Stop Comparing Yourself to Others: Tips and Tools
The neighbor with the perfect lawn. The friend with a successful, high-paying career. The stranger on social media that you’ve never met but assume, given their seemingly perfect photos, that they lead the perfect life.
In today’s world, where it has become the norm to spend countless hours scrolling through photos of friends, family, celebrities, and complete strangers, the temptation to compare ourselves to others is at a cultural high.
While competition has long been a basic function of the human condition, it would seem that the rise of the digital age over the past several years has put an unnecessary, and even harmful, precedence on who’s in the lead. As if it were possible to measure all human successes on a single scale (or worse, by number of ‘likes’).
But even before social media’s take over, the groundwork for social comparisons was already in place. Social norms have long been established along with the relentless reminders that we’ve yet to live up to all of them. A 30-something woman sees her friends getting married and panics that she’s still single. A hard-working employee watches his co-worker move up in the company, prompting him to ask, “Why him and not me?” These comparisons can become so habitual that often you may not even realize you are doing it.
Reasons to quit may go beyond the fact that they’re simply unproductive and leave you feeling poorly about yourself. Making these social comparisons can be damaging to your health, both physically and psychologically. Being aware of how harmful comparisons are could serve as great motivation to give them up.
When in school from elementary to high school I remember wishing my family had more money, that I could be more popular, even be famous. I wished I was prettier, smarter, more self-confident, yet I had everything I could ever want and need. Where did all this self-lack come from? Why could I not just be comfortable in my own skin and love who I was?
It wasn’t until decades later when I found my wish list changing to “I wish I wouldn’t drink today” or “I wish I would stop at just three” that I found myself in a treatment center for alcoholism. Yes, “found myself”! It was then and there that my wish list dramatically changed as did my self-worth and opinion of myself.
But this did not happen overnight. I needed to undo the decades of “my” thinking which is an ongoing process. One day at a time, yeah? just like not taking a drink today, maybe tomorrow.
Sobriety, recovery and solutions has changed my life…given me a life…given me purpose. First I “got to” learn and understand what alcoholism is, a disease, not a self-control problem. From there I was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps and the Big Book. I “got to” make up a Higher Power of My Own Understanding to whom I could turn my will and my life over to. I “got to” switch my life from a thinking human being to a feeling human being. Slowly. One day at a time.
And the miracles, evolution, journey continues. I have turned that fear-based waste-of-space-on-the-planet to one who is finally comfortable in my own skin and loves me for who and what I am!
In 1954, social psychologist, Leon Festinger proposed the theory of social comparison (https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/social-comparison-theory), which argues that your own feelings of self-worth are dependent upon how you think you measure up to those around you. You may be constantly evaluating how you stack up to others, in turn creating our self-image. A self-image based on anything other than intrinsic factors is destined to have harmful effects.
For one, making social comparisons can have a devastating impact on your self-esteem, particularly when comparing something you are already insecure about or sensitive to. For example, if you suffer bodily insecurities and follow nothing but fitness accounts on social media, you are setting yourself up to make not only an unhealthy comparison but an unfair one at that.
The majority of social media users show only what they want the world to see. They are less likely to expose their own insecurities and overcompensate by pushing perfection instead. It essentially boils down to a comparison between one’s reality to another’s best attempt to portray perfection. Not only can this influence your self- esteem, but it also distorts your perception of reality.
The stress that results from constantly making social comparisons that deflate your self-esteem and hinder your self-image can harm your physical health as well. Chronic stress (http://www.chopra.com/articles/how-to- reverse-the-effects-of-chronic-stress) can lead to high-blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, and a weakened immune system. Moreover, when left unchecked, which can easily occur when you are unaware of its cause, chronic stress can lead to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety attacks.
In addition, social comparisons can hold you back from reaching goals and pursuing what matters most. Accomplishments stem from self-confidence, motivation, and clarity—all three of which can be hindered by images of others who you think are already a few steps ahead of you. In short, making social comparisons can be paralyzing and leave you wondering, Why bother?
Because of Alcoholics Anonymous, the Twelve Steps, and my toolbox for living, I discovered how fear-based I was living my life. How important your opinion of me mattered. That was because I did not feel worthy of your opinions nor expectations. I felt “less than”. Today I realize that I have God-given gifts and talents. I was chosen to get sober and share my experience, strength and hope with those who enter my “bubble”. And that is the purpose today. It took me 48 years to realize this.
When I can be grateful for who and what I am today, for my journey and my story, I can share this and give hope to those who do not have “light at the end of the tunnel”. When I can realize that if I do the best that I can at any given moment with any given talk, that I am progress not perfection, that everything is perfect at this moment in time, I can be okay with myself. I can be light, grateful, humble and content.
I know today that not everyone is going to like me. And that’s okay. There are those of you I would rather not be around. But I don’t have to react nor prove myself nor take it personally. You are who you are with your story, and I am who I am with mine. Just perfect. Right here. Right now. What a weight off my shoulders being able to live this way!
Tips to Stop Comparing
It may sound simple to just suggest putting a stop to social comparisons—but the question is how do you actually stop? Here are some ways to help you stop making social comparisons.
1. Limit (or eliminate) time on social media. As mentioned, social media is often used as a place to share what you want people to see, not necessarily what’s closest to reality. Whether or not its content’s even accurate, at the very least it’s likely exaggerated. Cutting back on social media (http://www.chopra.com/articles/comparing-yourself-again-4-tips-to-survive-social-media-envy) or taking a break altogether can do wonders for your mental health. Spend the extra time understanding the triggers that lead you to making social comparisons so that when you log back into your accounts, you’re prepared to let those things go.
What do we hear about on social media, the news and newspapers? What sells the most, draws our attention and brings in the most money? Negative news. Tragic news. Although most of life around us is good and positive, it does not sell news. So one straw at a time we get weighted down with negativity. If not careful, that negativity finally breaks our backs and we lower ourselves to that mentality. Don’t do it! Remember the 95% of the good things happening on our planet and with our humanity that does not sell news. That’s our focus.
2. Make a list of accomplishments you’re proud of. The more confident you are in yourself, the less inclined you’ll be to evaluate how you stack up against others. Write a list of your proudest accomplishments, traits, strengths, and even things you’re grateful for. This will put you in a healthier mindset, making you less likely to engage in the comparison game.
I am sober. I have a Higher Power over to whom I can turn my will and my life. I have a purpose. I can be of service.
3. Become clear on what you want. When you’re unsure of what you want in life or how to go about achieving it, you can tend to feel unanchored. Become more grounded by gaining clarity as to the direction your life is going. Write out your short-term and long- term goals and steps necessary to accomplish them. Once you feel more secure in your own life, the temptation to over-invest in others will dissipate.
When things start to feel unclear, I HALT. I check myself to see if I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If so, I treat those symptoms. I go to an AA meeting. I get back in the moment. I appreciate the here and now right in front of my nose. I quiet my mind and open my heart. I re-center.
Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If you want to become your best self, making your mental and physical health top priority, you must choose joy and resist the urge to make unhealthy comparisons.
Become your best self with The Quest: Spiritual Solutions for Creating a Life You Love, our online course led by Deepak Chopra and Martha Beck. Learn More. (https://www.chopra.com/online-courses/the-quest/on- demand)
About the Author
Emily Holland Certified Health Coach
Emily is a certified Health Coach and freelance writer with a focus on psychology, mental health, and optimal living. A combined interest in healthy living and human behavior led Emily to pursue a certification in health coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as a master’s degree in General Psychology. Her personal struggle with anxiety motivated her to research and implement a variety of holistic approaches into her lifestyle, such as changes in diet and the adoption of mindfulness meditation. She credits these lifestyle changes as well as many others with helping her better manage symptoms of anxiety and everyday stressors. She is most passionate about sharing what she has... Read more (/bios/emily-holland)
From The Chopra Center
I am not a representative of Alcoholics Anonymous. I only know that when I could not stop drinking, the fellowship and the Big Book offered me solutions. Today I am sober. Today I am happy, joyous, and free!
For those interested in Inspirational Gifts with a Message of Hope and Self, please visit my website at www.DeesignsByHarris.com. The above mosaic is available for $58. Mahalo and have a great day!!!
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