Choose Joy over Comparison

image credit: Lisa

These simple words reminded me about why I quit my job, got rid of most of my stuff, and redefined my life. There is a fine line between comparison and competition and neither are particularly productive when it comes to feeding a happy, healthy, joyful life.

I am no stranger to comparison. Working in sales and marketing for close to 20 years had my daily focus on comparing things like …

  • my sales numbers compared to my colleagues
  • my companies stats compared to my competition
  • the number of hours I invested compared to everyone else
  • how much later I checked my email and wrote proposals compared to co-workers
  • my connection with clients compared to their relationships

and then there was all the life stuff that went with the work stuff …

  • my new shoes compared to hers
  • where I went on vacation compared to where they went on vacation
  • what car I drove to work in compared to how they got to work
  • my new highlights compared to their cute haircut

I am embarrassed and saddened that comparison was such a huge part of my life, but the interesting part is that I didn’t know it was so prevalent until it wasn’t. I didn’t know that I was driven by being better, faster, smarter, more liked, and more stylish. I wasn’t outwardly greedy or aggressive, but inside I was striving for the wrong things.

All I really wanted was joy, and yet through my actions, I was chasing it away every day. In my old life of keeping up, exceeding expectations and searching for more, I had to escape to find joy and today, joy chases me.

Choose joy and stop comparing

Bank Accounts
If you’ve ever raised eyebrows because your employer bought a new car or a co-worker showed up at the office wearing $500 shoes, then you’ve given some thought to how people spend their money compared to how you spend yours. I know you don’t actually share bank statements, but you make assumptions based on how people live and what they say. The money they make has no bearing on your happiness and what they make is only a tiny part of their financial picture. If you were happy with what you were earning until you discovered a co-worker made more, ask yourself why you are chasing joy away.

Appearance
No one that really cares about you will remember what shoes you wore to last month’s sales meeting or your cousin’s wedding. If you try to keep up with the latest trends and compare yourself to magazine ads and mannequins at the mall, you will be uncomfortable, broke and frustrated. Instead, dress with fewer items that allow you to be creative, gentle and happy. Shoes that squeeze your feet and jeans that cut off the circulation in your thighs aren’t joyful. Dress to enjoy your day, not so that others can enjoy you. You will remember the moment and they will remember that you were great to spend time with, not what you looked like.

Children
With stories of babies on exclusive private school waiting lists, and back to back activities for kids, you might compare what you are doing with your own kids. Why did you take your kids hiking this weekend instead of driving back and forth to music, sports and language classes. Why are your kids at home with you all summer instead of away at camp learning something that will build their college applications. Why aren’t your kids taking 5 AP classes instead of the curriculum that they really enjoy? What? Your kid isn’t going to college? You get the idea. Comparison will steal the joy of watching your child learn to love their own life. Teach your children that they are perfect and imperfect, not better or worse than someone else. Give them room to breathe, solve problems, and discover what makes their heart sing.

Body Image
If you’ve ever wanted to be skinnier than someone else, you know what I mean. Maybe you’ve even taken drastic measures to measure up. Instead of comparing and falling short, think about how you want to fuel your body to be joyful, with great energy. Make slow changes based on what your body needs, not based on the dress you want to wear that won’t zip or the friend that seems to always be the perfect weight.

Relationships
Have you ever compared the relationship you have with someone to another? Similar to the financial comparisons, you never know the full story. I’ve seen countless marriages and relationships crumble that looked perfect from the outside. You catch a glimpse of other relationships, but the only ones you can really know and enjoy are yours. Pour yourself into them. Whenever you start to focus on a relationship that doesn’t include you, shift focus and write a love letter and connect more deeply with someone you love.

Success
Your life experience is unique as is your definition of success. When you can truly stop comparing, you can figure out what that definition is. You can take time to ask important questions like “What really makes me happy?” “What will I contribute to the world?” “What is enough for me?”

There is enough joy for each of us. Joy is not a limited resource. Joy multiplies when you embrace it. Joy spreads when you give it away, and when you stop comparing, joy will chase you. Slow down and it will catch you every day.

Where is comparison stealing your joy?

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I reverse compare, which is probably as bad – I judge people for spending money in ways I consider to be silly and competitive (such as buying expensive cars they can’t afford, or buying bigger houses just because their friends are). I really should just focus on my own life and let everyone else get on with theirs.

    • Courtney Carver says

      I think when we are most judgmental about other people’s habits, we are actually examining our own in one way or another. It’s great that you have that awareness so when you find yourself thinking about it, you can shift gears.

  2. says

    Great insights Courtney! Coincidentally, I’m currently working on a post about keeping up with the Joneses. :)

    It seems like I go in cycles with this concept. I’ll go for a good stretch of time without comparisons and then BAM! I wake up one day to an overcommitted second grader that has to rest in bed for almost a week because his defenses were so low he came down with multiple sicknesses. And you know what? He didn’t sign himself up for three extracurricular activities. I should have said no, but he wanted to be with his friends…and I didn’t want him to feel left out…excuses, excuses.

    Now we’re scaling back his commitments again. I’m pretty good at keeping MY commitments in check, but I need to work on not letting my eight-year old sign up for too many activities as well.

    • Courtney Carver says

      I have had many moments as a mom where I was pushing when I didn’t want to be. We want the very best for our kids, but sometimes forget what “best” is. Hope your little one is feeling better soon!

  3. says

    Hi Courtney,

    This really hits home. I think there are many ways that comparison can also be a subtle factor in our life. I’m constantly bemused and sometimes captured by the way blogging entices us to compare ourselves to other bloggers. It makes far more sense to focus that energy on being the blogger *you* really want to be. Thank you for this bold reminder!

    • Courtney Carver says

      Sandra, I think it’s like that for all artists, but when we truly get lost in our own work, that’s when the magic happens. With your beautiful writing, I am sure you have experienced that.

  4. Alison says

    I totally agree – especially with the kids. Moms are suppose to be encouraging to each other, but sometimes it does feel like a competition. How many camps is little Johnny going to? What did Suzie get in math this year? etc….. ugh! Very frustrating.

    This year I did accomplish one easy organizing task in my home with the never ending pieces of paper / artwork that comes home from school.

    Check it out – give it a try!

    Take care and have a wonderful week!
    Alison

  5. Anne says

    Thanks for this post—-it affected me profoundly as the issue of comparing my life and situation to others is a problem for me. I grew up in a home presided over by a perfectionist father, and I never felt I was good enough. Plus I’ve dealt with being overweight and eating issues most of my life which hasn’t helped. Again, thanks for this post—-it has given me something valuable to think about and act upon!

  6. says

    What a great reminder. It’s amazing how it creeps back in ever so slightly when we feel like we’ve got it under control. Thanks for the great post!

  7. says

    Wow! This really resonates with me and is popping up at a perfect time. I’ve been thinking I’m missing the marketing job I gave up, starting to think about education for my toddler and stressing about how I’ll look at a schmancy wedding we’re going to this fall… such a wonderful reminder of what I’m trying to be about. Thank you!

  8. says

    Lovely timing. I’ve been feeling in despair about whether I am doing enough in the world. This reminded me that taking each day as it comes is a more helpful way of thinking about this than seeing myself on some long-term grand mission. I was comparing myself to others who seem to be doing so much more. Time to redirect my energy.

  9. Joy Martin says

    Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog/posts. It’s so funny how God works all things together… my husband and I just bought a house for $8,900 — a total fix-me-upper that my husband has been able to completely make into our “amazing little cottage” (my little name for it) . We’re simplifying in a big way… minimizing … living on less… finding ways to make the “small” work in “big” ways to breath life into a under-resourced neighborhood and we couldn’t be happier ! Your articles are right in line with where we are right now and it couldn’t be more perfect timing. Thank you ! Thank you !

    • Courtney Carver says

      Joy, I’d love to see pictures of your amazing little cottage! Please keep me posted on how it’s going. It sounds wonderful.

  10. says

    It’s true. There will always be someone with more than you. And if that’s the standard by which one judges them-self,they will never be satisfied. People can drive themselves crazy worrying about this kind of stuff.

    Instead, we get to experience joy when we follow the beat of our own drum and do what makes us happy!

  11. says

    This is such a great post Courtney! Too often, I compare my appearance and body image to others but I only hurt myself in the process. I love the idea of choosing joy. I think that’s going to be my goal everytime a negative thought sneaks in. I am going to work on focusing on the good because focusing on the bad isn’t helping anyone.

  12. Talia says

    What a great post! Comparing is such a killjoy! Too often, I compare myself and my life to others. What I should concentrate on more is gratitude for the amazingly blessed life I have!

  13. Lammie says

    It’s nice to read that it’s ok to be different, to choose your own path and teach your children to do the same. It’s not always easy, but it makes me glad to be alive. Sure, I get jealous every now and then, but I know I do right by me. and my kids. Thanks for reaffirming that I’m not being silly at all.

  14. says

    love this line: Shoes that squeeze your feet and jeans that cut off the circulation in your thighs aren’t joyful.

    made me laugh.

    although i’m not a heels type of girl, i do suffer from comparison especially now as i step into a new career realm. i feel inadequate and often like i’m not doing enough. the magic comes in when we realize that there’s enough praise, joy, love to go around. a friend of mine made a nice analogy: “Stars don’t compete. They don’t look at the star beside them and pale with feelings of inadequacy. And only together, they light up the whole sky.”
    thank you for the post.

  15. says

    Such a great post, and much needed reminder. I know comparison is not a good thing but so often it’s just something you catch yourself doing without even realising. See also: facebook stalking people you used to know 10 years ago, realising they have an awesome life (according to fb), feel terrible about your own lack of life.

    Much better to (try) focus on and be grateful for what we have.

  16. Shannon says

    There is a saying that I read years ago that went something like this…”Comparing yourself to others will either make you feel vain or bitter. There will always be people better off than you but also people worse off.”

  17. says

    I was just thinking yesterday about how, almost as a reflex, I make a mental judgment of just about anyone who catches my eye, for good or bad. And I was thinking about how you can’t just get rid of a bad habit, you have to fill the vacuum it leaves with something else. I am going to try to train myself, when I catch myself judging, to say instead, “God loves him/her, and wants the best for him/her.”

  18. says

    Hi Courtney,

    Great stuff! Thanks for this post. I definitely think we compare ourselves too much to others, especially in our modern culture. This is a sign of a sad soul, one that only finds strength in competition and winning the race. The problem with trying to win the beautiful/successful/rich/popular race is the benefits of meeting these goals are shallow and fleeting. When we work on finding JOY instead of popularity or success, however, we are nurturing our soul in a deep and lasting way.

    Domini

  19. says

    This really resonates with me! I’ve been thinking about comparison and running the mantra “compare and despair” through my head. Glad I came across this post.

  20. Kat says

    Courtney,

    Thanks so much for your ever beautiful insight. I REALLY loved that last paragraph – how lovely! And I am LOVING the morning routine microcourse – Thank you!

  21. Alisa says

    Courtney – so much of what you write resonates so deeply with me, my background and my path forwards, so I would like to thank you; 1 – for being so honest – it’s a bit like you’re reading my inner thoughts (spooky) and 2 – for writing it all down so beautifully.

    Comparison is one of my downfalls, and I’m working towards building gentle curiosity and simple acceptance of people. Questioning my own judgements is part of that. They aren’t always wrong, but they aren’t always right either, and how important is it REALLY that my colleague has that gorgeous pair of $500 shoes?? They look great on her, but I would never wear them! Silliness, for me to spend my time thinking of it, so it is nice to start to let that go, but there is a lifetime of conditioning and it will take time.

    I’ve just started my journey of simplification, and the relief, clarity, calmness and extra time that it brings already is wonderful. It is lovely to have sources of inspiration like your blog to keep me energised.

    Thanks again for your lovely insights and thoughtfulness.
    A.

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