Nearly all of us compare ourselves to others. It’s a tendency impacting everyone from 20-somethings searching for their identity to 40-somethings self-reflecting. I’ve had countless clients with anxiety and depression stemming from their perceptions of not living up to others’ successes or expectations of them. I’m certainly not immune from this, either.
This is not a new problem. Social comparison theory dates back to the 1950’s — and certainly, people were comparing themselves to others even before then. We see it in our lives every day: thanks to social media, it takes just a couple quick clicks to find an old high school rival and compare your life to their life. Not to mention the constant, real-time feed of everyone you’ve ever met documenting dream vacations, date nights, and perfect kids. We end up comparing ourselves to artificially high standards.
How can you help yourself through this never-ending barrage of social media and real-life comparisons? How can you build self-esteem and satisfaction with yourself and your life? Everyone is unique — but here are some tips to mitigate the impact of the comparison factor:
- What is the origin? Body image, relationships, wealth? It is likely less about the person you are comparing yourself to and more about the element you feel is lacking.
- What are your values? Not what other people say your values should be, but what do you value? Is it friendship, hard work, health? Zero in on your own values as a place of focus, not what other people have or do.
- What is the negative self-talk you engage in? A photo is a photo, but the meaning you attribute to it can carry a lot of weight. What negative thoughts are you dealing with that add to feelings of dissatisfaction or low self-esteem?
- Can you flip the script? A negative thought is powerful, but a positive one can be an antidote. Ask yourself: what can I say on repeat when those negative feelings arise?
You can grow and find happiness by understanding where your feelings originate, the negative scripts that reinforce those perceptions, and their priorities. You may not fully stop comparing yourself to others — but you can ease the negative impact by understanding what you truly value and need. And that is much more important to your health and happiness in the long run.