Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. I absolutely love this adage for its truth, and to explain this, I enjoy using an analogy between people and fruit.
Yes. People and fruit.
You know what’s interesting about fruit? We all have something in common with them. We really do. And before you think I’ve lost it, let me point out one commonality.
An apple and an orange are both fruits. They’re both quite delicious. We can point out several similarities between the two. They are healthy, spherical in shape and they are a good source of vitamins. We can go on comparing from dawn to dusk. But they are also different. As much as they are similar, so are they unique. They are different in colour, the benefits they provide, taste, texture and more. We can’t really compare apples to oranges. People may have a preference for one but it’s a personal choice.
Now let’s take a look at it from a different perspective. We are the fruit. I’m an apple. You’re an orange. The last person you saw is an apricot. We can throw so many fruits into the mix. In the same manner that different fruits have similarities, so do people. We have fears, dreams, basic needs, and necessities. And in the same manner that fruits have differences, so do people. We all have different preferences, abilities and various personalities.
Look at apples. There are so many varieties: Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Fuji, Honeycrisp, McIntosh and so much more. Each apple has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Granny Smith apples are great for baking pie. A Red Delicious apple, on the other hand, wouldn’t make the world’s greatest pie but it’s great for salads. Each one is different.
As a society, we set goals and standards for ourselves and base them on the achievements and abilities of other people. That is how we tell whether we’re doing great and going somewhere in life, or whether we are lagging behind. It’s not really a bad thing. We need to have some goals and standards. It’s important to seek motivation and inspiration.
The problem is that sometimes we tend to overdo it. We often use what others have to measure our self-worth. We look at your others and wonder why we don’t have what they have. Sometimes we work hard to achieve something and still think that our best is not good enough. Or sometimes we struggle to do what others find very easy to do. Getting compared in school, being compared to our siblings – it all started when we are young. Consequently, we think we are failures when we can’t attain what others have attained. Sometimes we hate ourselves for not having what others are born with. It eats away at our self-contentment.
Although we’re similar, we are not cupboard cut-outs of each other. Just like the fruit, we all come in different packages, from different places. We have our own struggles, weaknesses and strengths. It is important to do what we can with what we have. We must do our best, making sure to continuously grow and improve. There is no need to lower our standards. But we have to kinder to ourselves.
So celebrate your victories, big or small. Keep in mind that what makes someone happy may not make you happy. If you find yourself lagging behind, it’s okay as long as you are doing the best that you can within your circumstances. You have your own timeline. You have your own finish line.
It can be difficult to follow this advice today where portraying the best parts of one’s life is prevalent in social media. It can be motivational for some people but for others, it demotivates them. If you find yourself in the latter group, it might be best to step away. Give yourself a break. Give your mental and emotional health a break.
Don’t compare your oranges to kiwis, and pineapples to grapes. Doing so will only drive you to frustration. They’re all different. Some people will appreciate them. Some people won’t. What matters is that they are great fruit and none is worthless. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t let it rob you of your joy and your self-worth.
Feliciana Isabel Nezingu, South Africa