You know those old cliches “Comparison is the thief of joy” and “The grass is greener on the other side of the fence”? The comparison quote is from 1898, in the form of a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to his friend. The second is traced back to 1545, in the poetry of Ovid. If the staying power of these isn’t proof of our nature toward yearning for what others have, I don’t know what is.
Her house. Her career. Her ability to stay at home with her kids. Her partner. Her freedom. Her body. Her confidence.
I know you can come up with examples of women who seem to have more or have it better than you do. Take a few minutes – I’m not going anywhere.
Now – how do you feel? How do your heart and gut feel? Not great, right? Perhaps you have a heavy, sick, or empty feeling. Maybe you’ve even responded physically. Relax, breathe, and let’s get to the bottom of this and find your joy.
Think about the last time you laughed – a true, out loud, belly laugh. When you were immersed in this moment of pure joy, were you comparing yourself with someone else? Were you thinking about how your thighs should be smaller, your bank account bigger, or your success greater?
You weren’t because joy and comparison are absolutely contradictory. You cannot feel joy and envy at the same time.
I don’t want you to think I’m implying that comparison and envy are something to feel shame about; these feelings are natural and even unavoidable. We are constantly bombarded by messages from a trillion-dollar “beauty”-based industry that tells us that we are not enough. Imagine what would happen to this industry if we all believed that we were already beautiful…
The grass is greener on the other side of the fence – or is it? Did you ever look closely at that grass? Maybe it’s artificial – I lived in a house with fake grass in our backyard, and we had a running joke with our neighbours that we had the nicest lawn in the neighbourhood. The irony in that is our lives were falling apart inside that nice house with the “best lawn.” We only lived there for a year, and then my husband and I separated, and we left that fake grass and artificial life behind.
The thing about grass is that the nicest grass in the neighbourhood is achieved only through work – a lot of watering, weeding, mowing, and fertilizing. The grass, my friends, is greener where you water it, and wanting someone else’s life would mean swapping your problems for theirs.
If you’re a gardener, this next part might resonate a bit more with you than if you’re an “I put orange flowers in a pot” or “that plant is green and barely alive” kinda gal, but bear with me. It is all relevant, I promise.
Life is like a garden (How many of you read that in the Forrest Gump voice? How many of you are doing it now?). You start your garden by planting things you want to thrive and be beautiful. They may need to be moved to a different spot in the garden, might need more or less attention, and sometimes they need to be pulled out because they’re sapping up all the nutrients from the other plants. (Do you see what I’m doing here with metaphors? I’m clever like that because I know you’re a smartie pants too). And weeds will grow and try to ruin your garden, and sometimes jerks, animals, or kids will trample your garden and wreck all your hard work. But you know whose garden looks the best and actually thrives? The one that is watered and tended. Your “orange flowers in a pot” can thrive just as much as the immaculately sculptured Japanese-style garden if you spend the time.
So yeah, this is all great and wonderful in theory; “Water your own garden, yadda yadda,” but we need something practical, right? Ok, I got you. Here’s what you need to do to start finding your joy and stop comparing:
- Acknowledge what you’re grateful for: This means spending time (ideally each day, but heck, I’ll take once a week because I’m not unreasonable) writing down what you’re grateful for. Make it at least three things, and aim for a minimum of 5. You can do it on your phone or on a scrap piece of paper or a journal if you have one, but write it down. Writing, seeing, and reading are imperative parts of solidifying things in your brain.
- Act on it: Nicely done, you’re all grateful and stuff. Here’s the hard part… do something about it. For a lot of you, this is the really hard part, and I get that. Don’t get me wrong, I know that you do SO MUCH for those in your life, and you’re probably exhausted with all the giving and not receiving, and your cup feels empty. However, the thing about showing gratitude is that it is something in which you receive just as much as you give, and you get to choose how you’re going to show your gratitude. It could be as simple as saying, “Hey, kid/partner/Amazon delivery person, I’m thankful for you.” If this isn’t your thing and verbal expression makes you uncomfortable, you could put a little sticky note with a heart on it in a place they’ll find it. I like to buy my Mom her favourite chocolate bars and hide them in places like her purse, coat pockets, or car console. You’re the one who decides the how of this part.
That’s it. That’s how we take our heads off a swivel, focus on our own backyards, and start the process of being more content. Please acknowledge that you are already all that you need to be, exactly as you are, then be grateful, and act on it.