Have you seen this quote circulating the Internet? I testify that it is the truth.
Comparison is the thief of joy. —Theodore Roosevelt
I believe this, yet I find it really hard not to compare. I want to know what’s going on in my friends’, family, and neighbors’ lives, but hearing about trips to exotic locales, snuggly babies that sleep through the night from the day they are born, and perfect marriages of soul mates with no visible major problems, while viewing pictures of my thin, beautiful, marathon-running, fashionable loved ones in their wonderfully decorated homes creates an irrational jealousy monster in me that is suddenly discontented with my lovely and very blessed life.
Note I said irrational.
I am fully aware that everyone has problems. Often big ones. And the most painful problems we face are not ones emotionally healthy people parade about on the Internet, or even share in most face-to-face social gatherings. This composite “perfect life” my jealousy monster lusts after is not real, but it feels real. Knowing that comparing is zapping my life of much of its joy has not caused me to stop comparing. I know I shouldn’t, but I do it anyway.
Of course being grateful is a great antidote for greed and selfish thoughts, but when you are thinking irrationally it can be hard to feel genuine gratitude. So, while I do recommend practicing gratitude, I have another arrow in my quiver to vanquish the jealousy/comparison monster – and that is turning my focus outward. I recently remembered another quote, from a long-loved fictional friend, Anne Shirley.
I discovered, it’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.
That hit me harder than the “Comparison is the thief of joy” quote. It has become my life mantra and the most effective method for banishing jealousy and bringing back excitement and optimism about myself and my life.
There are many parts of life that are big question marks for me, but of one thing I am absolutely certain –joy and purpose in life are found in focusing on how we help one another. As Mormon women, we believe that we have divine nature and divine purpose. Through Aspiring Mormon Women, I’ve seen LDS women celebrate and support one another as we explore diverse expressions of those principles. I have found that focusing on what I can bring to the world helps me abandon my entitled thoughts about what the world has given or brought to me in comparison to others.
What is most beautiful about this mantra is that it is flexible and can mean so many things. I’m employed in public service; so my day job is a big part of what I bring to the world to make a difference; as is raising my daughter to be a strong, beautiful, kind, thoughtful, little woman; and being a good spouse, remembering birthdays, writing thank you notes, bringing dinners, and volunteering for a non-profit. All of these actions are parts of what I bring to the world, and if I’m not content with what I’m bringing to the world right now, the good news is that I have the power to change that.
A few years ago, I felt discontented so I made a big change and returned to school and cinder block student housing. I am now in a better position to contribute in the way I envision my Heavenly Father wants me to utilize the talents He has blessed me with. Reading posts in the AMW Facebook forum I am constantly uplifted seeing women explore positive changes for themselves in a safe place, encouraged by other supportive women and men, and rejoicing as we see each other find new ways to grow and contribute.
So next time you realize that you are letting comparison rob you of the joy in your life, I invite you to think about Anne Shirley and remind yourself “It’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.” Explore what that means for you and draw on the sisterhood found here to encourage you along the way.