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Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Emily Shea

Compare [kuh m-pair]: to examine (two or more objects, ideas, people, etc.) in order to note similarities and differences. ex. to compare two pieces of cloth; to compare the governments of two nations.

More common examples: to compare an iPhone to an Android, to compare her outfit to your outfit, to compare their relationship to your relationship, to compare his job to your job, to compare McDonald's to Wendy's, to compare Macy's to Nordstrom, to compare Michael Kors to Coach, to compare Lebron James to Kobe Bryant, to compare Lady Gaga to Madonna, to compare a Mercedes Benz to an Audi, to compare a bra from Victoria's Secret to one from Aerie, to compare Catholics to Baptists, to compare public school to private school, to compare cardio to weight lifting, to compare yourself to others....

Comparison is a silent killer. Not in a literal sense, but in the dream-crushing, anxiety-inducing, relationship-ruining, jealousy-causing sense. And I'm not talking about the mental battle you endure in the supermarket as you compare two different brands of dish soap. I'm talking about comparing yourself, your belongings, your relationship (or lack thereof), your friendships, your job, et cetera to others'.

For example, when I was in seventh grade I started straightening my hair. Until then, I had always thrown it up in a ponytail or allowed my wavy locks to fall upon my shoulders. It wasn't until I noticed that all the other girls in my school wore their hair straight that I thought my wavy blond hair was ugly. I remember begging my mother for a straightener because I felt out of place. In my 13-year-old mind I was a Sneetch without a star on my belly. So, I got a straightener and that was that. Well, that is until a new fad came along and I had to have the latest trendy item because, "That's what all the other girls at school are wearing," I remember whining to my mom. It wasn't until I graduated high school that I realized I went through my days of public school constantly comparing myself to my peers, demanding I have the latest trends and trying to fit in.

But even after I came to this realization I still had trouble not comparing myself to others. When I was diagnosed with my eating disorder a year after graduating high school, I refused to believe it. I didn't look emaciated, so therefore my therapist's diagnosis was wrong. I remember comparing pictures of myself to those of other girls with anorexia and thinking, "I don't look like that. I don't have an eating disorder. I'm completely fine." I refused to believe that I was sick for months, not only because my thinking was extremely unhealthy, but also because I didn't look like the girls in the pictures.

You, me, him, her—we all get so caught up in comparing what we look like, what we have, what we don't have, what we do, what we eat and how we live that we forget those differences are what make us human. I don't look like Jennifer Lopez because I'm not Jennifer Lopez. Your relationship with your boyfriend isn't like Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively's because you aren't Blake Lively and your boyfriend isn't Ryan Reynolds. Your stomach doesn't look like hers because it's yours.

I said it before and I'm going to say it again: Comparison is a silent killer. The moment we stop comparing ourselves to others is the moment when we will find happiness. God didn't put us on the Earth to be unhappy copycats of one another. He put us here to accept one another for who they are and rejoice in our diversity. Look around and celebrate the fact that you are you! Think about it for a second. Among all the people on the planet, no one else is YOU. How cool is that?

"Comparison is the thief of joy." -Theodore Roosevelt

Emily Shea is a senior mass communication student at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. She has published her work on Huffington Post and Thought Catalog and is the former Editor-in-Chief of Odyssey Online at UNC Asheville.

This piece was originally published on The Odyssey and is republished with permission.