If comparison is the thief of joy then most of us are living in poverty. We live in an age where we can view snapshots of people’s lives from all over the world and, whilst we maintain a certain awareness that this is a mere highlight reel of their finer moments, we can somehow feel we are missing out on something greater.
When it comes to the celebrity, I think we can all rationalise that their world is something that few of us would ever obtain. However, what if our FOMO and/or the pressure to do something extravagantly significant with our lives comes a little closer to home? What if it’s our friends, family, or mere acquaintances who are causing us to constantly question our lives, to doubt our happiness, and make us feel that we are somehow missing the mark of our potential? Self-doubt is crippling but when you manufacture false truths to justify your doubts it becomes something that plunges us into discontentment.
Comparison truly is a little fucker.
I feel (and speaking as a twenty-something myself I hope that someone can relate. Asking for a friend, here) that there is phenomenal pressure on todays twenty-somethings to, quite simply, have it all. Whilst we are encouraged to ‘not take life too seriously’ we are supposed to, simultaneously, have a clear idea of career goals and ideally be working toward it. On the other hand, we see people occupying our age bracket – nay, fucking younger – travelling all over the world as the free-spirited twenty-odd year old they are supposed to be (We see you on Instagram with your arms stretched out, back to the camera, clear blue skyline ahead of you, embracing the fucking wind.) However, much of our own reality is spent crawling financially to pay day and eating beans on toast. Heck, if it’s a good month, we might even sprinkle some cheese on that (scraping the mould off first.) On top of this, our bodies are supposed to radiate beauty and be gym honed whilst our insecurities are made profitable by leading cosmetic companies. Maybe she’s born with it…no, bitch, it’s Maybelline. In addition, we are not supposed to settle down with anyone in particular because, GASP, we are far too young for that and, instead, we ‘have fun’ dating seven people at once, having amazing sex, and not trying to get too attached. And yet, on the flip side of that coin, why does it feel like everyone else is settling down, renting with their partner, and saving for the mortgage? Fucking Steven and David get engaged whilst Emma is tying the knot with Susan next weekend. That means a new suit/new dress because we’re on the pull; make that eight people at once. Meanwhile, we are told that this is the prime of our lives before the impending big 3-0 and, therefore, we need to cram everything in now. Because, obviously, when we turn 30 we are practically OAPs and if we haven’t started the career ladder/saving for a mortgage/have the gym body we are commanded to have we are royally fucked. After 30, your metabolism stalls to a halt, you need to abandon your dreams because what company would hire a 30-something that could not be bothered to work toward their career, and good luck on that property ladder because the first rungs of opportunity were burnt away by the careless governing of our country…
…It’s all just a bit fucking exhausting, to be honest.
It also stinks of bullshit. There’s no real right or wrong way to make sensible choices for our lives but we are somehow made to feel that, no matter what choice we make, there is always someone doing life a little bit better. We are left navigating the grey area of existence with little guidance and this is what makes being in your twenties so fucking hard. How will anyone ever get the chance to nurture a real sense of happiness whilst dealing with all that chaos and comparing ourselves left/right/centre to everyone else?
At some point, we became children in adult suits trying to figure it all the fuck out. Life feels like a flat-pack piece of furniture with no instructions and one less screw than required. Everywhere, someone is benefitting from our sense of “WTF” we give off like a bad smell; this goes far beyond simple advertisements for beauty and fashion products. We now have ‘social influencers’; people who are in a position to influence large masses of individuals via social media.
And, let me tell you, they are fucking good at it.
They are the ones who not only sell us products but, also, a lifestyle. What’s worse is that these people are often our age which what makes it seem so realistic for us to achieve. We are the ships on a stormy sea, battered by the winds and rain, and these things seem like comforting harbours calling us in. They give us direction, something to work toward, and something that will bring us a brief sense of happiness. Before we know it, we’ve bought the pastel pink faux fur pillow from Homesense…and we don’t even like pink.
Happiness has become a cheap commodity and it’s sold to us as a universal standard. It’s not just the social influencers; it’s people closer to home, too, and we start to believe that if we only had the thing we might be more content with our lives. Just when we might achieve a sense of contentment, we’ve only got to log onto a social media app and we’re lured back into feeling we’ve missed the mark.
Or we hear about so-and-so from University who’s just finished travelling around South East sodding Asia.
Or maybe it’s such-and-such who’s just landed Big Wonga Position at MegaBucks company.
Or perhaps it’s just seeing people on Saturday night, uploading images to Facebook, looking ready for a night out. We suddenly feel guilty for being wrapped up inside, jammies on, with a cup of tea, watching Gossip Girl reruns on Netflix…
…Oh, hello doubts. You again. Have you been working out? You seem so much bigger than before! And, my, what big teeth you have!…
How do we do ‘happy’ then? How do we compare ourselves with others and still come away feeling ‘hashtag blessed’? How do we work toward contentment whilst pursuing our goals? How do we stop buying (literally and figuratively) into this standard of happiness?
Happiness needs a redefinition.
For starters, it’s an individual, subjective condition.
In other words, happiness is whatever the fuck you define it as.
It sounds fucking obvious but, be honest, when was the last time you searched your heart and soul for what makes you happy?
Look, we’re all very complex, multi-faceted, human beings with biological and circumstantial contributing factors shaping who we are in this very moment. (Lots of italics, guys. Driving points home, here.) Because of this, we are all going to have very different ideas of what happiness is for ourselves. It’s time to stop comparing ourselves to others and feeling like what they are doing is what we should be doing in order to be happy. Let’s get fucking selfish with this shit because our emotional wellbeing depends on it.
I’m far from being an expert but below is my take on four ways we can all live a little happier and kill the comparison for good.
1. Know Thyself
Many people nowadays fail to fully understand themselves or miss out of opportunities for character development because, at the first sign of struggle, we take the easy route out. We also live in an age were low self-esteem is profitable. Well, let’s choose to put an end to that and do some real soul searching. In order to know what makes us happy, we need to know ourselves; to love ourselves is to truly know ourselves because it means looking at those parts of our soul that are shitty, shameful, and just a little bit cunt-y, accepting they exist, and making peace with it. Let’s just reason that we are human and we are not perfect; in the words of my favourite author, John Steinbeck, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
This whole process of knowing ourselves takes time and a lot of trial and error. It can be in the little things; for instance, I’ve been on enough night’s out to know that I don’t like being out until 2am in a dress that barely covers me and in heels that are akin to Satan’s slippers. If anything, I’d prefer to be in a pub with my nearest and dearest or, failing that, a pint with my husband on the sofa watching something on Netflix. Now, at 27 that might seem out of place for someone my age but…fuck ‘em. (More on that later.)
However, it’s also in the bigger things. When surrounded by negativity it’s very easy to let that shit stick and become a part of your common tongue; staying positive amongst negative people is like trying to keep a candle lit in the rain. When I was growing up, I’d bought into the common complaint among my peers that my hometown was ‘shit’ and there was ‘nothing to do’ and ‘things would be better’ if we all moved away. Yes, typical grass is greener bollocks. Not only that, I’d also manufactured in my mind that I was a city girl and I would thrive in a place that was buzzing and full of life.
Sweet baby Jesus…I was so fucking wrong.
I moved to the city and, whilst I am eternally grateful that I got this opportunity, I also realised that I missed the green, green grass of home. In hindsight, my home town wasn’t so bad. More so for the reason that my family and friends were there and I missed them greatly. There were things that I took for granted that I started to miss that simply didn’t exist in my new home city; things like country scenery, peaceful walks without the noise of traffic, and birds singing. Oh, and free parking. God bless free parking.
So, over a year later, we’re looking to relocate out of the city because I came to realise, deep down, I’m a home bird. I get homesick easily and, after not seeing my family for over a week or two, I get a real sadness in my gut. It’s something I’ve always denied but, fuck, I need to make peace with it and stop denying who I am otherwise I’ll never be happy chasing an image of who I think I should be.
You see what I’m saying?
Don’t live in denial of yourself, make peace with who you are, because self-love is the basis of all good things. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Live Authentically and Unapologetically
You’ve figured out what makes you happy; so live it. You have permission. You’ve nothing to be ashamed of; if one thing over another makes you happy, and that one thing goes against the common trends of your friends/family/acquaintances, do more of that thing and do it with all you are. If going to the gym makes you buzzed about being alive and allows you to move through life with a sense of pride in yourself and respect for your body, you hit that motherfucker up six times a week. If attending a bloody Salsa dancing class on a Thursday night makes you happy, instead of hitting the club, fucking do that, too. Do whatever the hell you like.
This is important. Not just for you, but for the world. There are too many people in this world feeling ashamed of their lives, their choices, and who they are; too many people chasing false ideals and trying to be an imitation of someone else. There are too many humans sacrificing their authenticity on the altar of the latest trend…but how is all that supposed to build a life with your best intentions at heart?
The truth is, it’s not.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with all that but when you are losing yourself in the process, and drifting further from the true you, push pause on things and start asking questions. You see, once you start doing some soul searching to know yourself, and once you find the things that make you happy, life just seems to flow a little better. Chasing your bliss opens up doors which, in turn, allow us to sculpt a life within which we can experience more joy. You are the architect of your own life, so stop giving everyone else the tools.
The moment you live authentically, I can guarantee that others will be inspired to do the same. Stay true to you because the world needs more of that, desperately.
Weep with joy at what you already have, rather than weep with sorrow at what you do not. Nothing kills unhappiness quicker than gratitude. The society we live in never gives us the opportunity to appreciate what we already have because it’s too busy trying to make it appear that we lack something (that can only be filled by the thing advertised.)
It’s easy to feel like you should have the mortgage/marriage/children/lifestyle/etc that your companions have but…that’s their journey, not yours. When you see an athlete running a race, they’re not bothered about the other people in the lanes next to them. They’re too busy running their own race, focussing on their goal, and believing in the training that they have already done to get to this point. Likewise, you can’t spend your time looking at the competition because you’ll take your eyes off the goal, stumble, and fall. So, chin up, back straight, and eyes ahead. Run at your own pace. If you genuinely want the things that others have, they will come to you in a timing that suits you, your pace, and your life. They will come not a day early, nor a day late. Just trust that timing.
You know the phrase ‘stop and smell the roses’? I like to take it to mean that, sometimes, it’s a good practice in life to just hit pause and take stock of all the sweet things. Look around you at what you already have. Maybe at the end of the day write three things that you are grateful for. It can be whatever you want them to be – big or small. Then, at the end of the week, read back through those entries and realise how much you already have that brings you joy.
4. Fuck ‘em
Self-explanatory. You’ve found your happy, you’ve done your soul searching, you’ve made peace with your life…now fuck ‘em. Fuck the people who piss on your bonfire. Fuck the people who don’t understand your bliss. It’s not your job to keep everyone else happy; its your priority to keep yourself happy. If someone has a problem…a real, fucking problem…then it’s a magnification of their own discontentment with their own lives because when you are living authentically and filled with a joy of your own creation you don’t have the time to nit pick other people’s lives. One of my favourite quotes to remember when people are judging me and my choices is that “Those who mind, don’t matter; and those who matter, don’t mind.”
Before I come into land, it’s important to remember that life is not a fairy tale where ‘happily every after’ promises a perpetual state of bliss. There will be struggles and down days and, if these leave you hopeless and depressed, maybe it’s time to redefine your happiness again. After all, times change and we change with time. Thus, what makes us joyful will alter depending on the age and stage of life. Just keep moving with your flow and stay true to you.
You have permission to take control of your life. In this small window of time, make yourself a priority. You take centre stage of your days so make them count; stop buying into the bullshit, be authentically you, and live your happy.