Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Okay. So. Today I want to talk to you about comparison. And how I don't think it's reeeeeally the "thief of joy." I think there's more at play here than just the surface-level comparison-game. Comparison is a trendy topic these days. I feel like it's always existed, in the sense that I do recall my parents making comments in passing about "keeping up with the joneses" and that "the grass is always greener", which are both common phrases that relate to the fact that "over there", those people have something I don't. A greener lawn. A nicer car. A bigger house. Crap! I don't have those things. I must not be as good as "them".
We also know that since the media and advertising has been easily accessible to humans (since print advertisements for tobacco in the 1920s, and then eventually television and thus television commercial advertising around 1941) - comparison has been the name of the game. Here are some cigarettes. Here is a handsome, successful-looking man smoking them. Why aren't YOU smoking cigarettes? You should smoke them, too!
Alright so that last one may be a stretch.
But the whole premise of marketing and advertising is for the consumer to see whatever it is being advertised, and then want it and thus, purchase it. They want the consumer to compare their awareness of "not-having-it" (lack) with "wanting-to-have-it" (desire) and then "need-to-buy-it" (fulfillment).
The whole idea is that we compare our current reality with a different one, a more "desirable" one. And then we want whatever it is that "they've" got.
We also see comparison in the way that fashion and beauty trends spread across the nation like wild-fire, with thousands of women sporting the "Rachel" haircut in 1994 or massive hair pouffs like Snooki in 2009; or like everyone rocking skinny eyebrows in the 90s compared to micro-bladed ones in 2019.
So we know comparison has been around for ages. (*Before I go any further, I want you to know that I have an entire Episode about comparison on my podcast, Epsiode 80 "Comparison is NOT the thief of joy, here's why". So check that out if you wanna hear me explain even further!) Most recently, social media has leapt aggressively into the driver's seat, causing women to compare themselves via scroll every single day, thinking what they see is a reality and that their own reality doesn't quite measure up. Comparision-itus has become a "thing". It's too easy to see what other people are having, doing, buying, experiencing, and then to compare your boring reality with the things you're seeing - which aren't even always real. In my industry, what comes up most often is that women are comparing their real, natural, un-retouched bodies with those of the edited, photoshopped, nipped, tucked, and smoothed pretend-people they're seeing on the gram. Cue, comparison.
My body doesn't look like her body. Her body is ideal and preferable. Mine, then, is not. It's a conclusion many women land on every single day. And it's really sad, because they're comparing themselves to false-reality. And while the point of this discussion is not solely on social media, it definitely plays a role. The key element I want to get across today is that, in my opinion, comparison is not the theif of joy.
It's in our nature to compare. We see ourselves, we see someone else, we compare ourselves visually. I'm bigger, she's smaller. I'm shorter, she's taller. I'm brunette, she's blonde. We're both women. We're both students. I have small boobs, she has big boobs. Comparison is not the thief. It's the evaluation that follows the comparison, that's the real burglar. I can easily compare myself to one of my closest friends, who is much smaller than me physically. We can be in photos together, and I can analyze, based on a simple visual, that she's small, and I'm big. It's the impending evaluation (that big is shitty and small is preferable), that steals the joy away. If I am not pre-conditioned to believe that smaller is better, then I wouldn't care so much that I notice my body is bigger than hers. If we weren't constantly sold that bodies are supposed to look LIKE THIS via all the marketing and advertising and media that show us perfect, touched up, photoshopped models who have been adjusted so much that they don't even look like themselves... If we weren't regularly shown the same type of female body, with symmetrical features, smooth skin with no imperfections, and perfect white teeth... If we weren't consistently bombarded with companies that are selling us products to make us "skinny", reduce our cellulite, and smooth fine-lines and wrinkles... Then we wouldn't be comparing our reality with everybody else's. We might notice that Kelly has bigger boobs, but we wouldn't evaluate that our more petite boobs were any less desirable. We might notice that Sarah has smooth, awesome, perfect skin, but we wouldn't evaluate that our skin that's stretch-marked and cellulite-y is any less beautiful. We might acknowledge that Jessica is petite and compact and has 6-pack abs, but we wouldn't evaluate that our softer, rounder, squishier body were any less preferable. Comparison is not the thief of joy.
Evaluation is the thief.
If we can break away from negatively evaluating our own bodies, features, abilities, skills, successes, and failures against everybody else's, we can potentially find more peace with our own circumstances in comparison to others. Comparing is not the issue. It's evaluating what you see against some ridiculous "preferable" standard that's the issue. So the next time you compare yourself to someone else, don't give yourself such a hard time. Just remind yourself that comparison is fine, as long as it isn't followed by unnecessary negative evaluation that will ultimately rip that joy right out of your hands. And, make sure to check out my Podcast Episode, if you want even more on the topic of comparison! XO Courtney