HELP I’M SCROLLING PEOPLE’S HIGHLIGHT REELS – HOW TO STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS.
My partner and I went out to dinner the other night with some friends who were recently married, had just bought their first home, and were expecting their first baby! We had an amazing night and were extremely excited for them, but I noticed something happening on the journey back home – my partner and I were starting to compare our life to theirs. It started simply with the question ‘How old are they? Are they our age, or a little older?’ Although neither of us admitted to why we needed to know the answer to this question, it was clear we were both comparing our successes and stage of life with theirs, and wondering if we were behind the eight ball somehow. I know, it sounds ridiculous right!?
But comparing ourselves to others is something we are all doing, and it is happening so much in today’s society that psychologists have created a theory around it – the Social Comparison Theory.
Have you ever had the experience where you start the day feeling really good about yourself then you jump on good ol Instagram or Facebook and start the deadly scroll. You see images of people doing amazing things, looking fabulous, being courageous and all of a sudden you’re thinking ‘wow they are smashing it, I wish I was doing what they’re doing…or ‘she has the perfect life, she finds the time to exercise and socialise, why can’t I?’ and before you know it you are pulled into a vicious cycle of self-doubt and criticism.
You start picking on yourself,
comparing and assessing your own journey and successes against others.
As a result, our anxiety kicks in and we succumb to our ego’s need for confirmation that we are right, look good, and know all the answers. We start telling ourselves the ‘not enough’ story: We’re not smart enough, not talented enough, not pretty enough, not brave enough…the list can go on and on.
Comparing yourself to others is a battle you will never win!
If how you feel about yourself, and the life that you lead, is rated against others, then you will constantly feel like crap; because there will always be someone doing something better than you. Why? Because we all focus on different things at different stages in our lives.
- One woman might be spending her spare time nursing her new born baby and learning the ropes of motherhood, whereas another woman might be spending her spare time at the gym working towards a body building competition – is it fair to compare their bodies and fitness levels? No.
- One couple might have spent the last few years travelling and exploring the world before coming back home to start work, whereas another couple might have gone straight into the workforce and plan to travel later – is it fair to compare their level of work experience or financial savings? No.
Everyone is on their own journey and experiencing life at different speeds and stages.
Growing up our parents always told us there is no use in comparing ourselves to others as we’re all unique, or as my old acting coach used to put it ‘you’re all snowflake motherf**kers!’. Yet like all sage advice it is far easier said than done, so I thought I would share with you some simple ways to pull yourself out of the comparison cycle:
1. Recognise the chinks in your armour, and acknowledge your vulnerabilities.
Comparison tends to mirror a negative belief we hold to be true about ourselves, so we end up comparing our perceived weaknesses against others strengths, what we don’t have with what others do have. By becoming more aware and learning that our comparisons are not about an external event or another person, but about our own internal beliefs, it will give you the power to question what beliefs best serve you in life. Coming face to face with our fears or limiting beliefs around our own ‘inadequacies’ will help us consider which beliefs we need to let go of or adopt to better focus on the success of our own unique journey.
2. Acknowledge your green-eyed gremlin.
It is natural to feel a tinge of jealousy when comparing, but instead of trying to shut it down or argue with it (because let’s face it, you will never win that argument) acknowledge what it is bringing up for you and become curious. Is that little green-eyed gremlin trying to tell you something? Is it telling you about some of your deepest desires? When you peel back the layers of jealously you will often find it is something you are inspired by, that you desire for yourself, or that you are seeing your own potential to do something similar. You have a choice how to respond to this – you can choose to be curious about what it is you see in others that is connecting with a deeper desire of your own, or you can choose to let jealousy hijack your emotions and shut them down.
3. Avoid the triggers that highjack your emotions.
Studies in the Social Comparison Theory show that scrolling through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram leads to higher levels of social anxiety and depression. We forget that the strategically used filters and photos shared by others are their highlight reels – how often do you see a photo of someone having a bad day, or going through the ups and downs of life’s challenges? Hardly ever right!? So, become more aware of the platforms or interactions that trigger your self-doubt and give yourself the permission to not engage with it.
For example: Don’t look at social media in the mornings or before bedtime. Limit the social media applications on your phone, so they are less accessible for you to scroll through throughout the day. Choose not to attend as many networking events whilst you are figuring out your direction. By identifying the triggers that set off the comparison cycle it will enable you to better manage and control your emotions rather than being influenced by them.
4. Stick in your own lane.
Lastly and most importantly focus on your own journey and successes. It is so easy to see what others are doing well than it is to focus on what we have done. Just imagine the difference you would make by channeling all the energy and attention you give away to others on improving yourself? Set up success measures that align with your own unique journey and track your progress against those rather than other people’s measure of success. It will leave you feeling 100% more fulfilled and happy.
We all experience life differently – we all have our own challenges, fears, expectations, goals and talents; so focus on living life to the best of YOUR ability. Trust that you are more than enough, and that the stage of life you are experiencing right now is exactly where you are meant to be.
To close out I’ll leave you with a quote for the week:
“As long as you think ‘winning at life’ is about being better, or having more than someone else, then your happiness is a hostage to comparison…Run your own race and focus on doing the best you can with what you’ve got. The rest will take care of itself.”
– Margie Warrell