marble desk in office with notebook explaining Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the Thief of Joy: What This Means for Your Money!

You’ve probably heard this expression before “comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s a simple thing to say, and it’s easy to brush it aside, assuming the information is meant for someone else.

But wait – could comparison be stealing the joy from your own life? Is it possible that this warning applies to all of us? Yes, and it is often the #1 thing that gets in the way of reaching our financial goals.

Find out where this quote came from, what it means, and how you can live without comparison and enjoy your life a whole lot more!

piggy bank hiding behind cash revealing the The #1 thing getting in the way of your financial goals

Who Is the One Who Said, “Comparison Is the Thief of Joy”?

This wise expression was famously said by Theodore Roosevelt. And it’s true!


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When we spend more time looking at what others have than finding ways to enjoy our own lives, this saying can become a warning. There is danger in allowing the lives of others to become the way we measure our own.

What Exactly Does “Comparison Is the Thief of Joy” Mean?

Living in a state of constant comparison between ourselves and others is a recipe for disaster. It can and will make us unhappy because no matter how much you have, there will always be someone else who has more.

Time spent comparing ourselves to others is also time wasted because it isn’t productive. Enjoying your own life and being happy with your own financial progress will make you much more optimistic and focused. You might even reach your goals more quickly.

What Does It Mean When You Compare Yourself to Others?

Sometimes it isn’t so easy to define comparison. How can you know if this is affecting your life?

When you compare yourself to others, you’re picking out the good things in others’ lives and measuring them to your life. Oftentimes, this is done very selectively and your life never measures up.

Especially if you have a scarcity mindset, you’re always going to be able to find someone who has more, has become more successful or has done something you haven’t. This is no way to live because you’re never going to be satisfied with your own life.

Related: Tips for Creating a Positive Money Mindset

Examples of Comparing Yourself to Others

Here are some everyday examples of comparison that you may relate to.

Viewing social media posts that make it seem that everyone is better off than you

Social media is notorious for making people’s lives seem perfect, although the reality is often quite different. If you often find yourself scrolling social media to see what your friends are up to and measuring your life against theirs, this is comparison.

If you feel bad about your own life after being on social media, it might be time for a break. Take a few days off to be grateful for what you have instead of looking at what others have.

Sometimes, too much information about what everyone else is up to, from vacations to expensive shopping trips, isn’t helpful. It’s easier to be grateful when you aren’t bombarded with all this information.

Friends buying more expensive houses than yours

Maybe your house seems really nice…until your friend buys a bigger place than yours. Suddenly, the kitchen you used to be happy with looks outdated, and you wish you had more square footage. 

Comparison will take you down a bad path with houses. You may start feeling generally unhappy and even move up to buying a more expensive home, winding up in debt, and struggling to pay bills.

Instead of focusing on what others have, find the time to notice what’s great about your own home.

Family taking fancy vacations

Did your cousins just get back from a trip to Hawaii, and you’re finding it challenging to smile while they show you photos of the beach? This can be comparison and jealousy creeping into your life. 

Sometimes it’s tough to be happy for others if they seem to have everything we want. Still, if you can change perspectives, understanding that you live different lives with different financial journeys, you’ll be much better off.

People driving nicer cars than you

Maybe you’ve been driving the same old car for ten years, and it seems like every person you pull up next to at a stoplight has a fancier car than you. This can be frustrating!

However, even though the temptation to compare your car is very apparent, don’t do it. You don’t know how much money the people in that car have, their expenses, and how it compares to your own, so don’t spend time thinking about why they have something you don’t.

Again – your lives are different, so a comparison is useless and will make you feel unhappy.

Why Should You Never Compare Yourself to Others?

Giving up your own joy by comparing yourself to someone else is never good. Why? Because you often compare the worst of your own circumstances to the highlights of others.

Most people just want to show off the great things that happen to them, such as a new car or house. They don’t discuss the day-to-day boring or difficult parts of regular life.

Because of this, it is challenging to find out what’s real and what isn’t. And there will also always be someone who has more money, fancier clothes, or a newer car.

So it’s a no-win game to compare. Comparing won’t make you have what that person does, and it also makes you less content with your own life.

How do you not let comparison steal your joy?

Now that you know that comparison can make you less happy and content as a person, you probably want to avoid it. But this is easier said than done. How do you not allow comparison to steal your joy? Try these tips.

Know your own priorities

First of all, know what matters to you. Success looks different depending on who you are.

So it’s essential to define what your best life looks like. You should take the time to prioritize; if you get distracted by someone else’s success, you can’t remember what you want to achieve most.

To do this, make a list of your priorities. Start by just listing the most important things, such as “buy a house,” “travel to two new places,” or “save $100,000”.

After that, prioritize them in order of importance. Number them if it helps.

Then, you can work towards your first goal, then your second, and so on. Keeping an eye on your own goals will prevent you from wanting to look elsewhere.

Document your own financial success

Since your own financial progress is all you have control of, you should focus on that to avoid comparison. Remember the progress you’ve made whenever you’re tempted to be envious of what others have.

You can write it down when you achieve a financial goal, take photos of your financial success, or keep a record in some other way. Then you’ll know for sure that you’re doing the right thing for yourself, and you don’t have to think about what anyone else is doing.

If you like visual reminders, check out the savings coloring charts and debt payoff trackers I have in the shop.

Keep this proof of your financial success somewhere you’ll see often. Such as the side of the fridge, a whiteboard with your savings goals on it, or photos of vacations you’ve saved for and taken.

This can be inspiring and a great thing to keep you motivated with what matters most to you.

How can we avoid comparing ourselves with others?

To stop the comparison game in its tracks, you should have some tactics up your sleeve to help. Here’s what to do when comparison strikes.

Recognize the triggers

Know what will tempt you to compare and avoid situations that make comparison likely. So what is it for you?

Social media? Brunch with friends that brag too much? Whatever it is, try to identify your triggers and avoid them.

Be grateful

Guess what? It’s pretty challenging to be envious of others if you’re busy being happy with your own life. Gratefulness is the ultimate weapon against comparison.

Whenever you’re tempted with discontentment, find a couple of things to be grateful for and meditate on those things instead. You may soon have a whole list of things to think about that you’re thankful to have, like family, a good income, great food, or money to pay rent.

Be content

When you’re happy living your own life and feel content, comparison fades. Work hard to be content with your own life by celebrating any successes you have and not allowing yourself to dwell on the success of others. 

Whether it is making a list of your favorite accomplishments of the year, or appreciating the moment with a good cup of coffee, find ways to be content.

Celebrate other’s achievements

Be happy for other people! After all, it’s not as though they became successful specifically to bother you.

They’re trying to be the best person they can be, too. So instead of comparing, be joyful and excited for other people when something good happens to them. 

Focus on your own strengths

There are tons of things you’re good at. Think about those things. I

f you find yourself thinking that so and so is better at networking than you are, think instead about the fantastic project you completed at work last week. 

Spend time becoming even better at the things you’re good at, and be ready to focus on those.

Compete with yourself

Competing with others isn’t always fun. However, competing with yourself is a great way to stay content and do your best.

Think about ways to be better with finances this year, or get a promotion at work. Compete with yourself, and you won’t have time to think about what someone else is doing.

How do I stop comparing myself to others financially?

Finances are a topic that often can make people compare, feel jealous, or worry that they aren’t measuring up. But there are ways to avoid financial comparison. Here’s how.

Spend less time on social media

Put a limit on social media scrolling. Too much time on Instagram and TikTok will only bring you down and make it difficult to reach your own goals.

Give yourself a time limit each day for social media, such as 15 minutes. You can even change the settings of your phone so that it will remind you of social media usage.

With all the extra free time, you’ll be able to further pursue your own money dreams.

Focus on our own goals

Your financial goals deserve your full attention. So forget what anyone else is doing, even if they’re “further along” in their money journey than you.

Your responsibility is to do your best with your own money. So set some incredible goals and get to work.

What are the negative effects of comparing yourself to others?

There are many ways that comparison can distract you from achieving your goals. It can also have other harmful effects. Here are some of them.

Overspending

If you notice someone else has something and you think you need to buy it in order to be happy, you may overspend. This is bad for your wallet, and it can keep you from reaching your financial goals, too. 

Anxious thoughts

You might feel anxious when comparing yourself to others, wondering if you’re not where you should be at this point in your life, or questioning your decisions. Anxious thoughts like this will not help you in any way, and they can make it more challenging to live a life you enjoy.

Related: 10 Ways to Deal with Financial Anxiety

Depression

If you constantly compare yourself to others, you may experience feelings of depression. This isn’t a great way to live, and it’s essential to know if depression is related to comparison.

You might look into talking with a counselor or therapist to help you work through these feelings.

Feelings of inadequacy

More than anything else, comparison can make you feel like you’re not good enough the way you are, which is just not true. Feelings of inadequacy may surface if the comparison is left unchecked, though.

When you begin to change your habits and thoughts, so you no longer compare, remember that you are already great the way you are, and the only journey you should compare yourself to is your own.

Related: 9 Surprising Differences Between a Rich vs Poor Mindset

Is comparison really the thief of joy?

This statement is totally accurate. Thinking about what you don’t have will bring you down and steal your joy, potentially forever if left unchecked.

Don’t let this be the case! Work hard to fight comparison, and instead focus on yourself. Make your financial priorities your biggest goals, and don’t worry about what others are doing.

Don’t let comparison steal your joy

Don’t allow comparison to make you unhappy and steal your joy. You should avoid jealousy and comparison at all costs if you want to succeed.

The best way to reach for your goals is to entirely focus on them and not anything else. Forget comparison, embrace your own journey, and be the happiest version of yourself.

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