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  • Writer's pictureJames Eves

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I really like this quote attributed to Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States.

How often do you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else?

It might be your neighbour that just got the latest model of SUV. And it looks so shiny in the driveway.

A friend that just lost a significant amount of weight raising money for charity in the process. They look amazing.

A colleague that just got a promotion and a salary uplift – that could have been yours.

When stopping to think about this, it might happen numerous times a day.

We are ‘helped’ even more in doing this compared to say 20 years ago. Just jump onto LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok and see how long before you notice a thought of comparison.

So why is comparison the thief of joy?

I’d simply describe it as someone else that has a certain ‘thing,’ an attribute or a situation that I also wish I had. It can be quite easy to feel some form of jealousy, sadness or anger that I am where I am, and not where this other person is.

This type of thinking is the thief. It is stealing any opportunity I have in those moments to feel any kind of joy or happiness. Rather than applaud them, it derails me instead.

At its worst it has personally taken me down some dark rabbit holes. The kind that lead to increased drinking, poor food choices, skipping exercise and avoiding human contact altogether.

Then when comparing again, it is now even worse as I am even further away from what I was comparing myself to in the first place!

And it all comes from my own head. In the past, it might have taken me a few days or weeks to get out of this mental funk.

Over the years I have learned to catch myself when I am in comparison mode.

I recently completed some training in ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) with Russ Harris. There was a profound element of noticing and accepting the thoughts that I am having. Then understanding if these were taking me towards or away from who or what I was really wanting in my life and what I needed to stop or do more of.

Simple, but very effective.

This practice has led me to notice but move on from the thoughts of comparison that are destructive. Now I use these thoughts as motivation and rocket fuel to get me working on the right steps to get me to where I want to be.

Remember that social media is someone portraying their highlight reel of what is the absolute awesome best version of themselves that we then compare to our deepest, innermost thoughts and insecurities.

A recipe for disaster.

You don’t see as often the posts about the contract that was lost, the poor revenue outlook for the quarter, the weight gain, or the worry about holding onto a job if performance doesn’t improve.

I also remind myself that as humans we are all, thankfully, unique with our own individual talents and strengths.

We should all be striving to be the best versions of ourselves. Not wish to become the same version of our favourite movie star, celebrity, manager, family member or peer.

We cannot be good at absolutely everything. I’ve met some very talented people in all the places I’ve lived and worked. But everyone had something they sucked at!

That’s how it works for humans.

The person that works magic in Excel spreadsheets while looking like they are playing a piano concerto at the Albert Hall? They perhaps don’t have the same magic to present the data to engage management in making a strategic decision. They hand that baton to someone else.

The person that can get a client enthused about a product or service with huge amounts of charm and charisma? They need the back up of other team members to describe the tech aspects or how this would be implemented in the client’s organisation.

The reality is. We need all these people. But how do you know who is who?

Figure out your own talents and strengths. Get together a team of people with this knowledge and aim this effectively at goals - and the magic begins to happen.

So, if you are doing more comparing than you’d like.

Embrace the first step of noticing these thoughts and feelings. I personally believe that these are the whispers that we should not ignore for too long. But rather give them more focus, with the intention of doing something about it.

It took me many years to come to such a realisation, but rather than numb or bury these thoughts and feelings, I now use them to my advantage.

I know who I am and my innate talents and strengths. This brings more confidence in who I am, what I am good at, and not so good at. I now know how to get ideas and projects rolling, using the best of myself and others to achieve great things.

I do on occasion still have some "comparison-itis." I am human after all.

But I now aim for the comparison to be about me and my improvement. To see how far I have come.

If you’d like to talk to someone that has been there, got the t-shirt and novelty mug, then do get in touch for a chat.

Staying where you are doesn’t have to last forever. It might feel like it, but I promise it doesn't!

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