Comparison is the thief of joy

A timely reminder as we do life with one another.


Selah Tennberg

We’ve all visited THAT dorm.

Riley Potter, Staff Writer

In the whirlwind of settling back into campus life, it seems easy, second nature almost, to stack ourselves up against our peers, roommates and friends. There’s a nagging suspicion in the back of our minds that we do not measure up, that we aren’t enough: cool enough, clever enough, cute enough, stylish enough. The list goes on and on and on. 

Before we start that spiral of comparison and despair, we must take a deep breath and intentionally resist the societal temptations to compete constantly and loathe ourselves. This can be done through self-affirmations, or by simply recognizing the inherent worth and value of whomever we are around. It sounds cheesy but in this case, the clichés of “we rise by lifting others” and “real queens fix each other’s crowns” prove salient and succinct. Truly, we must ground ourselves down and remember who it is that we are, whose it is that we are. 

I know from personal experience that this is easier said than done. At Westmont, in this overwhelmingly appearance-driven space, it feels so incredibly natural to compare every aspect of our lives, from our rooms and summers, to our aesthetics, interests and fitness levels. We may even feel the urge to contrast our personal walks with Jesus. 

I often fall into the throes of comparison and bemoan the fact that I don’t dress a certain way, haven’t invested in a particular hobby, or am not as artistic as the next gal. However, life quickly gets exhausting and draining if all we do is evaluate ourselves by the achievements and appearance of others. We are left feeling drained and dull, instead of full of the simple truth that we are worthy. 

As I’m sure you have heard dozens of times, YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made, intentionally unique by design, gifted with passions, talents, interests and dreams of your very own. We are not meant to elevate any one passion, talent, interest or dream above another. Crocheting isn’t innately superior to pottery, nor is longboarding a “better” hobby than reading. Playing basketball is just as valid a pastime as painting, and making crafts honestly requires as much talent as surfing — albeit a very different type of talent … and these are just our hobbies! 

When thinking about our majors and future life paths, once again the threat of comparison arises. There is the allure to think that someone is not as smart if she is not in a STEM field, or that careers in nonprofits or education are less valuable than those in accounting, engineering or medicine. We are each called into a specific corner of the world and have the ability — the responsibility, really — to make a positive impact wherever we land. Ultimately, we are all vessels for the love and light of God and it is so beautiful that we each have our distinct passions and talents to share with each other and the world. 

Comparison devalues and diminishes us, boxing us in and robbing us of the joy that comes with being fully alive.”

That all sounds fine and dandy, you may say, but why/how do I practically go about this conscious mindset shift? Now, that’s the real question. The “why” is simpler to unpack. Comparison devalues and diminishes us, boxing us in and robbing us of the joy that comes with being fully alive. It is hard to be fully alive if we are not fully embracing our identities. By measuring ourselves against others, we are subconsciously chipping away at our feelings of self-worth.  

So how do we resist this urge? We have internalized messages of negativity and have learned to hate ourselves in a way that is both heartbreaking and haunting. The first step is to become conscious of the habit and intentionally disrupt the internal dialogue of comparison as soon as it appears. Then we must affirm ourselves and practice gratitude for the gifts we have been given. If this proves difficult, recognize that you are not alone in that sentiment; extend grace to yourself and know that you are worthy. We are all full of so many things the world cannot wait to see, if only we have the confidence to live boldly and be ourselves unapologetically. 


Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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