Podcast,  Witch Talk

Episode 121: Comparison is the Thief of Joy


Hello and welcome back. Come join me, Megan, and sit for a spell ‘round the cauldron as we talk about witchcraft, polytheism, and the intersection of magic and mundane. Today’s episode was inspired by something a friend of mine said to me recently that comparison is the thief of joy. So first off, thank you Prairie – Megs – for that quote and for talking with me about, you know, what was going on. But anyway, today I’m going to be talking about comparison when it comes to your witchcraft practice or your polytheist practice or what have you.

Before we get into it though, as always, a big shout out to everyone that supports the show, that supports the channel, the podcast, that helps support the website, follows me on social media, all of that stuff. Thank you so, so much. If you would like to help support the show and all of the work that I do here with ‘Round the Cauldron you can do that at roundthecauldron.com/join-me.

That goes through and details the different ways that you can help out. That link will be in the show notes, but I have a membership program now that is taking the place of Patreon, basically. It is everything that Patreon was but self-hosted which I much prefer. So if you join me as a member you become a cauldron collector and you get access to anything, or almost anything, that I create before everyone else does. There is a member’s only community forum that you get to join and have access to, any new guided meditations or spells that I create specifically for members because I do that occasionally. You get access to all of that. So again, the link for that is in the show notes.

If you don’t want to be a member, that’s totally fine. You can help support the show by listening to any of the ads, whether on Spotify or whatever podcast platform puts ads in. I think I only benefit if it’s on Spotify but whatever. You can also watch the ads on YouTube or you know, just share your favorite episode, interact with me on social media. Those all really help out. Plus I really like to hear from all of you! 

Anyway, you can also join my Discord server. The link for that is in the show notes if you’re looking for a witchy or spiritually-minded community to join. It is free for everybody and I would love to have you there.

So with all of that out of the way we can start talking about comparison, and you’ll have to forgive me if my voice sounds really strange. I am actually getting over covid. I had covid and now like the cough and the funky voice and all that stuff is just sort of the last thing to stick around. But I’m all good. Everybody is good, everybody is on the mend. It’s just this cough, so please excuse me.

So yes, comparison is the thief of joy. A friend of mine said this to me recently when I was having sort of a crisis of my own. Yes, it happens. Those of us that create content have our own crises about what we’re doing and if it’s good enough. But I was sort of having my own little crisis moment because someone posted a video and – someone younger than me posted a video – and I was just like man, that person knows so much more than I do about this particular subject. I feel like I should be doing better. I feel like I should be doing more. I feel like I should be studying more or reading more or learning more or whatever. 

And so I posted in my Discord server that I can’t be the only one that this happens to. I can’t be the only person who sometimes feels inadequate because of what other people post about online, whether that be YouTube videos or podcast episodes or even posts on social media like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, all of those. And a friend of mine known as Prairie in many witchcraft Discord servers hopped on and basically was like no, you’re not alone. It happens to most of us and she’s the one that gave me this quote that comparison is the thief of joy, and it’s something that I have been thinking about a lot recently.

And I know – I feel like I sound like a broken record but I don’t know if it’s because I have said these things out loud or because I have been thinking about it for so long. And it’s something that just keeps popping back up for me, this comparison is the thief of joy, and comparing myself to other people online whether it be someone like Bex from The Witches Cookery whose videos are phenomenal or you know, hearth from HearthWitch, who has so much information just in that brain of hers that she shares to everybody online in her videos.

And then you have me who is just a 30-year-old mom who’s been doing the witchcraft thing for a while but whose life tends to be kind of chaotic and busy and full of things. And you know, sometimes it does feel for me like I could be doing more or like I should be doing more. And I think it’s more difficult for those of us who work online or who are artists or creators in some capacity because we have these sort of comparisons. And these are the people that we compare ourselves to to either, you know, find inspiration or get new ideas or see what we could be doing better.

So sometimes that comparison can be a good thing but most times that comparison, you know, makes me feel like crap. I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes I’m just like you know, what’s the point? I could be doing better. I should be doing better. And this is in regards both to the things that I create but also my own personal practice because that waxes and wanes more than I would care to admit.

But that is where this sort of idea for this episode has come from is my own personal experience with comparing myself to other witches online and feeling like crap about a lot of things that I do and – well not a lot of things that I do, a lot of things that I don’t know or that you know I don’t have a full understanding of and things like that. 

And a lot of this comes with the advent of social media. Before the things that we really had to compare ourselves to were movies or magazines or books. And I think there’s a sort of level of displacement when it comes to comparing yourself to like a celebrity, for example. I know personally I – that’s not attainable for me. For example, if I’m looking at the most common thing that femme-presenting people compare themselves with celebrities is their figure. Right? Their body. Celebrities have access to things that I don’t have access to such as wealth, for one. The access to surgery. Personal chefs and fitness equipment. Building gyms in their own house. With the advent of social media and hashtags and the ability to follow hundreds of thousands of people online and see the things that they post every day, we now have the ability to compare ourselves to not just our own social circles in person but to the social circles that we have fabricated online.

I think on Instagram I follow…I don’t know, less than 200 people and I do that for a reason. I don’t follow a lot of people on social media. I don’t watch a lot of witchcraft-related YouTube videos. I don’t…I try not to spend too much time online and it’s because I know this within myself. I know that I have an issue with comparing myself and my practice and my spirituality to what other people are doing. Sometimes I’m looking for inspiration. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a slump and I just like I need to do something. I don’t know what to do at this point, so let me go look for inspiration.

But it doesn’t always work that way and oftentimes when we’re comparing ourselves on social media or we’re comparing ourselves to people on social media, we’re not comparing ourselves to people who we perceive as being quote-unquote “less than us”, right? We compare ourselves to the people who we perceive to be quote-unquote “better than us”, and that’s to our detriment.

I know I’ve said before that you should diversify the people that you follow on social media and it’s because of this. If all you follow is professional witches and people whose job it is to make content for social media or for YouTube or whatever, that’s all you’re gonna see. It’s their job to make things visually pleasing. It is their job to captivate their audience and pull them in, get them to watch their content, get them to read their books and their blogs, or listen to their podcasts or whatever. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but what I have come to find is that, like every other genre out there, every other niche community on social media, the people with the large followings end up having to cultivate a social media presence that doesn’t share everything. And by everything, I mean like the bad stuff, right? The real life. We see snippets and the highlight reels, the good parts of their life and their practice and that’s because that’s what people want to see. People want to see the pretty pictures. People want to see the elaborately decorated altars and the beautiful spells and the hikes out in nature and all of that kind of stuff. We don’t always see the real life behind what people are posting online.

If I were to bring you on a trip with me through my day you would be bored. Bored as all hell, okay? And I’m not a professional witch. I don’t consider myself a professional witch or a professional content creator, right? The money that I make from YouTube and my membership program is like not a lot. Not even 10% of what I would need to sustain myself and my family, okay? I do work outside of my content creation. My content creation is a passion project, it is something that I love to do. But anyway, if I were to bring you on a day in the life with me it would be boring. I wake up at six o’clock. Here lately I’ve been doing some light exercise in the morning, going for a walk around the neighborhood. I get my partner up for work and I make his lunch and I get him out the door. And I do all of the wifely duties. We’re not legally married but you know, we’ve been together long enough. 

I get my daughter up. She has breakfast, and in this whole process I’m doing normal things like I take my shower. I get ready for my day. Sometimes I’ll do a meditation in the morning and pull an oracle card or whatever but that doesn’t happen a majority of the time. Then like for the rest of the day I’m doing normal stuff. I’m doing homeschool lessons and I am doing my work as a community manager and writer. Then you know, scattered throughout the week or the month I record a podcast episode or a video. I edit it, I upload it. I write blogs for my website. But it’s boring. It’s life stuff.

And sometimes I’ll take good pictures and I’ll share them on social media with something inspirational that I was thinking about or sometimes I just share a caption that says I just thought this sunset was pretty. Here, have it and you can look at it and it’s nice. But I’m not going to share pictures of me sitting at my computer desk with my headphones on listening to music while I work because it’s boring. Nobody cares, right? I feel like people – the general public, myself included – we say we want authenticity when it comes to the content that we’re consuming online. But do we really? Do we really want to watch someone sit at their computer desk for four hours while they work? Do we really want to see the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to run a home? And like the good, the bad, the ugly? The meltdowns with children? The arguments? You know, the kids who get grounded? The parents who have to lock themselves in their bedroom for five minutes just so they can get a break? 

Like that’s real life but that’s not something that we see. That’s not something that is shared on social media because nobody cares. Everybody wants to see the nice neatly packaged stuff, right? That’s – I think that’s how we’re wired but I have no scientific basis for that.

So when it comes to comparing ourselves, there are – there are two sides to this because comparison can be a good thing if you have a good understanding of yourself and if you have a good grasp on your personal triggers and a – like a good skill in being self-reflective. If you can look at something that somebody is doing – say somebody has a meditation practice, right? And you’re watching them talk about it or you’re listening to them talk about it and they say that they wake up at five o’clock every morning and they do some stretches and they meditate for 30 minutes every single day without fail. 

If you have a good understanding of yourself and good reflection of your own life you can look at that and say that might be good for them but that’s not attainable for me because I can’t wake up at five o’clock in the morning. Maybe a work schedule is in the way or you’ve got kids and you like your sleep. Like no judgment, okay? And you can say I can’t wake up at five o’clock in the morning. I can’t meditate for 30 minutes. But what I can do is wake up 10 minutes earlier and meditate for 10 minutes every day. Comparing yourself in that situation when you have a good understanding of yourself can give you inspiration for trying something in your own life, right? 

However, if you don’t have a good relationship with yourself or a good understanding with yourself and the ability to look at your own circumstances compared to somebody else’s, you might look at what that person is doing and say oh my gosh, you know, they’re waking up at five o’clock in the morning and meditating for 30 minutes. Why aren’t I doing that? I need to do that every single day, and you know, I could be doing better. I could be doing so much better. I could be doing so much more. I’m gonna wake up at five o’clock in the morning and I’m gonna meditate for 30 minutes even though I’ve never meditated before in my life. 

And you actually go and do that and you fail because one, waking up at five o’clock in the morning when you’re not used to it is difficult. Waking up at five o’clock in the morning might not be attainable for you. Meditating for 30 minutes if you’ve never meditated before in your life is going to be impossible. Okay, not impossible. Improbable. And it might make you feel like crap because you fail. You can’t achieve it. And then it’s a cycle of well, obviously, I can’t do it because I’m not good enough, right? 

Without looking at the fact that that person can wake up at five o’clock in the morning and meditate for 30 minutes because they’ve been doing it for five years and they’ve had the practice and they’ve developed this schedule because that’s what works for them compared to yourself who has not been doing it for five years and has zero practice. And you expect to be able to do it right the first time. It’s a cycle of comparison, competition, grief because you failed, negative self-image – all of that stuff. It just is going to repeat itself over and over and over again.

So those are the two sides to comparison. It can be – it can be a good thing depending on a very small set of factors. Most often social comparison is a terrible thing for yourself. Comparing yourself to others psychologically can create stress, and the stress comes from the negative self-image. It comes from talking down to yourself. It comes from the need for social approval and validation. It comes from this perceived notion of competition. These are all psychological effects of comparing yourself to others in social situations. Now, most studies have been done on this in regard to social media which is fine because that’s what I’m talking about. So if you want to see any of the links that I have to share for studies and whatnot you can check the show notes because I do have a couple that I referenced. 

But comparing yourself to others is stressful. It creates stress on your body, stress in your mind, stress in your practice in this particular situation. It also can contribute to a negative self-image. If you are constantly comparing yourself to others who you perceive to be quote-unquote “better than you”, you’re always going to feel not good enough. You’re always going to feel less than others because of this comparison. And most often when we compare ourselves to others we’re not taking into consideration the sort of…what word am I looking for? The circumstances of others. One person might have more wealth, you know? And you might not and so not accounting for those differences in life circumstances is a big problem.

Comparing yourself to others also creates this need for social approval and validation, and a lot of the studies have been done on this particular sort of concept, I guess we’ll say, because we are seeing now that social media and young adolescent teenage humans do not mix because of this comparison thing, you know? It creates this need for approval of others, especially in regards to social media with the likes and the comments. And you know, maybe you post a selfie and you only get two likes but your friend postes a selfie and they get 50 – postes? Posts. Oh my goodness, I swear I can speak English. Your friend posts a selfie and they get 50 likes and then you start comparing your picture to theirs. And well maybe if I was blonde or maybe if I was skinnier or maybe if I wore more makeup I would have more likes than my friend or I would get the same amount of likes as my friend. And in the short run, studies have shown that this particular concept, this particular need for approval can give a short-term boost to self-image and self-esteem. But in the long run, that’s where the damage happens because it creates this need for approval and validation of yourself by your peers based on likes and comments.

That also leads into my next point of psychological effects of comparison is it creates a perceived notion of competition. There’s no competition here but when we do this comparison game we start to see a competition that’s not even there. We start to fabricate this for ourselves and say like oh they got 10 likes or they have 200 followers. I’m gonna reach 300 followers and 500 followers, and it just keeps going and going and going. This perceived notion of competition is damaging not just on an individual basis but on a community basis because we all have valid ideas. We all have valid opinions and things to share, but if we are viewing everything through the lens of competition then we’re not going to listen to the ideas of others and we might hold back the things that we have to say until we can make a post of our own or until we can make a video of our own or until we can talk about it with specific people. Because it’s a competition. And I’m going to be better than you because I’m going to tell these people and not you all.

All of that aside, that can all be funneled through the filter of witchcraft, polytheism, and spirituality. I have a short little list of things that can happen when you compare yourself to others in terms of spirituality. You might develop FOMO. FOMO is the fear of missing out. And the solstice just happened, the summer solstice June 2022. If you’re listening to this way in the future, hello from the past, but the summer solstice just happened and I witnessed on social media a lot of people talking about how they couldn’t celebrate the solstice for one reason or another. And they were feeling really bad about it and they were seeing people’s altars and people’s rituals and the way people are speaking about the solstice and they missed out. And so they felt bad because their circumstances didn’t allow for them to celebrate in the capacity that they were seeing online.

Over time this can create a problem because life gets busy, and I know I’m not the only person who has come upon a full moon just to realize that it’s a full moon and holy crap, it’s the night of the full moon! I haven’t prepared anything. I wanted to but I didn’t.

There’s also this fear of failure that can happen when you compare yourself to others and it’s sort of like the example I used with the meditation and waking up at five o’clock in the morning. If you’re comparing yourself to someone like that, chances are that you’re either going to try it and fail or you’re not even going to attempt something like it because you’re afraid of failing and you’re afraid of not being like everybody else.

That leads into the problem of being an armchair witch. Now there’s nothing wrong with being an armchair witch or armchair practitioner in general. For anybody that doesn’t know what I mean by the phrase armchair witch, it’s basically someone that does a lot of reading and a lot of study but not a lot of practice. And that’s fine if that’s what you choose to do. But for those that do have a practice and those that do actively practice, this fear of failure and fear of missing out can lead you to becoming an armchair witch because you got all this information in your head but you’re too scared to do anything because you’re afraid it’s not going to look like what you see online or what you read about in books.

So rather than trying it and failing or trying it and having it look the way that it looks for you as opposed to what somebody else is doing you just don’t do anything at all, and that’s not good for spiritual growth. That’s not good for growing a witchcraft practice and actually practicing like as in trying things to get better at them. 

And then you might even end up jealous of what other people have or whatever other people can do. I know I have to calm myself down sometimes and tell myself to just chill out when I see people like Bex and Heather, The Wild Woodland Witch, posting about their frolics in the forest and their wild foraging of herbs. And I have to tell my brain like stop! Their life is different than yours. Their circumstances are different than yours, Megan, get it together! You live different lives and that’s okay. Like yeah, I’m a little jealous that Heather lives in a forest or behind a forest or…I can never remember what it is. Yeah, I’m a little jealous that Bex from The Witches Cookery can go out and wild forage herbs. I don’t have the knowledge or the current space to be able to do that on my own, but when I compare myself to them that sort of jealousy comes in and I have to remind myself actively, and you know this is part of what happened recently, I have to actively remind myself that we are different people and we live different lives and that’s okay.

And it’s not just to remind myself once and it’s done. It’s a remind myself every time I need reminding or, as we’ll talk about in a minute, speak to the people that are important to me and my friends that can help me see through my crap, you know? You may even you know start to think that your practice isn’t good enough. You’re not a good enough witch. You’re not a good enough polytheist. You don’t pray ten times a day. You don’t cast five spells every day. What are you doing? You’re not good enough. Yes you are. Yes you are! 

Your practice is valid in whatever way it works for you. Don’t look to other people to say whether your practice is good enough or not. Stop comparing yourself to other people when it comes to your practice. Stop comparing your altar to my altar or to your favorite witchy YouTuber’s altar or to somebody on Instagram because it’s not worth it. It’s just gonna make you feel bad even if you have no reason to feel bad. Does your altar work for you? Then that’s good enough.

So instead of getting trapped in this cycle of comparison, there are a few things that you can do, and some of these are things that I do. Some of these things are things that I have had to be recently reminded of and that’s okay. So first off, get a support system. Find people that you can talk to when you’re feeling like this. And not toxic people. That’s the only way that I can explain that. Get people who will listen to the things that you have to say, people who are – people who will honor your emotions but people who will remind you that you are your own person, just like my friend Megan had to do for me.

Your support system can be online. It can be a Discord community like mine or it can be an in-person community. Maybe you’re part of a coven, or it can be your family or even your friends or whoever, but get a support system if you don’t already have one. And if you do have one, utilize them. Have conversations with the people that you care about about the way that you’re feeling because chances are they’re gonna remind you that you are your own person and as long as what you’re doing works for you and works within your means then it’s totally fine.

You should also stop being perpetually online. I have… I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I have taken so many breaks from social media over the course of the last year that I don’t know, I can’t even count them. I have deleted apps from my phone. I have set timers on my computer. I have reinstalled apps on my phone so I could specifically make stories on Instagram because you can’t – I can’t do it with the link on my computer so it’s irritating, but stop being perpetually online. Don’t scroll through Instagram for hours a day. Don’t scroll through Twitter and TikTok. Don’t watch a million YouTube videos. Don’t listen to a million podcasts. Stop being perpetually online and live your life in the way that it works for you.

And I say this as somebody who is online, who has a podcast and a YouTube channel, who wants my audience to enjoy the things that I create. But I’m going to tell you stop being online all the time. It is damaging to your self-image. It is damaging to your confidence and your relationship with yourself, especially if you struggle with this comparison trap. Set timers for yourself. Give yourself maybe 30 minutes on Instagram, give yourself maybe a couple YouTube videos a week or a day depending on how many you watch. Live your life. Live in the moment and enjoy the things that you do without worrying about what everybody else is doing.

And you know, it’s so funny my partner, my fiance, has always said that he doesn’t have social media because he doesn’t care what other people are doing. I think his exact words are quote, “I don’t give a shit,” and he’s got a point. He’s got a point and it’s funny to me because I have to walk that line between like yeah, I don’t necessarily care what everybody else is doing online but here I am being online for people to enjoy my videos and my podcasts. Yay! Uh there’s a word I’m looking for, you know, it’s two sides of the same coin. Make social media work for you. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

I think if you stop being perpetually online or if you limit the amount of social media that you use, not even that you’re perpetually online because it doesn’t really matter. 10 minutes on social media is enough to ruin your day. But if you realize this within yourself and you start to see how your practice is outside of what everyone else is doing, this will allow for the growth of yourself and your practice and your confidence in what you’re doing. And I think that is phenomenal. That is so important to have confidence in yourself and your practice. Have confidence that what you’re doing is good enough. If you work with gods trust me, they will tell you if what you’re doing is not good enough. If you work with your ancestors trust me, they will tell you if it’s not good enough. You are doing a great job. You are fine. You are more than fine! You are doing perfect in whatever capacity you can.

And then lastly, one of the things that I have been working so hard on that I am constantly having to remind myself of and that I even had to be reminded of recently is that my circumstances and my life dictate my practice, not the lives of others. I recently had a change in my household. My brother and his wife and their two children moved in with us. If you know anything about my household already you would know that we are already a multi-generational household. Me and my fiance own this house with my parents. It was already my parents, me and my fiance, and our child. That’s five. So if you’re keeping count, I now have nine people living in my home. That makes things interesting. It makes things difficult sometimes.

My house is never quiet. We’re currently reading a book with the cauldron collectors, my members over on my website, about spirit flight. I am a person who needs quiet and darkness in order to focus on like meditation or anything like that. I have had to come to the realization that the chances of me doing any sort of spirit flight over the next year are small, very, very small, because I don’t have the capacity right now to focus on that and that’s okay. I also work. I’m also a teacher. I’m a community manager for work. I help manage a community and I do writing and editing and all kinds of stuff for work that takes up a large chunk of my day. In the teaching capacity, I teach my daughter. She’s homeschooled. Somebody has to teach her and she’s homeschooled for a reason. So those two things already take up a large chunk of my day.

Then you know, there is the part of my day where I do household upkeep like laundry and cleaning and cooking dinner and doing all that stuff. I’m just a normal person, and in the midst of my day, in the midst of my week, scattered in there whenever I can fit it in is a bit of witchcraft, a bit of magic, some divination, maybe a spell or two, maybe a ritual, maybe a prayer. It really just depends on how my day is going and what is packed in my day already because let’s face it, modern life is busy. There are so many things that I wish I could be doing, that I wish I had the time for, or the money for, but I just don’t and that’s okay. I have to be better myself about not comparing what I’m doing to what other people are doing and I figured if I needed the reminder that comparison is the thief of joy somebody else would need the reminder too.

With that being said, let’s go ahead and shuffle the oracle deck and see what card we get for the month of July coming up. I am using my Spirits and Shadows oracle deck. I will as always try to post a picture of the card that I get so follow me on Instagram if you’d like to see it. I will also be sharing it in my newsletter so if you’re not subscribed to my newsletter you can do that. The link is in the show notes, but let’s go ahead and shuffle.

Alright, and we pulled The Maestro. The Maestro this card is a black cat with reddish eyes staring out at the reader, so looking at me. Above the cat’s head is a full moon colored in black, and on each side of that full moon is a black crescent moon. I feel like this cat is looking directly into my soul, but The Maestro is about teaching and learning and educating. So for the month of July, think about your teachers. Or if you yourself are trying to teach yourself something, The Maestro is like pulling the strings in the background. What is it that you want to learn? Is there something specific you want to learn? On the flip side of that, what do you have to give? What can you teach to others? So think about The Maestro for July.

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of ‘Round the Cauldron with me, Megan. I hope it was helpful. I hope that you understand or that you realize for yourself that comparison is the thief of joy. Its only purpose is to make you feel bad about yourself and to suck away your happiness. Don’t forget that you can join me in my membership program and become a cauldron collector. That starts as little as two dollars a month. It is a pay-what-you-can sort of sliding scale. The link for that is in the show notes. Join me over on Discord with my little community over there to have conversations and discussions and ask questions and just chat amongst like-minded people. All of the links for everything will be in the show notes as always and until next time, I’ll talk to you later. Bye!

A friend of mine, Megs (Prairie), recently reminded me that I’m not alone when I have feelings of inadequacy in regard to my practice and my knowledge. She left me with the quote that is also the title of this episode: Comparison is the thief of joy. I wanted to share my thoughts with you, the things that I know but that don’t stop me from comparing myself to others. This episode is a sort of pep talk for myself and others that might struggle with this, too. So thank you, Megs, for the reminder!

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