How to win at the comparison game

Anyone who knows me can attest to my competitive nature.

My mother is especially aware of this, as she can still remember the day four-year-old Olivia was banned from playgroup because she punched harder than any of the boys. 

I am the walking definition of ‘go big or go home’ and I play this game, alongside all others, with the full intention of winning.

So when I caught myself scrolling through Instagram the other day playing the inescapable Comparison Game and losing, I was obviously frustrated with myself. As post after post flew by, I felt the pit in my stomach quickly swallowing my sense of self confidence. I watched the shiny pictures of weddings and pets and get-to-togethers stack up as the little voice in my head nagged me with questions like “why are you single? why don’t you have a puppy? why don’t you have any friends?” and so on. Even the travel posts, my original source of inspiration for the nomadic lifestyle, had me disappointed in myself and my slower paced travel style. 

It was after the third engagement photo that I finally told myself basta, this is not healthy.

I should be grateful for the opportunities I have, not jealous of others for their opportunities that infatti I never wanted in the first place. But no matter how much I tried to drill this into my head, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was failing at the Comparison Game. 

Everyone’s lives on social media looked so perfect. Full of friends and travel and sun, while my life was being occupied by culture shock, the never ending confusion surrounding my nationality, and a severe lack of sun. By these standards I was obviously fated to lose the game. 

But the crazy part was when I asked myself what I wanted to change about my life, I came back with nothing. Sure, things are far from perfect right now, but I honestly wouldn’t want to trade my messy and uncertain life for anything. 

I chose this life because I want this life.

I want every little mistake and misstep and miscommunication. I want my low points, and I mean really low points, just as badly as I want my high points. I want the frustration and the challenge and the little daily victories.

I don’t want anyone else’s life.

I want mine.

But in order to win the Comparison Game, I have to not only want another person’s life, but do it better than they are. I’ve already failed the first qualification, as it’s pretty clear I do not want to live any other life than my own. And the idea of living someone else’s life better than them just seems ridiculous. 

So then how do I win a game that I’m not even qualified to play?

Simple, I compete with myself. 

I am not the same person I was a year, a month, even a week ago.

For example, when I first arrived to Brussels I successfully bought fermented milk…accidentally. Now, three weeks later, I’ve managed to buy regular milk. If I play the Comparison Game with this example, it is clear that I have won, as I am now the proud owner of milk I can actually drink. 

All jokes aside, it’s pretty easy to win the Comparison Game when competing with yourself. All it takes is some drive and the power to push yourself a little farther than the day before. Little victories don’t seem so little when suddenly you wake up one day to the realization that they all added up to create something immensely beautiful.  

Appreciate where your past has taken you, love all the imperfections and bumps you came across, and never stop striving for the life that you want.

This is how to win the Comparison Game against yourself. 

So, dear Olivia of the past, you’re pretty cool.

But you are so going down.


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