We’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through social media when a post catches your eye. It’s that person again. The one with the perfect life, the perfect partner, the perfect hair. Why are they so amazing? You’ll never be that amazing. Their life is so effortless, while you’re struggling to make it through.
It’s easy to compare our life to someone else’s. Social media has made it even easier to weigh our worth up against perfectly curated photos of other people. And as many times as you may tell yourself “social media isn’t real life” it doesn’t stop that little voice in your head from constantly comparing your failures to everyone else’s successes.
Comparison is totally normal. We all do it. But when it gets out of hand, it can have really damaging effects to our self-esteem. Too much comparison can cause anxiety and/or depression and it can keep you from moving forward and following your passions.
Why Do We Compare?
Comparison starts off as a really useful tool.
When we’re kids, we compare ourselves to others to try to find our place in the world. As we get older, we compare ourselves to adults around us and to people we see in the media to see what kind of interests we may enjoy and to suss out who we are as people. Comparison is what creates our sense of self.
When we’re adults, we continue this pattern of comparison for the same reason, but it becomes more focused.
We’re more likely to compare ourselves to people in the same field as us or to people who seem like they have similar lives to ours. Which is kinda neat…
It means that you’re only comparing yourself to people who are not that far off from your goals. What they have is attainable for you.
You’re more likely to compare yourself to Suzy from your office, who keeps killing it in all the investor meetings, than you are to Bill Gates. This is because you see yourself in Suzy. So instead of feeling discouraged by Suzy’s success, see it as evidence that you are capable of the same greatness.
The other thing about comparison is that we’re rarely looking for new information, when we’re weighing our worth to someone else’s. Most of the time, we’re just confirming something that our brain already believes.
If your brain already believes you’re not good enough, not cool enough, not rich enough, don’t have enough followers on instagram…then your brain will look for ways to confirm that belief. And that confirmation usually comes in the form of comparing yourself to people that you believe to be better than you.
But why? Why would our brains do that to us? Seems downright cruel!
Here’s some hard truth.
If you’re looking to others to define your worth, it’s because you already subconsciously believe that you’re not good enough. And because the ego is a big ol’ scaredy cat, it would rather snuggle up to the idea that you suck, than take the leap and believe that you are capable of great things.
Because if you believed that…you’d have to go out and get it.
And that comes with failures, fear, admitting when you don’t know all the answers and a bunch of other stuff that the ego would rather not deal with.
And that’s all great information…but how the hell do we get off this rollercoaster?
How to Stop Comparing
First of all, comparing will never 100% go away. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others. But there are ways to manage the feelings that come up when we start spiraling down that dark drain of “I suck.”
- Notice the Feeling
The first step is admitting it. When you notice yourself comparing, just take note of it. Either say “Comparing.” or “This is comparison,” in your brain, to bring awareness to it, without judging or reprimanding yourself.
- See Yourself In Them
If you’re comparing yourself to them, it’s most likely achievable for you. Remind yourself that you are just as worthy as they are and just as capable of success.
- Engage Less If Needed
If you really can’t stop obsessing over someone, it’s time to pump the breaks. Mute their social media, hang out with them less or keep your head down at work and interact with them only as needed. They didn’t do anything wrong and there’s no reason to harbour negative feelings about someone just because they’re doing well. So do whatever you need to do for your mental health, while being respectful to that person.
Letting go of comparison means focusing more on internal validation, instead of needing external things to define your worth. Concentrate on your relationship with yourself and develop trust and confidence in who you are and your abilities. You are brilliant in your own right and worthy of every success. So, shine bright.
Jennifer Doan is a sex educator, coach and the host of the podcast Taking Back Slut. Jennifer is committed to helping people connect to their sexual power in a way that feels safe and comfortable to them. Connect with her on Instagram @jenn_doan for sex rants and unapologetic nudes.