Self-Care Sunday: Sympathetic Joy in a Time of Comparison Traps

self-care sunday

[Self-Care Sunday Series: wellness experts worldwide are sharing their self-care expertise, practices, routines and personal stories.Today’s guest post is by self-care revolutionary Christy Tennery-Spalding]

This piece is a continuation of a series on the Brahma Viharas, the 4 Heavenly Abodes, and how they can support us in finding greater joy and freedom during and through our meditation practice.

Meditation is not something we only do on our cushion — nor is it a stodgy or stoic practice. When we breathe life into it, our meditation practice can permeate our everyday lives, offering us blessings and lessons around every corner. My best practice doesn’t happen on my cushion. It happens in my everyday life.

It happens in the most mundane moments. When I choose to see those as moments of choice rather than moments that are happening to me, that is when meditation reveals its true value. In these moments: conversations with friends over lunch, while browsing social media, or simply walking down the street.

Comparison traps — the pitfall of sizing up your insides against someone else’s outsides — seem to lie around every corner. It doesn’t need to be ever thus. The ability to reframe the story the comparison trap is trying to tell us takes skill. It takes self-empathy.

In my practice, the ability originates from the practice of mudita, or sympathetic joy. Simply put, mudita is the ability to derive genuine happiness from the happiness of others. To take joy in others’ joy. To celebrate on the occasion of others’ success.

Meditation helps us get there. Through meditation, we can learn to take things less personally. Things simply happen, and it is our thoughts and emotions that give them their significance.

Which means that my friend is not having professional success at me. She is having success. That doesn’t mean there is less left for me. It certainly doesn’t mean that she is having that success in order to hurt me.

With a bit of distance (and perhaps time), I can find it in me to take pleasure in the occasion of her success. Because, blissfully enough, it has nothing to do with me. And when it has nothing to do with me, I can enjoy it for what it is. Success. Joy. Love. Goodness.

Joy is not a limited resource. Nor is love, success, or fun. There is plenty of all of these to go around. I can take delight in someone else’s good fortune, without worrying that there is less left for me. That illusion of scarcity is one of the things that makes the comparison trap both alluring and devastating.

But this is merely an illusion, and through meditation, we can practice dissolving it.

There is enough. You are enough.

By stripping away the story around the event, we can revel in what is left. The joy that others are experiencing. That is the kernel of truth. The rest is subterfuge, hidden behind the veil of illusion that meditation so beautifully pierces for us.

What’s more, meditation and the cultivation of mudita remind us of another crucial truth. We are all connected. Your happiness is my happiness. Your freedom is mine. And so forth. When we remember that we are all connected, it is much simpler to allow ourselves this sympathetic joy.

Furthermore, sympathetic joy is a kind of solidarity. There doesn’t need to be nearly as much competition or comparison. We can, instead, spend our energy lifting one another up. And then celebrating, whole-heartedly, when one of us succeeds.

In fact, when we drop the hardened exterior and the mentality of the comparison trap, it makes us a more attractive target for the kind of joy we are seeking. When we are genuinely glad for others, they notice. When we cheer each other on in times of success, it is felt. And, ultimately, it will be reflected back to us.

We are all in this together. An old International Workers of the World slogan said, “An injury to one is an injury to all.” My meditation practice, and taking on mudita or sympathetic joy as a practice has taught me that joy for one can be a source of joy for all.

A gift: Christy is offering her amazing meditation course Hella Metta at a special discount just for Wellness Trailblazers – that’s you, beautiful, just use the discount code ‘Grace’ for 25% off. Thanks Christy!

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Christy Tending Headshot Smiling in forest, brown hair, caucasian, wearing a brown tank top

Christy Tennery-Spalding is a self-care mentor, healer, activist, and writer. She works with world-changing individuals to help them craft amazing self-care practices. She is the creator of Hella Metta, a 10-day meditation e-course to cultivate fierce lovingkindness. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their feral cats, Dorothy & Harriet. Find free self-care resources to start your practice on her website,

What is your experience for compassion? Let us know in the comments.

P.S You might also enjoy top 5 mindfulness meditation challenges transformed and ASMR guided meditation for chronic pain.