As we near Christmas I am aware of a virus trying to rear its spikey head. It is here all year round but at this time of year seems particularly rife. No, I am not referring to, dare I swear, Covid, pandemic. I’m talking about a condition which is a killer of self-worth and happiness. One that’s main objective is to create a sense of lack and a yearning for more; leaving you feeling inadequate, worthless and dejected. I’m talking about comparisonitis.
Hands up, who’s been there?! (waves both arms in the air emphatically)
Don’t get me wrong, we are social creatures and some level of comparison to others is normal and healthy. When done in the right environment and in realistic moderation, comparisons can be motivating and inspirational. It can lead us to identify a gap in what we do or have and push us to strive for more than we initially realised we were capable of, and we can bask in our self-fulfilment and feel accomplished and satisfied that ‘yes, I did that’.
However, if you find these occasional healthy comparisons becoming inescapable, comparing yourself and your life to everyone and everything, your inadequacies and deficiencies heightened and you are left feeling unappreciative and unhappy with your life – you as a person are no longer enough – then you have caught the mutated version of comparisonitis.
I find, that when I get a case of comparisonitis I begin to focus all my attention onto what I don’t have and somehow, all the wonderful qualities about me and all the amazing things I have in my life are veiled in a fabric of lies and deceit.
-I see someone talking about an activity they did at the weekend and I wish I had been there, and suddenly I notice how boring my life is, and in extension, I am.
- I see someone walk up in a stylish outfit, and suddenly realise how frumpy and boring my clothes are and wonder why anybody would want to be friends with me.
-I see someone post on social media their stunning new abs and toned body, and notice the extra pounds I’ve put on and the disappointment I must be to my family.
-I see yet another elf-on-the shelf post and feel inadequate as a mom, that I am not doing enough to enrich my kids’ lives.
You catch my drift.
In these moments, I focus on all the aspects missing in my life, and forget to acknowledge all the wonderful things that are there. A sudden feeling of not being enough, like I am somehow less of a person for not living the high-definition and glossy lives I see others living. And here lies the problem, because the person or people you are looking enviously at are likely infected with comparisonitis too! The image that they portray is exaggerated, photoshopped or highly edited to give the façade of success and worth. Those stunning social media pictures are just the bits of life they choose to show you and don’t show the mundane, messy comings and goings in-between.
At its core, this is what comparisonitis is: the compulsion to follow an artificial social construct and measure your value by an unattainable ideal. It’s about looking at what someone else has, and believing you should have it as well. Closely linked to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), comparisonitis creates a feeling that you are missing something and believing that having that something will allow you to feel more fulfilled and happier.
And so, when engaging in comparisonitis, you are essentially measuring your happiness ad worth against someone else happiness and worth. In essence, your happiness becomes a moving target based on the achievements of others, and your dreams and ideals are abandoned as you chase the dreams of others.
The only cure? A realisation that there will always be something someone else has that you don’t – and that’s ok. Your stuff doesn’t define you and your worth. Sure, there are things that you’d like and by all means work to get them, but don’t let the having or not having of that stuff dictate your worth. It’s just stuff, mass-produced and generic stuff. But you, you are unique, one-of-a-kind, never to be repeated and that, that is valuable and special and should be marvelled at. When you feel the pull of comparisonitis. Stop, breathe, remember your uniqueness and practise gratitude for what you have and don’t be lulled into the spangly façade of what others choose to show you
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