I often hear “Comparison is the thief of joy”, a quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt, used in yoga classes. I heard it Monday night, wisely shared in a paraphrased manner, by a teacher who led a practice for a considerably large group of people of varying degrees of yoga experience. She made it a point to advise the practitioners to focus on their own process and not look around the room.
We all do it. Making judgments and comparisons is a natural part of being human. One may argue that it is a necessary part of human life. I did, in researching this quote and topic, come across one such argument that deliberate comparison can actually spark an increase in gratitude levels. It has to do with connecting with our own humanity and others as well – but that is another post altogether.
I don’t read tabloid news, celebrity news or any of that kind of “entertainment” news anymore. I never did do that really – but if we start there, I think you’ll agree that there’s plenty of comparison fodder there to properly set you up for a rotten mood and steal your joy.
I’ll be honest, I have had moments of feeling like comparing myself to others during yoga. The number of yoga accounts I follow now has varied over the years because many times, I’d be left with a yucky feeling about my own practice upon seeing someone else’s. Social media toxicity aside, one of the best things you can do when you enter a yoga class is lifted right from a school admonition during a test – “keep your eyes on your own paper!”
However, practicing with inward focus and keeping your gaze steady at your own mat, your own image (if there are mirrors), documenting your practice progress (if you take photos) and tapping into your own breath will help diminish any urge toward competitiveness. Looking back at your own progression is valuable, helps impart a feeling of gratitude for your commitment to the practice and your forward motion.
So yes, 100 times yes, this quote is extremely appropriate to fit into a yoga mindset. But it applies elsewhere too. Where do you see a comparison-centered mindset creeping in to your life? Into your work? Into your relationships? Your parenting?