Comparative Happiness: The Danger Of “Keeping Up with the Joneses”

(Why comparing yourself to others will make you unhappy and how to fix it.)


When the workout was over I stood there dejected; I finished in third place.

In Crossfit they score your workouts to engender friendly competition that’s drives you to get results. But I finished third and I was bummed out; the other two guys could lift more weight than me. It took me a couple of seconds to realize how negative I was being. Why was I comparing myself to them? What about all the growth I’ve made in the past year? What about the twenty pounds of muscle I’ve put on my frame? What about the fact that I couldn’t do any of these Olympic lifts a year ago?

Comparing our self to others. We’re all guilty of this at times.

In an endless effort to “keep up with the Joneses” we lose sight of our own accomplishments. The problem with this is that there’s always going to be someone bigger, prettier, faster, stronger, smarter, or wealthier than you are. Always. Do you think Stephen Hawking is mad he’s not as smart as Albert Einstein? Do you think Kobe Bryant is mad that he’s not as tall as Dwight Howard? Do you think Blake Lively is mad that she doesn’t look like Kate Beckinsale? By focusing on other people and what they have, we lose sight of what we have.

In your mind, there will always be someone “better”, and that’s precisely why you shouldn’t compare yourself to people. Comparing yourself to others is toxic to your own happiness. There are times where comparison can be good if it drives you to be better, but if it’s internalized then it becomes a poison.

And make no mistake, the grass is always always always greener. That friend you envy that’s already married with 2.5 kids, may envy you and your carefree nights of wine and laughter. That friend that has a six-figure salary and a sports car, may envy your simple low stress existence as a park ranger. When you start to compare yourself to other people it can become a toxic spill that slowly seeps in to your spirit. She’s skinnier than me. He has a bigger truck than me. She has a doctorate. He can run faster. How does she look so much more graceful in Warrior pose. The comparisons in your head can go on forever, until eventually, every single one of your accomplishments can be diminished.

You have to quiet that voice in your head that’s constantly criticizing you. But how? Start with affirmations. You know that hippie thing you heard about from the seventies? Record your own voice saying things like “I am confident and amazing” or “only I can define me” and listen to it every morning while you’re making your coffee. But the most important thing you can do is just be aware that you have that disparaging voice in your head and then actively try to quiet it down. Tell it to ever so gracefully to “fuck off” and then go on with your day. Yes, you’re a flawed human being; accept that and take charge of the growth of your solid personality. So stop comparing yourself to others, because if you pay attention, you’re probably already pretty amazing.

[Photo: The Utah side of Route 163 heading towards Monument Valley. ]


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