In modern society, it’s nearly impossible to avoid comparing ourselves to others. While it has always been a natural tendency to measure our successes and failures against others, the pervasiveness of social media makes this process ubiquitous. We are constantly bombarded with curated images exposing us to the most enviable and tantalizing qualities of friends and strangers. This type of exposure tricks the brain to focus on what one doesn’t have versus what one does. We compare our worst, or even mundane day-to-day experiences to other’s best, most glamorous moments. Most often we don’t pause to acknowledge the impact of this negative self-bias, and the results can be damaging. We believe our thoughts and feelings about others and feel inferior. The first step to stop comparing yourself to others, is to accept the harmfulness of it. (Of course, there are certain circumstances in which this comparison can be helpful, but by and large, comparing yourself to others mostly results in just plain old pain and suffering.) Here’s how to stop comparing yourself to others today:
Accept Reality As It Is
Most of us have a preconceived image of who we are and the trajectory we expect our lives to take. When you’re on the same path as those around you, it’s easier to avoid judgments about the choices you make. Graduating college is the first time most paths start to diverge. Some people go straight into the workforce, others go to graduate school or take time off to travel. This is when anxiety and comparisons begin to climb. It becomes nearly impossible not to compare yourself to someone who is making more money, leading a seemingly more exciting lifestyle, and/or more actively pursuing their passions. The truth of the matter is: life is not one predetermined linear pathway. In reality, it is a curvy, messy, all over the place journey. Coming to terms with the fact that there are no “shoulds or shouldn’ts” allows us to be more flexible and forgiving of our current circumstances. You are where you are, even if it’s not where you thought you’d be. Once you accept this, you will free up mental space and emotional energy to think more critically about the changes you’d like to make so you can take action to lead a more fulfilling life.
Evaluate Your Relationship To Social Media
If you find yourself feeling frustrated and demoralized every time you scroll on your phone, take time to really consider the way social media is impacting your sense of self. One of the easiest ways to stop comparing yourself, is to limit your exposure to other people and what they do. There is no reason you need to know what that random girl from your chemistry class that you haven’t spoken to in 10 years did this past weekend. Go through the list of people you follow, and make sure to either mute or unfollow those that leave you feeling sad or insecure. Select the accounts that you follow by choosing those that leave you feeling inspired, joyful, or positively entertained.
Focus On Gratitude
Decide that you want to shift your mindset from what you wish you had, to expressing gratitude for what you do have. Chances are there is someone looking at your life, wishing they had the things you do. No matter how frustrated you are with where you are at, there is always something to be grateful for. Even in difficult circumstances, mental health is less about your circumstances and more about what you choose to focus your attention on. If you focus on what other people are doing and what they have, you will feel jealous and insecure. Conversely, if you focus on feeling grateful for what you do have, you are more inclined to feel appreciative and satisfied. When you catch yourself comparing, kindly refocus your attention to the present moment and identify something you feel grateful for. If you do this enough times, feeling grateful becomes a more automatic response than feeling unsatisfied.
Let go of Judgment
One of the most instinctual responses to feeling jealous, is to judge or put down the person you are comparing yourself to. While this might feel good initially, it often just suppresses the negative emotion which inevitably comes back up to haunt you. Judgment is a way of creating distance between yourself and a feeling you don’t want to experience. Instead of putting down the other person, label the emotion you are actually feeling. For example, instead of talking negatively about your friend who just got a promotion, reframe the thought to “I am feeling jealous because my friend just got a raise, and I wish I was more financially secure.” When you name the emotion and honor it for what it is, it will pass through you much more easily than if you try to move away from it by minimizing the other person’s accomplishments or speaking negatively on their behalf. Judging others is ingrained in our society, so try not to be hard on yourself when you catch yourself defaulting to judgment. Simply notice that you are judging, label the emotion you are moving away from, and try to express gratitude for your life instead.
Comparing yourself to others is something we all fall victim to and, at times, get stuck in. Sometimes just having a safe and supportive place to validate and process what you are feeling is the best way to navigate difficult moments in life. Therapy can provide you with a fresh perspective on issues and help you better understand your emotions. Together with a therapist, you can learn the skills to stop comparing yourself to others and can start to make meaningful changes in your life to feel more confident and fulfilled. Reach out to one of our many excellent clinicians, and begin your journey towards healing today!