Theodore Roosevelt once said that “comparison is the thief of joy” – and he didn’t even live in the midst of social media.
These days, it is very easy to compare yourself to others; you can go on Instagram and spend your down time looking at photos and videos posted by people you don’t even know, living a seemingly perfect life. Then the self-doubt starts:
- How does she look that good while she lives in a van full time?
- Why can’t I make my plate of food look that amazing?
- How do I make 6 figures by eating fruit on the beach for a living?
- Why can’t I travel to all of these amazing places?
- How do I become a super flexible, mindful and earthy yogi?
- Why do I work so hard and I still can’t have a body that looks like that?
- How did they get so many followers and why can’t I figure it out?
Recently, I found myself playing this dark, dirty comparison game. I wanted to be the girl who starts a blog revolution, only eats exotic fruits, rides a long board, and wears a backwards baseball cap on my way to surf for the day before I got home to write about it while enjoying my beautiful view.
Collectively, I would spend a couple hours of my day scrolling through Instagram (my main culprit of self-doubt and icky feelings), finding people I’ve never even heard of, thinking most of these thoughts the entire time. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
That is two hours a day, taken from my own life, wishing I had someone else’s.
And it wasn’t just affecting me during those couple hours; I was constantly dwelling on the idea that I was not where I wanted to be.
For about a month, I was stressed, dissatisfied and constantly in my own head. I had convinced myself that I did not like living in New Zealand, and that the grass would surely be greener elsewhere (a far cry from a couple months ago when I was feeling immense gratitude for everything).
I got on a HUGE money kick, and while I have been responsible in my adult years about money, it was never something I truly worried about. I was always thinking about how much we were spending, and how “little” we were saving. There were things I wanted but couldn’t bring myself to buy. I was constantly concerned about having enough in the bank for our next adventure.
Lots of my time was spent complaining about the weather in Wellington, saying it was “colder than I expected” (I know, I came from Ohio and I’m complaining about some wind?!).
I fully recognized that I was not myself, and my husband and I were able to openly talk about it…but I didn’t know what to do about it.
I reached out to fellow bloggers in my online communities to see how they dealt with the burden of comparison when it crept in, and I got so many great responses that really made me think:
What do I actually dislike about my current situation, if anything? What would I like to work toward? What am I happy with NOW? And most importantly, how can I enjoy my present while still being excited about the possibilities of the future?
After a few days of some serious thinking, I decided to dig into some personal development. I’m a huge fan of the TedTalks series, and I made it a priority to listen to at least two talks a morning that pertained to the feelings I was having.
The morning after making this decision, I stumbled across a talk called “The Dark Side of Self Improvement” by life coach Suzanne Eder. Something she said during her presentation really stuck with me. To paraphrase, she said as a society, we are so goal oriented that we completely disregard our growth process.
Right after watching this video, like a sign from the universe, I received a text from my father-in-law. I hadn’t talked to him for awhile, and my husband hadn’t really talked to him about what I was going through either. His text was totally unprovoked and exactly what I needed:
And it was as if a light bulb went off – this comparison game was all in my head. In fact, I have the power to thoroughly enjoy my life right now.
At that moment, I made a promise to myself that I would stop working so hard…on working so hard. I realized that if I truly wanted to ride a long board while eating dragon fruit and wearing a backwards hat on my way to go surfing, I could do that.
On the other hand, if I didn’t actually want to do those things but just liked the way it looked on social media, it was okay if I didn’t want to do them, too.
I realized that I didn’t need to be fixed; I didn’t need to like what other people like to be a “cool” person. I am my own version of cool – but I have to allow myself to be.
I have vowed to put down my phone. When I do look at other people’s stories, I want it to be for purpose – like finding a dinner recipe for that night, being proud of a friend, or seeing what techniques worked for another blogger so I can learn something.
Money will no longer be a daily source of stress for me. My husband and I work hard for the money we earn, and we should be able to spend it on experiences we want to have now, while still responsibly saving for our future (yes, it is possible to do both of those things!).
In the middle of my work day, I will walk outside (even for 10 minutes) to enjoy the warmest part of each day, instead of longing to experience it while sitting in an office.
We allow ourselves to compare our lives to others, thinking that they have it all figured out. But as humans, NONE of us have it all figured out. Next time you pick up your phone to scroll through social media, please remember that the stories you see are simply highlight reels – mine included.
As individuals, we have to learn to live for ourselves; do what makes us happy in our present, and stop thinking that it’s not enough.
If there is a day that you plan to be super productive, but end up napping and reading instead, embrace that! That’s the beauty of life – there is no rush.
I’m a thinker, and I will always deal with my wandering mind. But it is worth it to me to stop myself daily, as a reminder to love me, just as I come.
Appreciate your growth, my friends. It is what makes us…us!
Light and love,