Comparison Is The Thief of Joy

Why do I always compare myself to others, and how do I find a way to stop?

It’s the end of November and NaNoWriMo is over. People are tallying up their words to see if they’ve hit the magical 50,000 word count, and if they’ve “won” or not.

I didn’t win. I had no aspirations to, because I knew when I started the story I was writing this year that I wasn’t prepared enough and wouldn’t have enough time. But I’m very happy I sat my ass down and started something, because now I at least have a decent first draft going and this story is going to be amazing.

“Winning” doesn’t really matter to me.

But that doesn’t stop me from looking at what other people are doing and wishing I was doing as well as them. (Yeah, I know, that’s kinda weird).

“Comparison is the thief of joy,” was an unknown saying to me until very recently, but boy did it strike a chord. I think I heard some fitness Youtuber using it when talking about personal goals, and according to the almighty Internet, it’s originally attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt.

The meaning is simple: If you compare yourself to others, your accomplishments will never seem enough.

I struggle with this a lot. It’s not that I want to “win” or be “the best” at what I do – because I’ve long since acknowledged that I’m a jack of all trades, and you don’t get to be the best at one single thing if you spread you focus out over many things. That’s okay, I’m quite content with my many different interests.

But I wish perhaps that I was able to be prouder of my own achievements.

It’s easy when it’s someone else. I get genuinely excited for friends when they announce news that they’re being published, have found an agent, or sold a short story. I’m proud of my wife who is furthering her academic career this autumn with conferences, talks and academic papers.

And I try to be excited for myself as well. But it fades so quickly when it’s about my own things.

Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy

I have a book coming out next year. A psychological horror novella that is honestly some of my best writing. This week I was just discussing cover art and artists with my publisher, and every time I realize that this is actually happening to me I have to pinch myself to check that it’s not a dream.

Then I come across someone doing something (anything, really) on social media and my excitement fades.

It’s not that I’m jealous, and don’t want other people to succeed. But I envy them. I think Homer Simpson said it best when he said: “Jealousy is when you worry someone will take what you have. Envy is wanting what someone else has.”

The thing is, I already have what others have, in my own successes and excitement. And I also have what others don’t have, because we’re all different, we do different things, and succeed at different times and places in our lives. I just got to learn to hold on to it, and not let comparison be the thief of my joy.

NaNoWriMo was good this year. I should have written this thing ages ago, but something has kept me waiting. Now I’ve started, and it’s really a very good start. I’m very happy about it. I’ll try to hold on to that feeling for a bit longer, this time.

How was your NaNoWriMo? Do you find that you compare yourself to others like I do, and do you find that it takes away from your own achievements? Maybe you’ve come up with ways of dealing with it?

Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out my books!

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