Have you ever looked at someone else’s life and wished you had what they had? Or felt the tentacles of the green-eyed monster wrap around your heart as envy rotted your bones?
I’ve had to combat this emotion many times in my life, and, let me tell you, the comparison game has derailed my journey too many times to count.
Dangers of Comparing
For years I never noticed the warnings sign of how much harm I was doing to myself (and others) when I compared my life to another’s. Craving what someone had and I lacked. My downward spiral would often start out with a simple:
“Why didn’t I get to have that?”
“That” could be a house of coordinated furniture instead of my hodgepodge collection. Or a vacation to a place I always wanted to visit but could never afford. Or what I perceived to be an easier life of open doors with never a roadblock or detour impeding their dreams. It made me sick to my stomach, fixating on what they had.
When you compare or pine for or yearn after something in another’s life, you’re wishing you were them instead of you. You miss all the blessings and opportunities in your present life. You miss how wonderful you are—a one of a kind person unlike anyone else.
You lose your perspective.
When you take your focus off of your own journey, you stop pursuing your passion and calling in life. In exchange, you become miserable as you attempt to seek after another’s life. That is not a fair trade!
The worst thing about this comparison game? It sets your relationship with others to fail, as you will either end up acting superior or inferior to them. Instead of celebrating in their joys and successes or mourning in their losses and failures, you use a subjective standard as a weapon to attack either them or yourself.
Neither behavior is God honoring. And it kills contentment.
When I looked up this word in the dictionary, I thought it was a bland definition over something that is so powerful in shaping our attitude to live in the present. Simply put, contentment is a state of happiness or satisfaction.
But living in a state of satisfaction, no matter what your present circumstances are in comparison to another’s, is such an influential mindset. It’s a game changer.
Is it easy?
Is it worth pursuing?
You better believe it.
When I decided to stop seeing my writing as a hobby but to treat it as a career, a dear friend celebrated this decision of mine by giving me a copy of Anne Lamott’s beautiful book Bird By Bird. For the first time, my eyes become open to how destructive this desire to live someone else’s life is after reading her chapter on jealousy. Anne Lamott poetically summaries the damage of envy here:
“I got to look in some cold dark corners, see what was there, shine a little light on what we all have in common. Sometimes this human stuff is slimy and pathetic—jealousy especially so—but better to feel it and talk about it and walk through it than to spend a lifetime being silently poisoned.”
What about you? Tired of the slow poison envy and coveting and comparing is bringing to your career, relationships, and dreams? Ready to shift your perspective off what you think is the perfect life to embracing where you are at in these present times?
Start running the race laid out just for you, fixing your eyes on the goals you have set. Face it, no one can live your life for you, and envy is a distraction we don’t have time to indulge in. I invite you to join me in forming this habit to stop living someone else’s life and get back to pursuing our own.