Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy, So I'm Focusing On My Own Sh*t From Now On

by Rita Templeton
Anna Om / Shutterstock

The grass is always greener on the other side, they say. We’ve all heard it at some point, this sage reminder to appreciate what we’ve got in front of us. But most of the time, it’s easier said than done, because thanks to social media we’re not just limited to seeing our friends’ and neighbors’ grass anymore; we’re able to see the manicured lawns of practically anyone, from anywhere.

The problem is we’re only seeing the sections of their grass they want us to see — the carefully selected areas that look the most presentable, the most enviable, like lush, emerald green carpets of fertilized heaven. We’re not seeing the whole picture, the yellow spots where the puppy pees, the swath of dried brown that languished, sunless and smothered, under a Slip ‘N Slide for an entire summer. Then we peer into our own backyards, which we can see completely, in vivid detail, and what do you know — bare patches and molehills and petrified dog turds everywhere. And suddenly, that’s all we can seem to focus on.

Obviously “grass” is a metaphor for anything we desire for ourselves: the perfect marriage, adorable, overachieving children, a gorgeous home, vacations in Venice and Vail, having our shit together in general. Basically the stuff we see other people enjoying or excelling at, especially if it’s in an area of our lives where we already suspect something is lacking. When their whatever-it-is looks so enticing, our own whatever-it-is seems to pale in contrast, and anything wrong stands out in sharp relief against the backdrop of their perfection.

Comparison is only natural, even more so now that practically everybody’s lives are put on full, glorious display. I suppose in some ways it’s beneficial if we use someone else’s circumstances as a goal to work toward. But comparison simply for the sake of lamenting what we don’t have is an emotional drain, leeching away our happiness. What we see on social media is a prettily packaged slice of a very complex life, one that no doubt contains ugly, messy parts right alongside the beautiful — just like ours.

But since we only see the façade, our minds fill in any blank spots with equally perfect puzzle pieces, subconsciously giving ourselves the impression that their entire existence is just as idyllic. It’s all an illusion, and even though logically we know this, the need to compare is such a knee-jerk reaction that it can override that logic. We get so busy being blinded by everyone else’s shininess that we fail to see the positives about what we do have. We spend our precious energy focusing on what we think we lack, instead of building up the good things that surround us.

Our lives may not be ideal, but they’re ours, and they’re all we’ve got to work with — all we’ve got to be proud of, to nurture, to make the most of. Let’s appreciate life for what it is, and get excited for what it will be when we stop looking wistfully elsewhere and start giving it the care and appreciation it deserves.