LinkedIn Notification: Congratulate Frankie on the new position.
Facebook Notification: Frankie shared a status update: “Loving Santorini!”
Instagram Notification: #frankiesbestlife
Have you reached your comparison limit?
Social comparison: human nature or modern menace?
Comparison can be a source of inspiration, the motivation to push us that little harder to get to what we want. Measuring yourself against others is very normal, but the daily onslaught of comparison triggers probably don’t give you the proper space to be motivated. It can seem that everyone else is achieving their dreams, quicker, easier and better than you.
Although we know that social media is mostly people’s ‘highlight reel’ (that soggy sandwich your friend had for lunch was not posted as #foodporn), the incessant nature of notifications and our own unrelenting scrolling sets us up for feelings of inferiority.
When comparison becomes a daily activity, over time we stop seeing our own successes - whether big or small - which can at best lead to ambivalent feelings for what we’ve achieved, or at worst infect us with envy about what others have.
Our brains love to make snap judgements, and typically this helps us to make quick decisions by filtering out what information it believes to be necessary and unnecessary. But as social media often provides the viewer with an image but no context, our minds jump to the nearest answer: “Frankie is always on holiday. Frankie must have a better job than me, Frankie must be earning way more money than me… And on and on, as we scroll down.
The hard truth is you’ll never stop comparing yourself to other people. But try to remember that you’re running your own race, not theirs. By constantly measuring your achievements by comparing yourself to others you are unwittingly trying to live someone else’s life, when yours can be just as awesome.
There are ways to be more focused on who you are and what you are doing in the present moment. Here are a few ways to avoid the comparison trap:
Limit checking social media in your downtime
Social media can be lot of fun and this advice is not an outright ban. It’s great to be connected to the rest of the world in this way. But be mindful of FOMO when you check your go-to networks when your not doing anything in particular. You are more susceptible to social comparison when you are in sweat pants on your couch.
PS. you are allowed to be in sweat pants on your couch whenever you want, so don’t feel guilt about it when you are!
Acknowledge what you appreciate about the person who provokes your comparison anxiety
If it is someone you know in real life, remember why you are friends with them in the first place. If it is an influencer or blogger’s Instagram feed that you like the aesthetics of, that’s fine. If that starts to change, or if their posts make you feel bad, unfollow or mute for a while. If you don’t miss seeing them, great! You have your answer about how they make you feel.
Count your blessings
You’re smart, you’re cute, you’re funny… do I need to go on? List the things you like about yourself and what you have achieved. Try not to list the things you own, unless you can say ‘I worked hard to meet that target, which meant I got a great bonus and I treated myself to that bag/ motorcycle/ widescreen TV because that was my goal.’
Remember: somebody somewhere at sometime has compared themselves to you, and admired what they saw in you.
Try and be that external observer and see what they see.
Accept your limitations, and reach for the (realistic) stars
It may be likely you’ll never make your country’s Olympic team or get to Centre Court at Wimbledon. That’s OK. It’s now time to really focus on what you can do, and spend your energy doing that to the best of your abilities. With limitations comes vulnerabilities, embrace these courageously.
Nourish real life interactions and feed relationships
There’s a certain honesty that can only be shared in person. You’re more likely to be able to view someone’s situation objectively and find out the real story behind Frankie's new promotion. You might discover it’s not all so rosy after all. But rather than turning your envy into gloating, use this time to share your own experiences to help and deepen that friendship. Not only will you experience less comparison anxiety when Frankie next posts, you’ll know you are there to help others when life isn’t #instaperfect, and same for you.
What tips do you have for dealing with comparison? Share with us in the comments!