comparison is the thief of joy and if particularly unhelpful if you suffer from chronic illness
Photography credit: David Marcu

Comparison is the thief of joy.
– Theodore Roosevelt

It’s a saying that many might think of as cliché but one I see as being absolutely true. It doesn’t matter what the context is, if you compare yourself to others you are undoubtedly going to end up feeling disappointed at best and completely miserable at worst. It’s something we all do– it’s human nature– but it’s worth bringing your awareness towards it and reminding yourself of a few things.

In the online world of chronic illness it can be all too easy to make comparisons. I see it all the time. Instead of coming together, empowering and helping each other there are individuals who sadly fall victim to comparison. Why make pain a competition? What benefit is there to gain from deciding you must be much worse off than everyone else? Or that other people must not have the “real” illness after all?

The biggest problem with taking this view is that you are forgetting that people are selective about what they choose to share online. They are not giving the full picture. So to make snap judgements and to draw comparisons is not helpful at all. I am very honest in what I write about on my blog but I only share a fraction of my life here. I doubt very much you would have wanted to read in detail about the times I have broken down because I was in so much pain. You probably don’t want to know the ins and outs of the difficulties I used to have just trying to move from my bed to the bathroom. I of course have made reference to this time in my life and talked about these things but I kept the intricate details private because this is not an online diary; it is a blog where I share information to help others struggling with the same problems I have gone through. Instead of journaling, I choose to share what I learned from my experiences and what I did to ultimately help myself. It makes much better reading, trust me. However, it can be easy to overlook the struggle and hard work I have put in and just see the improvements. Believe me when I say they have not been easy!

One of the most important things to remember when you find yourself making comparisons is that no one is in the exact same place. We are all going through the same things but we are at different points along the path. If you compare your start to someone else’s middle or your middle to someone else’s end be careful how you view it. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are both at the same point and you therefore must be worse off than they are. Having that mindset makes you falsely believe you can’t achieve the same things. Instead, acknowledge that they are ahead of you, that you want to move in the same direction and learn from what they have to say. Use their success in a positive way. Let it motivate you and empower you to achieve the same.

What do you think? Is this something you have come across? Do you struggle with comparisons? Let me know in the comments below.

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comparison is the thief of joy and if particularly unhelpful if you suffer from chronic illness

Author

Hello, I'm Donna. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2013 and started this blog shortly after. After my health declined significantly the following year, I decided to become my own advocate and searched for answers. It took two years but, in 2016, I finally discovered I had Lyme Disease. On February Stars, I share my personal journey back to better health; discussing what has helped me and the mistakes I've made along the way. I also cover topics on self-improvement, managing symptoms and living life to the fullest with chronic illness.

20 Comments

  1. Good post Donna. It’s a hard one isn’t it? Because as we all ended up sick in varying ways to varying degrees, we improve at varying levels. And what works for you doesn’t work for me. And other factors are always involved. I think it might be human to want a barometer though, a sense of what may come and how we are doing compared to person b. I fall into the trap often 🙂

    • Thanks Melissa. Yes it definitely is hard and I think what you say is part of the reason why. There will be people who find x, y or z helps them to improve a lot but for others it’s only a small piece of their puzzle because there is more going on. It can be hard to see and appreciate that sometimes when we so desperately want to feel better.

  2. Donna:

    I really enjoyed your post I think as a person with Diabetes for 42 years, I always get upset with comparisons. I am particularly offended when someone compares em for an advantage. Like a parent who says you want to last as long as, or not be like may name at the end of the sentence. Man I come unglued. Thank you for expressing what I wish i had said on my blog.

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Oh I can imagine that must be difficult for you, especially to get so personal like that.

  3. Thank you for your post. I love this reminder. Comparing only sets us up for disappointment especially when we see someone else doing so much better and we wonder why we are not doing as well. Everyone has a different journey.

    • We all certainly do and it’s worth reminding ourselves of that for sure 🙂

  4. Katie Ernst Reply

    Comparison is the worst, but of course we all do it from time to time. It’s even harder when you have a chronic illness because sometimes you physically can’t do what some others are doing. Thanks so much for sharing this.

    • I get you with that one. I still get upset at times for having to miss out. I try to take the mindset of “maybe one day” (which doesn’t alway work!) but I appreciate not everyone will like that approach.

  5. Its so good to read of your experiences with Fibro as it makes me feel less isolated with it. Gentle hugs x

    • Hello, thank you so much for your kind words. We are all in this together 🙂

  6. I completely agree, Donna. It’s so easy for some people to make it a competition when in reality – why would anyone want to suffer more than someone else? I really don’t get it. Fab post, as always, very insightful.

    Sarah | sarahinwonderland.co.uk <3

    • Thank you. I absolutely agree. I don’t get it either. I would rather learn from someone who has had some success in treating their illness in the hope it might help me in some way. I don’t get why you would want to shoot down what they have to say. Everyone’s journey is individual and I think we can learn a lot from each other. Sometimes you will think “no thanks, that’s not for me” but other times it might open you up to something that will help you too. At a very basic level at least someone doing well gives us hope.

  7. a fantastic post! i couldn’t agree more even though i do compare myself sometimes! just shared this on twitter too.

  8. I completely agree with this, it’s only so easy to compare ourselves but there’s really no need – we’re all different people with different lives and that’s what makes us unique and special.

    Hazel xx

  9. Thank you for writing that. I find it difficult not to compare myself, negatively, to how others are coping both physically and mentally. It doesn’t help when a family member repeatedly tells men that she knows somebody who copes so much better, even though his condition is SO much worse than mine.

    • Hi Lynzi, comparison is so easy to do. I am really sorry to hear that you have a family member saying things like this to you. It must be upsetting for you. We are all individual and need to be treated as such.

  10. I fall into the trap of comparison, but for a different reason. For a long time, after I could no longer work; I felt sorry for myself. After reading multiple stories of others struggles, I realized that my experience, at this moment, is not as bad as I thought. I can do quite a few things still that others can’t. This has given me some ability to rise above my illnesses.
    Thanks for the wonderful post on this topic!.

    • I think it’s great that you can find strength from comparison and are using it to your advantage. Sometimes getting a little perspective is helpful. Thank you 🙂

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