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In today’s world, it’s virtually impossible to not compare yourself to others. Most of us are connected on some form of social media, which gives us a glimpse into the lives of others that we’d otherwise not see – the friend of a friend you met at a party six years ago just got promoted and it’s now at the top of your feed. Suddenly you find yourself wondering, “When was last time I got promoted?” Sound familiar?
This heightened connection can spur comparison, sometimes for the good and sometimes for the bad. Understanding the difference between healthy comparison and unhealthy comparison can be the difference between sparking inspiration or fueling self-destructive tendencies.
Can Comparing Yourself to Others be Good?
There is definitely such a thing as healthy comparison. If you’ve ever been around someone who you wanted to be more like, and you left the interaction feeling inspired to make positive changes in your life – that’s a healthy comparison.
An inevitable part of comparing yourself to others is recognizing areas in your life you’d like to improve. Being able to recognize what you’d like to change, why you’d like to change, and be inspired to start making those changes is a very healthy element of self-growth.
Can Comparing Yourself to Others Be Harmful?
Comparing yourself to other people isn’t always constructive, though. Many people can develop obsessive tendencies when it comes to comparisons. It can become all too easy to hop onto Instagram, see a photo of someone who seems to have it all and log off feeling inadequate.
The downside of being able to stay constantly connected can be feeling like you’re not “keeping up.” Growing up in the so-called “digital age” many younger people can be especially susceptible to feeling this pressure.
How to Stop Negatively Comparing Yourself to Others
If you feel like comparing yourself may be becoming unhealthy, here are a few tips to try:
Awareness Just like any habit, this may be a difficult behavior to change. The first place to start is recognizing when you’ve compared yourself to someone in an unhealthy way. Ask yourself how your train of thought made you feel. Did you see someone you admire and have self-destructive thoughts? Did you end up feeling less-than or inadequate? Recognizing this is the first step in stopping the behavior.
Reframe It’s common to take a snapshot of someone’s life and place all sorts of assumptions onto it. If someone posts a perfect Pinterest photo, it’s easy to assume that this one image is how this person lives 24/7. In reality, that photo likely took many, many attempts, the final product was heavily edited, and it was staged to look “just right.” Remember that people often share the best possible versions of themselves, rather than the messy house, sweatpants, everyday version of themselves. It doesn’t mean that we don’t all have that imperfect side, though.
Evaluate Your Social Circle The people we surround ourselves with can oftentimes impact our mental state more than we realize. Try to pay attention to how you feel when you’re spending time with your social circle, and how you feel when you leave it. Are you recharged afterward or drained? Ask yourself if these people are encouraging and supportive of your goals, or are they pessimistic and only highlight the negative? When you have a strong support system, you might notice yourself having more of those healthy, inspiring comparisons.
Practice Gratitude Getting caught up in envying others can make it easy to minimize all the positive things in your own life. Try making a conscious effort to practice gratitude to help keep all the good things in your life at the forefront of your thoughts. Plus, studies show that practicing gratitude can reduce depression and anxiety. It can also increase overall happiness, improve self-esteem, and contribute to better sleep. Try starting a gratitude journal and everyday list three things you’re thankful for.
It can also be helpful to explore the underlying reasons why you’re feeling the need to compare in the first place and find healthy solutions for changing this pattern.
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Haas, Susan. (2018, March 5). “How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others.” Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prescriptions-life/201803/how-stop-comparing-yourself-others
Caprino, Kathy. (2017, August 18). “When Comparing Yourself to Others Turns Self-Destructive.” Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2017/08/18/when-comparing-yourself-to-others-turns-self-destructive/#1d04044e6539