We have all done it at some point in our lives and honestly, I am guilty of it too. Comparing yourself to others is ludicrously hard not to do. However, yearning to have what others ‘appear’ to have can be a recipe for unhappiness. Most of the time, all is not as it seems, especially online.
A lot of people are great at portraying a perfect, extra special life, when in reality they are just like everyone else. They are human and face difficulties just like you and me. They suffer loss, grief and hardships just like the rest of us. No-one escapes life issue free. We all have baggage and comparing your baggage to another’s is simply an unreliable comparison.
They might be fabulously confident and you may lack self esteem. You yearn to own such poise and self assurance; to be just like them. But hey, just remember self confidence is something that can be worked on and besides, you have positive traits too, they are just different to theirs.
It might be that you are hilariously funny, reliable, loyal and warm and people want to spend time with you. You can be anything, but you can’t be everything and that is exactly the same for the people you are comparing yourself to.
When you compare yourself to others, you are admiring their cherry picked best bits. Features of their life they have carefully chosen to share with the world, up against your average bits. Have you even thought that their average bits couldn’t compare to your best bits?
Self comparison is something that most of us do to check if we are doing ok in life. Comparing ourselves to our peers, hoping we are doing better than them. We crave acceptance and we naturally think that the way to avoid rejection is to show we are just as good as them, if not ‘better’.
The problem is, this type of behaviour can be self destructive and result in feelings of inadequacy. It can lead you astray, as you stumble aimlessly away from your life and move closer towards the priorities of others. Losing the ‘real’ you in the process.
In the 1950’s social psychologist Leon Festinger conducted some research that formulated his ‘social comparison theory’. He discovered that humans struggle to evaluate themselves, so they use social comparisons to evaluate their own abilities. So even way back before we all had internet people were comparing themselves.
Festinger found that people tended to compare themselves in either an upward comparison (comparing themselves with people better than them) or a downward comparison (comparing to people who are worse than them) depending on their current mood or motivation.
People who are highly motivated were more likely to make upward comparisons and liked to assume themselves to be as good as or better than the ‘best’ people. And people who were feeling low or depressed liked to make downward comparisons in order to lift themselves up and make themselves feel better about their own situation.
An interesting study that suggests social comparison is necessary for personal development and for motivation to achieve goals. However, it could also have the opposite affect of feelings of inferiority.
So, if comparing yourself to others is only natural, what can you do to avoid any negative comparisons?
Try not to view everyone as competition. Openly praise the things that you admire about people. Stop thinking that if you withhold compliments, it will somehow make you look like you are not as ‘good’ as them, when in actual fact what it does, is builds trust with others, who will then perceive you as ‘socially safe’. We all love a compliment, right?
Avoid Destructive Comparison
Although the science tells us that some comparisons are necessary for self evaluation, sometimes comparing to others can become obsessive. It can lead to envy and depression. Some people even develop a loathing for those they regard as ‘beneath’ themselves.
If you notice yourself comparing and feeling pangs of envy, try to centre yourself. Snap yourself back to the present moment, remind yourself of the positives in your life and appreciate what you have. It could be your beautiful family, your lovely mum/dad, friendships, pets or your talent for writing, art, gardening or cooking. Anything that brings you pleasure and joy.
This exercise will help to train your brain to avoid envy comparisons and replace it with sense of contentment and well being.
Celebrate Who You Are
Focus your efforts on looking inward. Noteall the positive features of your life and remember that you are unique. You have just as much as those who you compare yourself with. You simply have different ‘best bits’ to them. Life is short, so live it freakin’ fabulous!