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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?