Comparison and Envy Are Thieves of Joy

By Jimmy Warden

A lot of people in today’s world often look around them and see things that they wish they had. Money, cars, a big house, a better job, a family. We see the things we wish we had because of our deep desire to obtain them. We look at these things and usually think of statements like, “if I had _______ then my life would be so much better”. When in reality, we really have no idea if it would actually make our life better. We think it would because we see those other people who have these things with big smiles on their faces and zeros in their bank account. The biggest problem is that we are comparing ourselves to somebody who is living a completely different life, under a completely different set of circumstances, and we envy it, just because of the joy they are projecting. This is a recipe for disaster.

When we constantly compare ourselves to other people, we are not doing ourselves any justice because the people we’re comparing ourselves to are so much different than we are (for the most part). They often have different professions, they are a different age, they live in a different time zone, and they tend to project the best version of themselves all the time, even when they are struggling. To that notion, it makes no logical sense to compare ourselves to them because we really don’t know anything about their life. We often see their best aspects via social media. We don’t know how much time they spend working, we don’t know what their family life is like, and we don’t know their true character because we haven’t actually met them. I’m not trying to say all of these people are phony, but rather we see just a fraction of who they are, no matter how authentic they claim to be. With that said, it also doesn’t make much sense for us to compare our well-being to theirs because different lives imply different circumstances.

When we’re in a different set of circumstances we experience a different set of challenges than any other person in the world. Our challenges are our challenges. We don’t often see this in other people because we see that the grass is greener in their world. We want what they have. They seem to be happy and they seem to have great amounts of joy, but that’s just what we perceive. It’s not necessarily reality. Yet, we compare our levels of joy to the levels of joy we perceive in others. When this happens, our own joy is taken away from us. It doesn’t make sense to take this path of thinking either because a different set of circumstances means different professions, relationships, priorities, interests, and personalities. Therefore, what brings us joy doesn’t necessarily bring others joy, and vice versa. Why do we still compare despite all of these differences? We feel like we are missing something that other people have, so we get envious.

Envy is the desire we have to possess something we don’t currently have. We see that other people are smiling more than we are, we see that they have their lives together, and we see that they’re loving every minute of it. However, that is just what most people share with us. We still don’t know about their challenges unless they share that information with us. When we hear about all of their good fortune, we desire to have that for ourselves if we feel like we’re missing that part in us. In reality, that still might not bring us the joy that we are searching for.

In order to bring joy to our lives, we should try to compare ourselves to ourselves only. Sure, there’s no harm in looking to others for motivation or inspiration, but everyone has their own circumstances, which each bring personalized sets of challenges. This is why we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. Just because we perceive their levels of joy to be higher than ours, we envy that, and want to recreate that for ourselves. However, the paradox is the fact that what brings other people joy doesn’t always bring us joy because of the potentially massive differences in lives. From professions, to relationships, to priorities, to interests, and personalities, these differences have a large influence on what brings each individual joy. So let’s figure out for ourselves what brings us joy, and do more of that. We’ll be grateful we did.

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