What Steals Our Joy and How to Stop It

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We’re all familiar with the saying that comparison is the thief of joy.

Yet knowing that, how often do we still find ourselves unnecessarily bummed because we allowed unhealthy comparisons to sneak into our minds? And psssst… our kids are doing it to themselves too.

It’s all around us – from our careers, to our homes, to our vacations, to holiday shopping, to the cars we drive, to our marriages, even down to our kids. No one is consciously keeping track of each other’s lives, but comparisons still manage to creep in and steal our joy.

Not the comparisons that can, on occasion, inspire us to do better and be better – nope, I’m talking about these stinkers:

The ones that steal our joy and make us feel gross and inadequate and less than.

Parents of high school seniors often feel the heavy weight of comparisons weighing them down at this time of the year.

They feel the pressure of what colleges their kids are applying to or not. And kids are feeling that pressure too. Not only regarding their applications, but also the underlying anxiety of which schools they may or may not get accepted to.

Or the discomfort of having to explain why college is not the path they’re taking while so many others are.

With our kids (and some of us) so attached to social media, comparisons are harder than ever to avoid.

Our younger teens are also suffering from confidence-crushing comparisons. They feel the pressure to measure up as it appears in every possible way, from their height, to their weight, to their clothes, to their grades, to whether they make the team or not, and whether they’ve been included or excluded from the social circle du jour.

It’s not just about the kids, we succumb as well.

The summer vacation to the Jersey shore we took and all thoroughly enjoyed, starts to feel like a trip to the dump when you compare it to a friend’s family trip to Europe.

And what about the holiday gift comparisons?

The hand-crafted wreath you made with love and thought was quite a special gift to give starts to feel like you’re wrapping up a used toilet brush after watching the gazillion tv commercials that make family members buying each other new cars and diamond bracelets seem normal or average!

Should we be making these comparisons? Of course not! Do we know better? Yes!!

It’s an easy trap to get caught in.

To let your shoulders and spirits slump when you think someone else is doing (anything or everything) better than you, or has more or better whatever.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” – Eleanor Roosevelt

So snap out of it!

What steals our joy are the comparisons we make that are unfair. To everyone.

There are always going to be people who are ahead of us, and who have more and better whatever.

And hello – there are many people doing just fine with less and worse whatever too!

Fighting the comparison trap is easiest when we remember that we all have a unique journey.

“You have to be unique and different and shine in your own way.” Lady Gaga

We each have a past, present and future that brings us to each day with our own individual circumstances, life experiences, values and priorities.

Our lives can be equally wonderful and yet dramatically different when compared with another’s.

So why even compare?

“Stay in your lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” – Brene Brown

Where we are in our lives, what we have or don’t have and what brings us joy is unique and personal.

And thank goodness for that. If not for our unique individual combination of life experiences, we would all be the same.

Our kids need to understand that too.

It’s not comparing apples to apples. We are each one of a kind.

It makes no sense to judge ourselves by comparing where we are or what we have to anyone else. We are on our journey, they are on theirs.

Let it go!

Release the comparisons the moment you feel them sneaking in. And don’t allow comparisons to come into the conversation with our kids. They are as unique as their DNA so why would we (or they) think that they should, could, or would make the same exact choices as the next kid.

Let’s not allow comparisons to steal our (or our kids’) joy.

Instead, let’s all learn give ourselves a little respect with this affirmation:

They are not me. This is my journey. I am unique. Who I am and where I am is enough at this moment.

– Marlene


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