Sondra Malling, LCPC, BC-DMT, GL-CMA
President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I find this no truer than around the holidays. For many, the holidays are a time of celebration and enjoyment. But for many others, the holidays bring reminders of loved ones lost, challenging family dynamics, and fears of not being able to keep up with the Joneses. In the age of social media, the latter can cause comparison fatigue. Do you fear you missed out on the best Black Friday deal, the coolest holiday pop up bar, or the happiest of family gatherings? Comparing yourself to friends or followers on social media can lead to comparison fatigue, the exhausting practice of constantly second-guessing whether or not your life is as good as the next person’s.
This is not the healthiest use of your energy, especially during a time of year when deep feelings of grief and loss can be provoked, even amongst the seasonal joy. This may be your first winter holiday season after a parent has passed, after a divorce, or after a pregnancy loss. Social media comparisons and fear of missing out (the dreaded FOMO) are not worth your time and energy in the grand scheme of these bigger losses. So what is the answer? If comparison is the thief of joy, how do you bring joy back into your holiday season?
There is probably no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but—for me—the answer is gratitude. To turn to Jewish wisdom, Pirkei Avot 4:1 states, “Who is rich? He who is satisfied with his lot.” I may not be bringing a Pinterest-worthy meringue to the holiday potluck at work, but I am thankful I have access to lots of yummy treats to fill my belly during this time of year. I may miss my departed loved ones more than usual during the holiday season, but I hold tighter the ones who are still living. I may be upset by family dysfunction at the holiday table, but I feel immense gratitude for my friends who are my chosen family. When I focus on gratitude during the holidays, when I am happy with my lot, I am less likely to succumb to FOMO or let comparison steal my joy.
Want to hear more about Sondra’s thoughts on joy and gratitude and how she incorporates them in therapy? Click here to schedule a free consultation with her!