Comparison is the thief of joy

They say that “comparison is the thief of joy”. As carers, we can deal with a lot and it can often feel like we’re missing out - or our ‘real life’ is passing us by. On this page, we share some simple tools to help us feel better each day.

Illustration of two friends feeling good.

As unpaid carers we can take on a lot of responsibility.

Which can in turn put restrictions on what we can and can’t do with our lives. All of a sudden, simple things like ‘popping to the shops’ or ‘having a night out’’ become a logistical challenge or impossible. Some of us have to quit working to keep up with the caring demands. And many of us report feelings of loneliness and a loss of friendships.

It’s no wonder that we may feel dissatisfied with ‘our lot’, leading to feelings of resentment - either directed at the person we care for, at ourselves or at the world in general - as we watch others ‘living their lives’ often through the lens of social media feeds.

Certain times of year can feel more challenging too - depending on how our lives have changed. For some of us, Christmas or other big celebrations can be tough. Particularly if we, or the person we care for, are unable to join in. For others, we struggle with life transition points, such as watching our friends' enjoy holidays on their retirement, or children learning to drive, get partners, or go to university, while our own child may be unable to do any of these things. There are lots of moments when comparison really can steal our joy.

What makes us feel dissatisfied with ourselves?

A good starting point is to notice the things, people, places or activities that leave us feeling a bit rubbish about ourselves or our lives. Once we’ve ‘noticed’ we then have some control over how we choose to interact… more on that below.

Some examples of when we feel ‘rubbish’ could include:

  • ‘Trying’ to keep up with ‘old’ friends (who don’t have caring responsibilities).

  • Excessive viewing of other people’s ‘highlight’ reels on social media.

“My friends all seem to be renovating their houses, while we’re adapting ours with ramps and handrails. It makes me feel so low.”

  • Not being able to attend events that we used to, e.g. Christmas drinks with friends or trips to the theatre that we used to enjoy.

  • Watching (on social media) our friends go on holiday each year.

  • Seeing friends ‘transition’ through life stages, such as ‘a relaxing retirement’ or ‘empty nesters’ enjoying ‘me time’ once their children all move out.

“Our friends have just seen all their children go off to secondary school, while we’re still in a world of nappies and total dependence. Watching them get their freedom and flexibility back can feel tough - some days we feel so stuck.”

Tips and tools to make us feel better

By identifying what makes us feel rubbish, we can claim some power back, by deciding what to do. There are some practical actions we can take, but we can also challenge our thinking too. 😉

Illustration of a woman on her phone, looking sad and another woman in a wheelchair taking a selfie.

Some ideas to consider:

1. Limit time on social media

Simple? Many of us are guilty of ‘doomscrolling’ - the act of endlessly scrolling and absorbing ‘news’ that is bad for us. In its truest sense, this is bad news, negative comments etc.

But in our context it could be scrolling our friends’ feeds to see what exciting things they’ve been up to - reinforcing those negative feelings.

Research on ‘Covid-19 related doomscrolling’ is linking it with higher rates of anxiety and depression. So it’s definitely something we would benefit from keeping an eye on. Read what experts say happens to our brain when we’re scrolling.