Comparison, the Enemy of Joy

Comparison is a pretty vile thing. In order to compare ourselves to someone else, we have to accept (to an extent) that there is some “quota” that we must reach. Some undefined line that begs us to surpass it, otherwise we failed in that regard. The problem with comparison, however, is that that “quota” is constantly in flux, depending on who we compare ourselves to.

From as far back as our early childhood, many of us are taught (albeit unknowingly) to judge our own worth based on how we stack up against others. “Tom’s only a freshman and he made the varsity team, yet you’re a junior and you didn’t? Why not?” “Potter is only eleven and he already defeated the most powerful dark wizard of all time and he’s the Seeker of the Gryffindor quidditch team, and you can’t even keep your wand intact?? Shame!”

In the end, aren’t we all a Ron Weasley?

Okay, maybe that’s a little extreme. But humans truly have a nature to treat life accomplishments as a competition, as so much of society tends to urge us to. There are seriously so many problems with this mindset. Unless you consider yourself the best of the best in everything you do (and I have never met anyone who thinks that), the comparison mindset only promotes thinking of yourself badly. In competition, the goal is to be number one. Olympic atheletes aim for the gold, American football teams fight to reach and win the Super Bowl…the list goes on. Anything less than the best isn’t good enough.

Then there’s that line. “You tried, and that’s all that matters.” Yeah, sure, great. In a perfect world where depression, low self-esteem and a naturally competitive society doesn’t exist, that’s all that matters. Truth of the matter is, though, that isn’t the world we live in, and if you’re reading this then you probably already know that. As nice as it would be to just move on from something we consider ourselves “failing” at, for those of us with depression, it frankly isn’t that easy. Hell, even for those without depression is it rarely that easy.

Depression causes many of us to think that we’re not enough without even somebody else in the picture – basically we don’t need to see how we stack up against someone else to see how much we fail. When comparison is brought into the picture, however, it’s a whole new level of beating ourselves up. “I already knew that I was bad on my own, but now that I see just how good this person is doing at [insert literally any action], now it confirms that fact that I really suck at it.” Like I mentioned, unless you believe you’re the best in the world at [thing], you’re automatically put in a position to beat yourself up.

Now, I could go into the whole “you’re a unique snowflake with your own qualities and quirks and you can’t compare yourself to anyone else, because every snowflake is different” thing. As poetic as it may be to say that we’re all snowflakes, it rarely helps us stop comparison. Yeah, we’re each unique, but if you take two different snowflakes and look at them each under a microscope, you can still say, “Ooh, that one’s prettier.” I would absolutely love to be able to convincingly buy into that mindset of uniqueness and individuality, but comparing myself to others is something I struggle with every single day. I rarely resent people for being what I consider being “better” than me, I just beat myself up for not being able to reach that level of quality myself. You don’t have to tell me that’s unhealthy, I know, that’s why I’m writing this post. I compare myself with others every day, but only recently have I started to look at it from an outside view to see how emotionally damaging it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely do believe that each and every person is unique, and there will never be two human beings with the same combination of qualities and flaws as each other. It just isn’t logical to compare ourselves to one another, because we’re all different in countless ways. But let’s be honest here – when has simple logic ever stopped a depression-addled mind from thinking the way it does?

So I won’t try and convince you to stop comparing yourself to others. As much as I would love to spout the snowflake argument, I have trouble applying that to my own life – I won’t force you into applying it to yours. However, I can say one thing about comparisons – I can guarantee that anyone using comparison as a means to judge you and your life isn’t worth being around.

I promise you, the people who truly care about you don’t put you into a ranking system. There’s no top ten list or medals to award. There is just you, as a person. To the ones that care, you are you, and someone else is someone else. There is no you vs. them. There is you. And there is them. Seperate entities, seperate people, each with their own accomplishments and flaws, each completely seperated in that regard from the other. This isn’t to say that you aren’t connected in any way, but when it comes to “winning and losing” the battle of being worth something, it’s safe to say that doesn’t exist.

In short, you may compare yourself with others, but others don’t compare you with others. At least, not the ones who matter in your life. There are times when I myself stray from seeing each person individually, and internally judging them based on how they rank against each other. I’d like to think that, most of the time, I catch myself, because their worth is not based on my judgement (or anyone else’s, for that matter) of them. I say this over and over again in my posts, but it’s because I truly believe it: worth is inherent. Nobody can take it away from you, and no one person is born with more or less worth than another.

I mean it when I say nobody can take away your value and worth to the world, and that includes you trying to take it away from yourself. If you view yourself as a failure as a result of comparing yourself to others, it doesn’t affect your value as a human being. I know it isn’t easy to just change your mindset to one of constant self-worth: hell, I’m writing this post tonight, truly believing everything I say here, but I’m still probably going to go into work tomorrow and judge myself against others (and when I judge myself, I generally come up with a very low score). But I’m working at changing that. I’m getting better at catching myself in these destructive thoughts; reminding myself that I’m worth as much as anyone else no matter my “failures.”

I know that it’s nearly impossible to change a way of thinking overnight. It comes slowly, but if you keep working at it, your mind will accept it. If we’ve been taught as a society to compare ourselves to others, we can teach ourselves to tell comparison to go screw itself. Don’t view others as an object to compare yourself to. View others as a person, like you, but not you. You aren’t brands of steak – you or they aren’t a finer or lesser cut. You’re people. You have such value to just your existence, imagine how much you can build on that by your actions and words, not by your accomplishments compared to others.

I feel like this post is a bit scattered – I didn’t plan this topic ahead of time, it’s just something I’ve been thinking about and wanted to share my thoughts on. Like I said, this is still something I struggle with every single day, but I do believe in everything I argued for in this post. You have value inherently, that can’t be changed by you seeing yourself as a failure, either to yourself or to the world around you. Please, try and remember that. Stay strong.

– Ryan

Author: Ryan

23, Chicago, mentally all over the place.

2 thoughts on “Comparison, the Enemy of Joy”

    1. I always love your comments! Society has unintentionally taught us to view life as a competition – it only makes sense that we would rank ourselves somewhere in it. Thank YOU for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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