Brain trap #4: how comparison is the best way to diminish your happiness
Did you ever have an amazing day – just to get it trashed by seeing a acquaintances overly perky Facebook status?
Have you ever loved your new car – until you saw your (much cooler) neighbours new car?
Comparison with people who have it better – or who show you only the bright side of their lives – is one of the best ways to feel miserable.
How comparison with others will steal your joy
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Comparison trap always existed – it is the “keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome – but it really escalated with the growth of social media.
Comparison is all about noticing what others do/have/are…. and getting stuck on thinking how in some way they are doing better than ourselves.
Classical “grass is greener on the other side”.
Consequence of comparing ourselves with anyone “who has it better”?
Envy, jealousy, negative emotions, feeling insecure… but, most of all, a lack of appreciation for all the good stuff we have and discontent with our own life.
By seeing all the amazing things others are doing, often we end up feeling that something in our life is not going right – simply because we set up crazy unrealistic expectations, based not only on the shiniest aspect of others’ lives, but also on the sum of all of their shiniest bits – something that would be impossible to do within one lifetime.
The point of comparing with others should actually be to learn from others, to get inspired by their ideas, to have interesting conversations with each other about our adventures and aspirations and in that way to strengthen both our bond and strive in our individual lives.
If you wish to explore this trap in your own life, take a moment to reflect:
Who do you most frequently compare yourself to? Who have you compared yourself to in the last 24 hours? Go check out your Facebook or Instagram feed and notice which updates make you feel annoyed or envious. Notice the feelings you get – and if any of them is spoiling your happiness.
Apart from missing our appreciation of our own lives, another thing that this constant urge to compare is costing us is appreciating and strengthening our own authenticity and originality – we fall into a trap of chasing similar goals and achievements as people around us, instead looking inside and exploring our own values and what are the things that truly excite us.
But there is a cure for this trap!
Remember how they say: If grass is greener on the other side… start watering your own grass more instead of looking at theirs.
How to avoid the trap of comparison?
• If you notice that others are doing something amazing, use them as an inspiration instead of envy
• Support them, cheer for them, work on compassion…and on self-compassion – practice METTA loving kindness meditation and wishing them well – try to truly celebrate their victories (life is not a pie that we all need to split… there is enough of amazing things for everyone)
• Actively develop gratitude and appreciation for all the amazing things – including little things – in your life
• Use social media purposefully, specifically choosing what you will look at, based on how it makes you feel
• Become aware of, and avoid, your triggers – what are the moments, situations, people and types of conversations that make you compare yourself with them and feel less good?
• Strengthen JOMO, lose FOMO – work on becoming a master of JOMO = the joy of missing out instead of FOMO (fear or missing out): pleasure gained from enjoying one’s current activities without worrying that other people are leading more fulfilled lives. Wondering how? Start by combining mindfulness and presence in the moment with the gratitude and appreciation for all great that is happening in that moment.
• Mindfulness and presence – be more mindful in your experiences, savour little things, enjoy what you ARE doing in that moment instead of thinking what you could be doing or what others are doing
• Remind yourself that other people’s “external world” can’t be compared to your “internal world” – whatever they share and create in their external circumstances tells you nothing about how rich and fulfilled their internal world is – and, in the end, internal world is where happiness and life satisfactions lies
Enjoy the process of appreciating and enjoying your life more, as well as your own story, authenticity, originality.
How about you?
When are comparisons ruining your happiness? What are some of the ways you can work on this that you think would be most effective?
Do share in comments – but also to start a conversation in our Positive Psychology Tribe virtual community for meaningful conversations.