My friend P seemed to think that I was doing “better” than she was health-wise, because I was going out of the house more, running more errands, doing more housekeeping, taking more walks, and just doing more. I can understand how she felt. After all, she saw me on my better days.
The funny thing is, while she envied the way I could go out more on a regular basis, I envied the way she could take trips. They weren’t huge trips and they involved a lot of rest before, after, and even during, not to mention a lot of painkillers, but she took them. She could fly, while I haven’t been on a plane in more than 4 years (I used to fly 3-5 times each year!) But of course, I heard about these trips, and didn’t see the pain she had to endure to make them happen.
P envied one part of my life and I envied one part of hers. Sort of how I envy that blogger I follow who has created a great business she can do part time from home, when her health allows. And maybe you envy friends or family or strangers on the internet who seem to have that thing in life that you wish you had.
But when you really think about it, who are you actually envying? Who’s life are you seeing? Who are you comparing yourself to? I can tell you: a fictional person. You’re only seeing part of the picture, and you’re assuming the rest.
P saw that I was doing more errands and more housework than her, but didn’t consider that it was necessary because I have no one else to do those things. She has a husband who helps with them. I saw that P could fly, but I didn’t consider that she feels pressure to see her family, while my family is local. We were each looking at just a sliver of the other’s life. That blogger I envied? She probably has her own problems, but I wouldn’t know because I only know what she puts out there for the world to see.
Just like how you only know about certain parts of my life. Now, it just so happens that I’m very open about things on this blog, so you happen to know quite a lot about me, but obviously I can’t tell you everything. It’s not possible. Besides, it’s easy to focus on the things you wish you had and forget about the wonderful things you have that I don’t. Maybe I leave the house more, but on the days I don’t, I’m completely alone, while you have a spouse or children who you get to be with. I’m not responsible for anyone else, but I also don’t get to have the joy of having children or pets. I’m not on any medications with horrible side effects, but I haven’t found any medications to help me. You see, there’s a flip side to every coin.
I’m not suggesting my life is any better or worse than anyone else’s, only that’s it’s mine and so it’s the only one I truly know, just like yours is the only life you truly know. An interesting new form of comparison has come about with the spread of social media. Before, we might have envied the sliver of life we saw a coworker, friend, or relative leading. We might have compared our lives to those of celebrities. But it ended there. Now we can compare our lives to those of countless ordinary people on the internet who we’ve never even met. It’s so easy to look up any topic and find thousands of people who are doing better at that sport, playing that instrument better, or leading a healthier life than we are. But where does that get us?
It just leads to us feeling worse about our own lives.
So I decided today that I won’t do any more comparing. Well ok, I’m only human. I’ll do more comparing. But I promised myself that when I find myself comparing my life to someone else’s, I’ll make myself stop. I’ll remind myself that their life isn’t perfect and that while they might be kicking ass in one area more than I am, I’m kicking ass in plenty of others.
And now I’m challenging to promise yourself the same thing. The next time you find yourself comparing your life to that of a friend, an acquaintance, or a stranger online, stop, and remind yourself of all the ways your life kicks ass. Then move on to something that’s actually helpful and positive. I bet you’ll be glad you did.
What do you think? Do you suffer from comparisonitis, too? How do you feel about it?