Only today I found myself looking at a friend’s Facebook post and thought, why can’t my stomach look like hers! Why do we feel the need to continual compare with other people and with the explosion of social media there is, even more, comparison material. What’s really going on in our heads when we compare ourselves to others?
Within Social Psychology it’s referred to as the self-comparison theory. We either compare ourselves upwardly with people we perceive as being superior in some way or downward comparison with people who we presume as being inferior to us. The theory is that it’s a basic desire to understand ourselves and our place in the world. But does it help? While it can motivate you, for example, I may think about working a little harder at the gym today and not have that chocolate biscuit to achieve a perfect stomach, if you find yourself constantly comparing with others it can have more of a negative impact and this is why:
Spiral of despair
Think about it, when you start to compare yourself with someone else it normally makes your feel envious and can impact your self-confidence. Feelings of negativity breed more negativity and before you know it you are in the spiral of despair and beating yourself up with that negative inner voice telling you, you are a failure.
What we each present to the world and what is reality are often very different. Remember the saying ‘there’s Facebook life and then there is real life’. Thanks to the Kardashians we know how to take the most flattering selfies. What we post on social media will be the highlights of our life not the hum drum reality. When we make that comparison we are focusing on one tiny aspect of a person’s life and not considering the wider picture, when we do that we soon realise that not all is rosy.
You may start to earn more than your friend, but then you move on to compare yourself with someone else or focus on a different area of comparison. Unfortunately, you are never going to be perfect – but hey that’s what makes you, YOU!
Celebrate your differences
Our values, experiences and talents make us who we are, what is important to one person will be different to another. When we compare we are not comparing apples with apples. For example, I am comparing my stomach with my friend, who is a fitness instructor, spends large amounts of time working on her own fitness and healthy lifestyle. I exercise, but I prioritise developing my business over it and I happily have a chocolate bar over a healthy juice! Which is why I resemble a pear and she looks like a gorgeous healthy runner bean!
What do you do the next time you find yourself comparing?
• Notice how you feel. If it motivates you to make a positive change then great go for it. However, if you feel that you’re starting to berate yourself then take the following steps.
• Change your focus. Intentionally stop making the comparison. Remind yourself that it’s not adding any value. Take a walk or make that cup of tea.
• Focus on what you have, not what you don’t. Take a moment to acknowledge the positive things in your life, your successes and the people who support you. If you focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do have you will always be left feeling unfilled and a failure.
• Love your foibles. No one is perfect, life is a journey, enjoy it, let go of the need to be perfect and instead learn to love you, foibles and all. Wouldn’t the world be boring if we were all perfect!
What are the comparisons you need to let go off? Next time you feel them creeping in take action!