Someone said to one of us recently that social comparison is the thief of all joy. Even if you’re not particularly a thinker – this sentence makes even the most unthoughtful person ponder. The thief of all joy. A robber and a stealer of our happiness. For what is life without joy?
It can be fun for our ego to joke about who wins at life between friends or partners. Couples that debate about who is more kind or compassionate, moral or successful. Even if it’s subconsciously or to ourselves. We can think it’s harmless – nothing to worry too much about. It can even make us feel better, because we think to ourselves that compared with that friend or our partner – we are superior in some way.
The ‘average’ person in our society has multiple social networks, online and face-to-face. Depending on what report you believe, we can spend between 1 to 9 hours a day looking at media – this includes phone time (and all the social media time that we build into that), TV, computer time. All of this time being fed information on people we know and don’t know – people that are apparently doing things that are more exciting than us, are looking better than us, are more adventurous than us. They are doing such cool things – why aren’t I bothered to do cool things? She’s so pretty – I wish I was that skinny. I can’t believe they got that job – that would be a dream for me – but I’m stuck here, doing the same old thing. We fool ourselves into thinking that – just like we do when we judge others ourselves – they are winning at life, compared with us.
Of course, winning at life is a completely subjective, almost ridiculous state of belief. It’s not real, because everyone’s version of success and ‘winning’ is different anyway. However, the reason that social comparison and sometimes even platforms like social media can be the thieves of all joy, is that they tell us what this version of success is, makes us believe it, and then tells us that we haven’t reached it – we won’t reach it. All those instagram posts with girls with insanely flat tummy’s, those travel photos from a school friend who is doing a crazy gap year around the world, that person you met at a party once that just always seems to be going to all the places you wish you could go to. Even your friends that have babies seem to always have the cutest photos up that can just make you beam. But do you think that those people don’t have bad days, arguments, disappointments, periods of confusion, dirty dishes, frustrations with themselves? We wonder what an instagram account of those things would look like – wonder if they would get any ‘likes’ or ‘followers’. Not sure – because we know what version of ourselves we like to put out there, and it’s rarely a ‘real’ one – like, actually real. Why would others do differently?
So yes, winning at life may be a silly concept – but bare with us here. If it is possible to ‘win’ – how do you even prepare for the race in which you need to win? Well – here’s some ideas.
Prep step 1: Know that just as you are, everyone is a rounded person that has different aspects of their lives. They have good and bad moments and just because all we may see at the coffee shop or on Facebook is the ‘good’ moments, this does not mean the bad moments don’t happen.
Prep step 2: Be real. You don’t need to pretend – particularly not around the people that really love you. Even on social media, you don’t need to be flawless and impeccable. Just be you. Fakeness only makes you feel more empty. The more you are vulnerable and show your brokenness – the more joy can flood into you in the good moments.
Prep step 3: Stop Comparing. Very difficult, we know. But you are worth the trouble. Allow yourself to have joy, and stop robbing it from yourself by thinking others at better than you for some reason or another. They are not better at being you – you are best at that.
Prep step 4: Rejoice! Be really happy in the happy moments – celebrate! Allow yourself to be satisfied with you. Yes, always striving to reach your goals, but knowing that no matter what – you are enough.
Knowing. Being real. Not comparing. Rejoicing. Do this, and you’ll be 4 more steps closer to winning at life – and truly knowing joy.