Comparison is the Thief of Joy: How to Break Free and Find Happiness

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

The phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy” tells the truth about a common human nature – comparing ourselves to others. In a world where we constantly see others’ lives, achievements, and possessions, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparison.

However, this habit can steal our happiness. When we compare, we often feel less satisfied with our own lives. 

This article will explain why comparison is harmful and how to stop it.

Key Takeaways

  1. The phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy,” often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, highlights the negative impact of comparing ourselves to others.
  2. Social media exacerbates comparison by showcasing a filtered version of reality, leading to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
  3. Constant comparison can result in negative emotions such as jealousy, self-doubt, and even depression.
  4. Embracing individuality, practicing gratitude, and limiting social media use are effective strategies to combat the habit of comparison.
  5. Surrounding oneself with positive influences and seeking professional help if necessary can further support mental well-being and self-acceptance.

The Origin of the Phrase

The phrase “Comparison is the thief of joy” is often linked to Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. Many believe he was the first to say it, but there are other theories.

Some think the phrase comes from the Bible, while others credit different authors. Regardless of its origin, the message remains powerful and true.

Why Do We Compare?

There are several reasons why we compare ourselves to others.


Many people have a natural desire to compete. It can be healthy in some situations, like sports or work. However, when we constantly compare ourselves to others, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Life is not a race, and everyone has their own path.


Another reason is to evaluate ourselves. We want to know how we are doing in life. By comparing, we get a sense of where we stand. Based on this, then we can set goals and see if we are improving.


Comparing can also motivate us. Seeing someone else succeed can inspire us to work harder. It can push us to achieve more and reach our goals.

Social Connection

We also compare to feel connected to others. By seeing how we fit in, we understand our place in social groups. 

Societal Expectations

Society often sets high standards for success. We are told to have a good job, a nice house, and a perfect family.

These expectations can make us feel like we need to compare ourselves to others to see if we measure up. It is important to remember that everyone’s journey is different.

Comparison in the Age of Social Media

Comparison in the Age of Social Media

Social media has made comparing easier and more common. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook show us the best parts of other people’s lives, which can make us feel like we are not doing enough. 

For example, we might see friends posting about their vacations, new jobs, or fancy dinners. These posts often highlight the most exciting and positive moments.

However, we need to know that social media often shows a filtered version of reality.

I have to admit, even though I enjoy social media, spending too much time on it makes me feel anxious and depressed. I don’t intentionally compare myself to others, but it happens subconsciously sometimes I watch a video showing how to do something better although I’m already good at it.

The Highlight Reel Effect

Social media often acts as a “highlight reel” of people’s lives. Users tend to share their happiest moments, achievements, and successes. Rarely do they post about their struggles, failures, or everyday mundane activities.

The selective sharing can make it seem like everyone else is living a perfect life, while we are stuck dealing with our own problems. 

The Pressure to Keep Up

Seeing others’ successes and happy moments can create pressure to keep up. We might feel the need to match their achievements or lifestyle. This can lead to stress and anxiety, as we constantly strive to meet these high standards.

The pressure to present a perfect image online can also be overwhelming. We may spend a lot of time and effort curating our posts to make our lives look as good as possible, which can be exhausting and unfulfilling.

The Role of Likes and Comments

Social media platforms often use likes, comments, and followers as measures of popularity and success. Getting a lot of likes on a post can make us feel validated and appreciated. However, not getting enough likes can have the opposite effect, making us feel rejected or unimportant.

As you can understand, the constant need for validation can be harmful to our self-esteem and mental health.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Social media can also create a sense of FOMO, or fear of missing out. When we see others enjoying activities or events that we are not a part of, it can make us feel left out and lonely. FOMO can also drive us to spend more time on social media, trying to stay updated on what everyone else is doing, which can further exacerbate these negative feelings.

Psychological Perspectives on Comparison

Social Comparison Theory

Social comparison theory explains why we compare ourselves to others. It helps us understand our own abilities and opinions. But, it can also lead to negative feelings. When you see someone doing better, you might feel less happy about your own achievements.

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance happens when you have conflicting thoughts. For example, you’ll feel uncomfortable when you might think you are good at something, but then see someone who is better. To fix this, you might change your thoughts or actions.

Self-Discrepancy Theory

Self-Discrepancy Theory looks at the gap between how you see yourself and how you want to be. If the gap is big, you might feel sad or anxious. Closing this gap can help you feel better about yourself.

How Comparison Breeds Discontent

Comparison can make you feel unhappy with what you have. When you see what others have, you might start to think that your things are not good enough. As a result, you’ll feel less happy with your own life.

The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome

You might think that other people’s lives are better than yours. It is called the “grass is always greener” syndrome. It can make you feel like you are missing out on something better. But remember, you only see the good parts of their lives, not the bad parts.

The Impact on Self-Worth


When you compare yourself to others, you might feel like you are not good enough. In this way, you hurt your self-worth. You might start to think that you need to be like someone else to be happy. But it is not true. You are valuable just the way you are.

Materialism and Consumer Culture

Comparison can make you want more things. You might think that having more stuff will make you happy. But having more things does not always make you happy. It can make you feel empty inside. Instead, try to be happy with what you have.

The Negative Effects of Comparison

Comparing ourselves to others can have many negative effects on our mental and emotional health. It can lead to feelings of jealousy, self-doubt, and even depression.


When we see others with things we want, it can make us feel jealous. The jealous can be harmful and take away from our own happiness. Instead of feeling happy for others, we focus on what we lack.


Constant comparison can make us doubt our own abilities and worth. We may feel like we are not good enough or that we will never achieve what others have. If we continue thinking in this way, we might lack confidence and motivation.


In severe cases, comparison can lead to depression. When we constantly feel like we are not measuring up, it can take a toll on our mental health. It is important to recognize these feelings and seek help if needed.

How to Stop Comparing

Stopping the habit of comparison is not easy, but it is possible. Here are some strategies to help you focus on your own journey and find joy in your life.

Embracing Your Individuality

Embracing your individuality means celebrating what makes you unique. When you focus on your own path, you can find joy in your personal journey. It is important to understand that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.

By recognizing and valuing your unique traits, you can build a more fulfilling and happy life.

Celebrate Your Unique Traits

Everyone has something special that sets them apart. It could be a talent, a personality trait, or a unique perspective. Take time to identify what makes you different and celebrate those qualities. Write them down and remind yourself of them often.

Such practice can help you appreciate your individuality and boost your self-esteem.

Practice Gratitude

One of the best ways to stop comparing is to practice gratitude. Focus on the things you have and the positive aspects of your life. Keeping a gratitude journal can help you remember what you are thankful for.

Limit Social Media Use

Social media often shows a filtered version of reality. People tend to post their best moments, which can make you feel like you are not measuring up. Limiting your time on social media can help you avoid the trap of negative comparison.

Instead, use that time to engage in activities that make you happy and help you grow.

Focus on Your Own Goals

Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own growth. Set personal goals that are meaningful to you. These goals should reflect your values and aspirations.

By working towards your own objectives, you can measure your progress based on your standards, not someone else’s. Celebrate each milestone you achieve, no matter how small it may seem.

Surround Yourself with Positive People

Positive People around you

The people you spend time with can greatly impact how you feel about yourself. Surround yourself with friends and family who support and uplift you. Positive relationships can help you feel more confident and less likely to compare yourself to others.

Seek out mentors and role models who inspire you and encourage your personal growth.

Practice Self-Compassion

Being kind to yoursel. Everyone makes mistakes and has flaws. Accepting these imperfections is a part of embracing your individuality. When you catch yourself being self-critical, try to reframe those thoughts into positive ones.

For example, if you think, “I’m not good at this,” change it to, “I’m learning and improving every day.” Self-compassion helps you to be more forgiving and understanding towards yourself.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

If you find it difficult to stop comparing yourself to others, consider seeking help from a mental health professional. Therapy can provide you with tools and strategies to manage negative thoughts and build self-acceptance.

A therapist can help you understand the root causes of your comparisons and work with you to develop healthier habits.

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