“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
Do you remember the game “Roshambo”? You might know it better as “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Did you play this game as a kid? Perhaps you still play sometimes now, even if it’s just to decide whether to eat at Red Lobster or Outback Steakhouse. In the game of roshambo, no matter what you shoot, there is always something your opponent can throw that can beat you, as well as an option that you can beat. Any given choice always has something more powerful and something less powerful than itself.
It’s a game of chance. A gamble. Unpredictable. The outcome mostly depends on the luck of the draw. Your joy, or your sorrow, is dependent on others and their choices, the unpredictable nature of the game, and ultimately where you end up compared to someone else. This is a vicarious position to put yourself in. Your joy is at the mercy of criteria and circumstances that you don’t have control over. Besides that, when someone wins, someone else always loses.
We do this all the time, though, don’t we? How many times do we compare ourselves and our own situation to someone else, in an attempt to make ourselves feel better, or even to complain about our bad luck? We say things like “Well, he got that lucky break and I didn’t”, or “I did that better than she did, I should have won,” or “At least you didn’t have that happen like him.” It is a constant economy of comparison rolling around in the mind, stealing our joy.
There is an alternative state of mind that yields far more joy and contentment: changing focus from comparing to just…living. It sounds a little something like this, “Whatever is happening to me is meant to happen for my growth and learning, and the only thing I have control over is planning for things the best I can, adapting to what happens, and responding well.” This can be the focus, no matter what has happened or is happening to anyone else.
Comparing yourself to others whom you have determined “have it better than you do” is an exercise in self-torture and a waste of time. It steals joy, paralyses effective decision-making, and stunts growth. Comparing yourself to those whom you have determined “have it worse than you do” to help yourself feel better is prideful, and it assumes that you know the lessons and the whole situation of someone else that you do not fully understand. When it comes down to it, the only way to successfully play is to not play.
I can only hope to live my own life, the best way I possibly can, with improvement every day. I am in competition with no one but the person I was yesterday. My journey is not like anyone else’s, my life is unique and different. The only thing I have control over is myself, and I don’t even really have complete control over that. Let go of comparison and grab hold of a new kind of peace beyond what you could have ever imagined!
Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. E-Counseling is available for residents of Indiana. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2015 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW