-to-day activities, wealth, talents, and struggles.
You can compare yourself to others in three ways; that is, against people who are doing better than you, those you think are on the same level, and those you believe to be doing worse than you.
Some common reasons why we compare ourselves to others are;
- To get inspired and motivated
- For self-evaluation
- To get an ego boost
- For validation
- To define and describe ourselves
10 Reasons Why Comparison Is the Thief of Joy
- Comparison makes you dissatisfied
Let’s admit it: we all compare ourselves or have ever compared ourselves to others at some point. How did you feel after doing it?
One of the reasons why comparison is the thief of joy is that it makes you feel dissatisfied with your life, achievements, body, items, relationships, experiences, or income, among other things when you see others having better than you.
Even if you’re successful and have no problems in life, comparing yourself to others may still steal your joy in the achievements and other good things you currently have.
You will experience dissatisfaction just because your peers seem to have better things or perfect lives.
A little dissatisfaction with your life is good because it can motivate you to work harder to get better things for yourself, but it is not okay to constantly feel discontented due to comparison.
- It can ruin your relationships with others
Perhaps you usually compare yourself to your siblings, romantic partner, friends, and colleagues, and you often compete with them to be the one who is doing better. Or, maybe your parents, bosses, romantic partner, and friends like to compare you to others.
One of the main reasons why comparison is the thief of joy is that it could ruin your previously healthy relationships, both in your personal and professional life.
No one likes to be compared to others and found lacking. Also, nobody wants to feel like you’re always competing with them. It is exhausting, and they may also perceive the constant competition as a sign you’re a toxic person and cut you off their lives.
- Comparison leads to feelings of inadequacy and inferiority
Imagine you’ve gone for a job interview, but while awaiting your turn, you meet other applicants who seem better prepared. For instance, they’re better educated, more experienced, or even better dressed.
The happiness you felt when you got the invitation for the interview will most likely decrease because you may begin to doubt your qualifications, abilities, and chances of getting the job.
These negative feelings of inferiority and inadequacy can happen when you compare yourself to others in other aspects of life too.
Comparison is the thief of joy because it makes you feel inferior and inadequate or like you’re a failure. You may think that you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or doing enough when what you have seems less than what others have.
- You may develop bad personality traits
Besides making you feel less than, another reason why comparison is the thief of joy is that it can make you develop bad personality traits, such as jealousy, envy, selfishness, and arrogance, which can ruin your relationships with others and your life.
For instance, when you see your friends, family members, colleagues, or even strangers having better things than you, you may become envious or jealous instead of being happy for them and working harder to get better things in your life too. In an attempt to get the same things, you may set unrealistic goals for yourself that could frustrate you further.
Whether you’re doing better or worse than others, you may also become selfish and not want to share what you have with people because you don’t want them to surpass you or have more of the good things in life.
As for arrogance, many people who compare themselves to those in worse situations than them may develop this toxic trait. But while you may look down on others and feel good about being better than them, you won’t be truly happy if your positive feelings only come from knowing you’re better off than others.
- Comparison could result in bad decisions
So, your friends, siblings, or someone else is doing better in life than you; what are you going to do about it? Many people often make bad decisions or burn themselves out while trying to keep up with others; that is one of the reasons why comparison is the thief of joy.
For instance, you may overwork, engage in criminal or immoral behavior, take shortcuts to success, change aspects of yourself, and waste your money or time trying to be like someone else.
Comparing yourself to others may kill your joy because you could become inauthentic, frustrated, broke, entangled with the wrong people, sick, and estranged from family and friends.
You may also fail to achieve the unrealistic goals you set, get arrested, or have other consequences of the bad choices you made due to pressure after comparison.
- Comparing yourself to others can be demotivating
One of the main reasons why comparison is the thief of joy is that it could demoralize you from chasing your goals. No matter how good or successful you are, there will always be someone better than you in some areas of life.
Comparing yourself to someone doing much better than you can demotivate you because you may think they’re too far ahead and you can never reach the same level they are at.
You may lose the morale to keep going because you think that there’s no point in trying.
- It could make you do things you don’t love
Perhaps you’ve been doing a job you love; it doesn’t pay much, but you’re happy doing it and earn enough to cater to your needs. After comparing yourself to other people with higher-paying jobs, you decide to quit and look for a similar one. Even if you don’t love it, you do the job just for the money and status.
One of the reasons why comparison is the thief of joy is that it can make you do things that don’t make you happy. You may also set unrealistic expectations for yourself. These could frustrate you further when you can’t fulfil the new goals or when you can’t find happiness in the new things you’re doing.
Comparison is the thief of joy because it can limit your growth. Instead of focusing on your personal goals and life, you may get stuck trying many different things that don’t align with your vision or make you happy after comparing yourself to different people and desiring what they all have.
- Comparison may lead to self-loathing and mental disorders
Feeling inferior, jealous, ugly, and unaccomplished are some of the harmful effects of comparing yourself to others. You may even feel ashamed and blame yourself or aspects of yourself for your current situation. All these can ruin your relationship with yourself and affect your mental health.
The reason why comparison is the thief of joy is that it can trigger negative thoughts about yourself, leading to feelings of self-loathing and even conditions such as body dysmorphia, eating disorders, depression, and social anxiety.
The negative thoughts about yourself can be worse if you aren’t the one engaging in comparison but others, such as parents, friends, or bosses, comparing you to your siblings, other friends, and employees.
- Comparison makes you undervalue the good things in your life
If you look for things that could be lacking in your life, you will certainly find them. That is what often happens when people compare themselves to others. They start to only see what they don’t have, what they used to have but don’t anymore, or what others have better of.
The reason why comparison is the thief of joy is that it makes you forget or undervalue the good things in your life as you focus on what is lacking.
The things you currently have, such as small achievements, good health, material possessions, healthy relationships, hobbies, or a job, can contribute to your happiness if you allow yourself to be content and appreciate them. Learn to live in the present and practice gratitude.
- It makes you depend on others to describe and rate yourself
Self-evaluation, needing an ego boost, and seeking validation are some of the reasons why people compare themselves to others. However, these affect your happiness and sense of self as you may always depend on others to rate yourself, define who you are, and choose how to feel at a particular moment.
Comparison is the thief of joy because engaging in it will make you rely on how you stack up against others, that is, how much better or worse off you are than your peers, to determine how you feel about yourself.
Instead of your happiness coming from within and describing yourself in your own terms, these will depend on how others are compared to you. That’s not a good way to live.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
- Reduce social media usage
- Unfollow/block social media pages that trigger your comparison tendencies
- Know your priorities
- Focus on your strengths and growth, and celebrate your wins
- Mind your own business
- Be grateful and content with what you have
- Celebrate other people’s successes and don’t let them bother you
- Keep your private life private
- Compete with yourself instead
- Keep in mind that what you see online doesn’t always reflect reality
Comparison is the thief of joy is a popular quote, but many people are unfamiliar with how exactly comparing yourself to others makes you unhappy.
Hopefully, from the above, you now understand the reasons why comparison is the thief of joy, what makes us compare ourselves to others, and how to stop comparing yourself with other people.
Whenever you find yourself comparing yourself to others, remember that you are being unfair to yourself. In fact, engaging in comparison is a form of self-sabotage because it can ruin your life, relationships, and career.
Now that you know why comparison is the thief of joy, use the above tips to stop comparing yourself to others so you can have a happier, more fulfilling life.
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