Whether we’re struggling with FOMO, or constantly falling into comparison traps, comparing ourselves to others is making us miserable. Kat Nicholls explains why it doesn’t have to be this way
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
When was the last time you felt the prickly sting of comparison? You know the feeling; the hot frustration that starts in your belly, and rises to your chest, when you see someone doing or being something you’re not.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. This feeling can come up in different areas of our lives, from career opportunities to holiday destinations. While I’m hesitant to place the blame entirely on social media – I’ve seen what a positive and uplifting space this can be – the impact it has on our comparison habits is clear.
When Stylist surveyed their readers on confidence and comparison, 83% said social media negatively affects their self-esteem, with 58% saying social media has changed how others view them, and how they view others. In terms of what triggered their comparisons, ‘People who make life look easy’ came up trumps, with ‘Seeing others having amazing experiences’, ‘career success’, and ‘benchmarking where they’re at in life compared to their peers’ coming close behind.
Whenever I feel comparison-y, I must admit, I’m always on social media. I might be watching an Instagram story of someone talking about a successful launch of their business, or reading a tweet from someone at an event I wish I’d been invited to. However, these feelings aren’t restricted to life online; wherever comparison strikes, the question is, ‘How can we deal with it?’
Something I’ve learnt from working in the self-development world is that self-awareness and curiosity are key to unpacking difficult emotions; this is why I like to do a little internal digging when I feel comparison elbowing me in the ribs. Here are a set of questions to help you understand what’s at the root of your comparison-making, and how you can move on in a positive way.
Where is the comparison coming from?
This question is trickier than it sounds, because a many of our comparison feelings are grounded in societal expectations. For example, you may feel like your relationship with your partner isn’t as good as other people’s because you constantly see representations in the media of what love ‘should’ look like.
The next time you find yourself comparing, ask yourself if it’s truly coming from you, or if it’s actually an external expectation? If it’s external or societal, ask yourself – ‘How can I let this go?’
What else is going on for you right now?
Our brains are wonderfully complex, so it’s helpful to step back and look at the full picture when difficult feelings arise. Are you particularly stressed? Are you sleeping? Have you had any arguments lately that are hanging over your head?
All of these factors can make you more vulnerable to comparison. If this is the case, cut yourself some slack; ramp up your self-care and connect with a friend to talk it out.
Consider whether or not something deeper is going on, and if you’d benefit from the support of a counsellor or coach.
What is the comparison telling you?
Often, when we compare ourselves to someone it’s because they have something we want. This is an opportunity to dig a little deeper and understand what your comparison is telling you – what is it you want more of in your life? What qualities of this person/career/lifestyle do you admire? What steps can you take to get closer to these?
Let comparison be a compass, of sorts, gently guiding you to what you truly want. However, remember to check in again with where the comparison is coming from – it has to come from you for this question to work.
What can I do to feel better about this?
By now you should have a clearer understanding of why you are making comparisons so it’s time to take action to help you move away from it. Here are some ideas to consider.
- Block, mute or unfollow anyone triggering comparisons in you on social media. You can always go back and un-mute or follow when you’re in a better headspace.
- Take a break from social media altogether – especially if you find it triggering.
- Reach out to the person you’re comparing yourself to and let them know you admire them – kindness and connection is a great comparison killer.
- Take positive action to do the thing you’re feeling jealous about. You could take steps to launch your own business, or reach out to the event you want an invite to.
- Celebrate and amplify your uniqueness – your USP is you! Shout about what makes you different, and embrace yourself as you are.
Living life 100% comparison-free may not always be possible but, armed with the right questions and mindset, you’ll be able to nip it in the bud, and move on more quickly. We’re busy people, after all, and we have better things to be spending our energy on.