The Thief of Joy

by | Sep 5, 2020 | 0 comments

The thief of joy is comparison. It’s a saying I’ve encountered often through the years, especially since the advent of social media. Every day we are bombarded with the successes of others, whether in their lives or careers. Shout-outs here. Smiling pictures there. Goals smashed and ladders climbed. It’s very easy to absorb all of that, turn it inward, and shine a negative light on your own life.

You know that, for the most part, it’s a facade. The failures, the broken promises, the moments of doubt are largely hidden from public view. But it can still take a toll and is a constant battle in this age of social media.

Comparing yourself to others isn’t the only comparison that can have a negative effect; something I’ve learned the hard way over the last few years. Comparing yourself to the old you can be just as disastrous.

As we age, we learn more about ourselves. We know our strengths and our weaknesses (even if we are slower to admit the latter). We’ve survived hard times and celebrated great times. We’ve seen things and done things we never thought we could.

But a downside is we know what we were capable of in the past.

We change though. We grow. We age. Our stresses change. Our happiness triggers change. Our lives fill up, sometimes to the point of overflow.

Separating who I was and who I am now has, by far, been the biggest hurdle I’ve faced in this journey. At the beginning of this, I stumbled across an old photograph from my younger years. It was taken during a trip to New York City and I’m hanging from the handles on the subway.

For a short time, I thought I’d try to get back to that young woman in that picture. I’ve missed her, that smile she had when she thought the world was hers, the belief that everything she was planning would work out. Her grit. Her determination. Her laughter.

She wasn’t always happy, don’t get me wrong. There were some dark times in her life that she’d muddled through. But in that moment, hanging from those handles, she was in her element. And she worked her ass off for what she wanted. Not long after she took over a video store because she wanted to, trusting herself that she could do it and later she launched an online news site because she could.

For the past few years, I’ve been comparing everything I did to that young woman. Every decision, every step, every move was made on the belief that “I should be able to do that!” because that younger version of me could. That younger version of me did.

That comparison to my old self straight up stole my joy. When I should have been celebrating the release of my second novel, I instead beat myself up for not finishing it sooner. I berated myself for not writing more. When I was slow to write or read, I was angry at myself for not doing better. Because she could have. I made promises based on what she could do – to myself and to others—and failed to keep those promises. Which just stacked it on.

It took some time for me to realize that I was trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. My life now doesn’t fit with that young woman in that picture. I’m not her anymore. Her time has passed.

I’ve stopped that now, erasing any belief that I have to be anything but who I am now. And this journey, wherever it leads, is now on the right path.

Not her path.

My path.

And I’m much happier for it.