The Thief of Joy: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others


There are 86,400 seconds in each day. Most people sleep for about 28,800 of these seconds. That leaves only 57,600 waking seconds. The average person spends 7,200 of those seconds on social media. Whether it is two hours or nine, the scrolling through Facebook statuses, double-tapping edited photos, or compressing something witty into 140 characters leads us to an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. We are quick to diagnose the technology addiction of teens, pointing fingers at the “Generation Me” mentality. However, the changing face of our world affects us all – children, teens, and adults alike.

Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparison is the “thief of joy.” But in an age where everything from weddings to lunches are posted online for opinions, how do we keep ourselves feeling confident?


My parents were slow to the smartphone game. I first saw an iPhone in eighth grade when a classmate got one for his birthday. It wasn’t until my junior year, when I was sixteen, that I got one for myself. My younger brother and sister got theirs much earlier – at age thirteen – and I recognized the relief on their faces that they now carried around something that wouldn’t get made fun of. It made me think. Was life simpler in the “dumb phone” days? In some ways, yes. In others, no. The debate over technology can last forever, but its crippling nature and ease of addiction is ominous to say the least. Psychologists have reported that a notification sound on a device leads to a release of dopamine in the brain. A recent 20/20 special, “Digital Addiction?” even compares a social media addiction to a heroin addiction.

So how does one survive in such a filtered world?

The key is truly not to compare yourself. Their lives are not perfect. In fact, they probably scroll through their own feeds stressing, just like you do, about whether the picture looks good, or feeling stupid for posting at all. I promise their lives really aren’t all that great.

Stop competing. You’re doing great. Competition and jealousy are diseases. They control the mind and the self-image in contorted ways. To avoid this competitive feeling, especially if it is in your disposition, compliment yourself often. Compliment others often. Allow yourself to celebrate other’s victories without thinking of yourself, and to support others without feeling self-righteous.

And when it comes down to it, the things we compare about ourselves are simply that – things. It’s just a picture. It’s just a post. But when society revolves around numbers, it isn’t that easy to just brush it off. If you find yourself unhealthily craving the approval of others to the point where it governs your mind, delete your social media accounts. Or just take a break. Allow yourself to find mental peace. Look inside yourself for clarity and serenity.

You are happy, you are healthy, you are enough. You don’t need a notification to tell you that.

You have 86,400 seconds. It’s taken you about 1000 to read this.

What’s your next move?


by Angelina Fay