Comparison is the thief of joy

comparison self love May 26, 2023

They say comparison is the thief of joy.

And I never understood what they meant. I mean, I got the concept, but I never felt it - it never resonated. Until today.

This morning I listened to Rachel Hollis’ podcast (episode #423), and then I got it. It slapped me across the face and I couldn’t ignore it.

Comparison is the thief of all joy.

Rachel interviewed a 31 year-old woman during a live audience event (we’ll call her “Sally”; Rachel dubbed out her name to protect her privacy). Sally recounted all the ways in which she had spent her life comparing herself to her little sister. Her sister was everything she wasn’t - tall and thin, and she was doing things with her life that were seemingly unavailable to Sally. Their mother had a clear preference for the younger sister, and said horrible things to Sally that made her feel worthless. This trauma led Sally to believe that she wasn't worthy of love and affection, unless she met the faltering standards of her mother, and the media.

Within moments of listening to Sally’s story, my heart sank. I am that little sister. No, I don’t actually know Sally, but my older sister always compared herself to me. Our mother showed a clear preference for me, and I can’t tell you how many times I heard family members try to bribe my older sister to be better. She was offered money, a new wardrobe, and even a new car if only she’d lose weight.

The reason? So that THEY could love HER. So that she would fit into their ideal image of what a woman should be. So that she could be more like…me.

Of course none of those tricks worked, and she did not lose weight. She did, however, continue to love and support her little sister and her children as much as she could, sacrificing her own happiness at all times.

I realize now that my sister just wanted to be loved and accepted, but her inner wounded child couldn't allow her to love and accept herself. So she sought acceptance from others who were also broken. From wounded men who beat her and abused her repeatedly...from our mother...from friends who were also broken.

When children believe they are never good enough, they become adults who chronically seek external sources of validation, and never learn how to properly care for themselves.

Ironically, she didn’t realize that I was comparing myself to other women at all times. I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, or thin enough to deserve a seat at any table. Our mother may have preferred me, but she didn’t show up for me either, and I always thought it was my fault that she was absent. So I sought external validation, from an abusive partner, from other people who were also broken…and the cycle continued. I put my life at risk to feel worthy and accepted - by everyone but myself.

Fortunately, I had the capability to break free and get help for my inner wounded child, and I still try to push through all that noise in my head every day. But my big sister never got the chance. She was murdered 5 years ago, in a senseless act of violence. She died never having truly loved herself, and it breaks my heart. She was hands down the kindest, most selfless, beautiful soul I have ever met. She was radiant. She lit up the room. Her laugh was infectious. And she never realized it.

So I get it. Comparison really is the thief of joy, and I’m done with it. Can you also be done? Can you love yourself as much as you love others?

Don't live in anyone else’s shadow. You don’t know how dark it really is.

You are perfect just as you are.

You are already the person you want to become.

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