Comparison is the thief of joy

I recently thought about the people who were in my virtual circle 15 years ago, when I started blogging back 2006. I recounted their achievements: a good few have done amazing things in the literary world; some became prominent in academia; and others have done well in media.

My first instinct was to compare myself to them. Thinking of what they’ve achieved in these 15 years, and immediately feeling less…without actually taking the time to think of what I have done.

It’s a habit, I think. A bad habit borne out of a childhood and partial adult life of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

I naturally put myself down when I look at others in the peer groups I’ve been part of throughout my life – whether it’s people I was at school with, university, or any other group (real or virtual).

I tend to undervalue myself, while raising others – which is a terrible mental habit.

But why should I? It’s not like I’ve sailed through life doing absolutely nothing. In the years since 2006, I’ve gotten (and stayed) married (which, to some, is an achievement given divorce rates nowadays); I’m co-raising two kids; completed my Hajj; published a book of my writing (almost completely alone); put together another book (which I consider a beautiful artefact of this pandemic); and have contributed positively to the organisations I’ve worked at, and hopefully added something valuable to the lives of my colleagues.

I’ve kept writing all these years – and even been paid for some of it (which was a dream for many years), and have kept sharing these thoughts and poems with others via this blog, many years after the medium was relegated to an afterthought, as social media took over the web and content became shorter and shorter (and, dare I say, declining in quality and substance too).

I’m not that same little boy I once was. The one who always felt scared of the world. Scared of people. Insignificant.

I’m 40 years old now, and I’ve been through a lot. I sometimes don’t even recognise myself in the mirror…I don’t see the person I was, physically.

Beyond that, I truly don’t care about achievements. Outward manifestations of ‘success’ are nice, but what matters much more is what’s inside. The kind of person you are – your character, your habits, the way you treat others. Where you stand in the eyes of your Creator.

And those are things that you can never be sure of. You can only mark them as ‘complete’ when you’re six feet under, and there’s no chance of changing for the worse.

So, while it’s easy – almost natural – to compare myself to others, I should know better. After all, comparison is the thief of joy.

What’s left for me is to take life as it comes, not think too much, and just live – trying my best, doing what makes me happy, and hoping for success in the things that truly matter.

Everything else is a bonus.

4 thoughts on “Comparison is the thief of joy

  1. Well stated, Yacoob. I’m curious, though: Were you comparing yourself to others, or to your own expectations of self? I know in my case, the main cause of feeling like I hadn’t accomplished enough in years past was that I hadn’t lived up to my own expectations and ambitions. And coincidentally, at the age of 40, I set myself on a path where I was able to check off all those boxes that were unchecked during my younger years. For some of us, life truly does begin at 40,

    You have obviously achieved much in life, and it might be comforting to know that many achievements (whether outward or inward) lay ahead of you.

    • Thanks for your wisdom and encouragement, Vance. I was comparing myself to others. I didn’t really set expectations of myself, which I suppose is either lack of ambition, or plain laziness. But I feel that I’m slowly moving into goal-setting territory, and know myself well enough now to hopefully plot pathways that will be realistic.

  2. Most of the time I find that I may not have achieved what my peers have, but I have gained/achieved some things they don’t have. When I was young I thought the achievement was to get married and live happily ever after. I was the first to get married within my friendship group of about 8 Muslim girls. And then divorce hit me. After my divorce I was able to focus and build on my career. But my friends got married, had children and had to give up their careers. Theres a balance in everything and I think that keeps us grounded.

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