Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

I had never heard of this saying about comparison, even though it is credited to Theodore Roosevelt.

The expression refers to the notion that comparing your work, your life, or whatever else will only serve to make you unhappy.

I came across the saying while reading an interview with Adam Grant, Wharton professor and successful author.

Grant agrees with the phrase, and is worried that social media amplifies the problems associated with such comparisons. Today, kids have constant access to what everyone else is doing, and how everyone else is looking.

In general, people typically only put their best photos and experiences online, so it creates an unrealistic portrait of their lives. But that is what kids, and adults, are comparing themselves to, and they often find themselves lacking in those comparisons. So yes, comparison is the theft of joy.

Grant instead suggests that there is only one comparison that matters, and that is comparing yourself to your past self. That was you can track progress on your goals and not get caught up in trying to live someone else’s life.

I’ll admit that I am guilty of using social media to compare myself to others – why does someone have more friends than me, or more likes, or more followers.

I know on a deeper level those things don’t matter, but I still do it anyway.

But after learning about this phrase that was first uttered over 100 years ago and realizing it is still relevant today, I need to take the words to heart if I want more joy in my life.

So I will try to focus more on comparing myself to my former self.

So here’s a start – three years ago I wrote a blog titled, How My Twitter Following Went from 250 to 253 in Just One Week!.

Well if I fast forward to today, I am up to a whopping 2,382 Twitter followers. I should be happy with that, and not tempted to compare that number to ones like the 108 million followers of Katy Perry or the 105 million followers of Justin Bieber.

Oops, I did it again…

I just lost all the joy associated with that nearly 10 fold increase in followers…

Dang that Katy Perry!

4 thoughts on “Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

  1. haha “How My Twitter Following Went from 250 to 253 in Just One Week!”

    Jim I follow you on wordpress and pretty much only you because, you know, only so many hours in the day and I have things to do.

    But I like your stuff… I noticed you are one of my only 4 followers of my blog which I constantly update, without fail, monthly. Set that bar low and cross it!
    Was it coincidence my last blog post title included “Comparison is the thief of joy”?

    Since childhood, my mom taught me Desiderata’s “do not compare yourself to others lest you become vain and bitter”

    As a parent of a child with autism, teachers and therapists warned, “Don’t compare your child to others, only to himself.”

    But when I heard the “Comparison is the thief of joy” phrase a few years ago at a meeting of Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, it became my mantra. I don’t want my joy stolen.

    I like Adam Grant’s book Originals too, tho as he notes, that idea was not original.

    As I’ve said before, for a person who suffered mightily in Accounting, at least I have grown to enjoy the musings of an Accounting Professor from Villanova. I’ll find you on twitter too 🙂 if you follow me back you have the power to raised my followers IN ONE DAY from 66 to… 67! In ONE DAY 🙂 @sgoewey


    1. Hi Susan,

      I did read that post of yours in my email, but only up to the sentence “Yet in the same article there was a measure of hope as she declared “but I’d marry him all over again.” because that’s where it ended in my email, and I just assumed that was it. So my apologies for not reading all of it, because the rest of the post is so great. How old is your son? I wish I had paid more attention to the title of your post – it would have given me the idea for a blog post a week earlier! It is such a great quote. How strange that I never heard of it, and now twice in one week I come across it. And instead of library dates, we do a lot of Barnes and Noble dates… Thanks for reading my stuff! (and you now have one more Twitter follower)


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