How often do you take stock of your life? I don’t mean that fleeting thought when you have a little win or moment of good luck. I don’t mean the guilt you feel when you walk past someone collecting for charity without donating. I mean sitting your ass down and saturating yourself in gratitude and reflection.
I’m going to go ahead and suggest that it may not be as often as you’d like or need.
We have become a society obsessed with other people’s lives. Why concentrate on our own when we can feel superior to Miley Cyrus (post VMAs) or wallow in self pity after seeing Miranda Kerr turn herself into a human pretzel without breaking a sweat? It is much easier to judge the lives of others than take a good hard look at our own.
My question to you is: How is that serving you? What do you really get out of putting down the black sheep of the family or throwing jealous barbs at your girlfriend? Not much more than a whole heap of negative energy I’ll bet.
Social media slams us with images and ideal lifestyles each and every day (and for some, every hour). We like to tell ourselves that the whole experience is positive; reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones (and sometimes it can be), but often it’s a breeding ground for comparison and competition. The nagging question of “Why don’t I have that?” is a destructive one and, above all, paralysing. When we’re spending our time and energy bitching about not having a holiday/wedding/baby/new car, we’re not able to take any positive action in our own lives.
Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy” and what do y’know, he’s right. The problem is that it’s highly addictive. I spent almost an hour flicking through Beyoncé’s Tumblr site this morning and felt completely inferior (and lazy) when I left. I could feel this happening, I could feel my energy shifting but I couldn’t tear my eyeballs away. It’s the same as getting lost in the time-warp bubbles that are Pinterest or Instagram. Once we’re deep in comparison mode, it’s hard to smack ourselves out of it. We feel that we need to know just how much our lives suck/are much better than (insert almost anyone’s name here)’s. It’s curiosity on steroids.
So what’s the solution? Aside from becoming a recloose, can we do anything about our cultural addiction to comparison? I’ve been playing around with this for a little while now and three key ideas have helped me stay relatively sane.
Comparison thrives in the past. Why didn’t I have that growing up? Why didn’t I book a retreat for this month? Why did I skip the gym every day last week? Past You is responsible for all those things, but why berate them for it now? It changes nothing. Live in the present (the offline present) as much as you can. Drink your coffee, go on your walk, talk to the person opposite you at the table without checking your phone. Switch off that niggly little competitive voice and simply enjoy the moment more often.
I’m not going to force you to buy a gratitude journal, cover it with glitter and write in it four times a day (although it would be a really great idea despite being a bit messy). I will however, urge you to take 5 minutes out of your evening to mentally run through any lovely comments you received, luck that came your way and joyful moments you noticed in your day. It makes more of a difference than you know AND helps you to sleep better (insert scientific proof here).
Hate your job? Quit. Need a holiday? Book. Want glutes like peaches? Squat. Commit to the change you want to see in your own life. Stop complaining and comparing yourself to those that have taken the risk, the leap, the action. Spend that energy getting more of what you want and deserve.