Comparison is the thief of joy. Or is it? In this age of social media we are confronted with comparison every time we scroll. Perfect living rooms on Pinterest, perfect poses on IG, amazing parties and travel to exotic places we cannot afford. And the resulting guilt that follows is like a second arrow.
So what do we do? Sometimes we do nothing and go through the day feeling yucky. Some, especially Yogis, work hard to quell the envy & jealousy and cultivate santosha, contentment, instead. But silencing it never works, and simply cultivating a positive emotion is like spraying air freshener over poop. It simply smells like flowery poop. A trend I see lately is to go on a "social media fast". Radio silence. Shut it all out. Nothing to compare yourself against = no comparison. Awesome right? Not really. The underlying cause is still there.
Here's the thing, we are humans and we are going to compare, what is important is not that you stop comparing but that you ask yourself what kind of a place you are comparing yourself from. Generally we compare ourselves from a place of weakness. We see others at their best, and contrast that with where we feel we are at, which is often at our lowest.
Jon Accuf says,
"Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle."
And that brings me to another point! Comparison can be a very useful tool for letting you know where to derive inspiration and motivation in your life! When you find that you're comparing yourself to someone else ask yourself first if you're being fair - and second what in this comparison can you use as motivation? Sometimes it is an honest indication of something missing in your life.
The Yogis call this pratipaksha bhavanam- or cultivating attitude of opposites. That does NOT mean being in denial or pretending to feel the opposite. It is not pretending sunshine and roses when there is a storm weathering underneath - rather, when you feel something negative find a way to reframe your perspective that allows for some space and growth. In our society we love to see things in black and white. We see things as either this or that, when in reality the world is much more a yes, and kind of place. Yes we can allow ourselves to feel like we are not enough and hold space for a growth and acceptance.
Case in point: For many years I couldn't attend a yoga class without constantly comparing myself to others. At first this was my natural way but as I went down the yogi path I came to realize how horrible it made me feel and left me unable to enjoy the class sometimes. That lead to a period of guilt where I eventually stopped attending public classes for awhile and cultivated a strong home practice. After awhile I forgot about my comparing issue and, as a reformed yogi, went to class and was surprised my old issue of comparing still surfaced. So finally I resolved to change my perception of the room. I chose to mentally put every other person in the class on my team, so every time someone rocked out a pose I would quietly cheer them on, or if someone struggled I would offer them my mental strength and cheer them on as well. It worked! I even employ this method in social media, and in life. Whenever I encounter envy I ask how can I root for them and use their blessings as my motivation.
So, in the end, comparison is not the thief of joy, rather, it is a window of opportunity to see into and to see to our hearts desires. I hope this helps you as it has helped me.