As the famous saying goes, “Comparison is the thief of all joy.”
This innocent cognitive function that encourages us to constantly weigh the scales has been an incredibly beneficial adaptation throughout human evolution. However, in our modern age of globalized social media, the tendency to compare ourselves to everyone else can be very damaging to our mental health.
Most of us experienced some degree of social conditioning as children that encouraged us to compete with others. Some of us may have had parents that constantly compared us with siblings, cousins, or friends. All of us have had to spend most of our lives navigating an incredibly competitive academic and professional landscape.
There are an endless number of qualities and quantities that can be used to compare our lives to others. However, there are no fair verdicts in the end.
We are all extremely complex and unique beings with our own strengths, weaknesses, histories, motivations, learning styles, and more. It is impossible to accurately compare any one human being with another because there is too much diversity in the variables that make up our lives. There is no sense in comparing your fingerprint to someone else's, and our lives are simply the fingerprint that we leave on this world.
If you’ve fallen victim to the “rat race” psychology and find yourself applying this to every aspect of your life and relationships, you may benefit from the following strategies to stop comparing yourself to others.
Social media is an incredible human innovation that has given us unforeseen insight into the lives of other people in the world. We are exposed to a greater diversity of lifestyles, cultures, class backgrounds, and more, allowing us to have an expanded outlook on the possibilities of our world.
This can be incredibly motivating, inspiring, and educational. However, it can also be incredibly debilitating if you allow yourself to fall victim to the comparison trap.
We’ve all heard it before, but it always rings true: comparing the backstage of your life to everyone else’s highlight reel is unrealistic. What you see on social media is never the full picture of someone’s life and doesn’t reflect the level of peace, happiness, or joy that they experience internally, nor the mental health struggles that they may face on a daily basis.
These “Instagram worthy” highlights are also not the best metrics to measure a “successful” life. At the end of the day, surface level accomplishments, accessories, and aesthetics are not necessarily the parts of life that offer us the most substance and contentment.
However, no matter how much we reiterate this information to ourselves, we will not be able to live by it unless we set boundaries with the media.
Most modern smart-phones allow you to set a daily time limit for each app. There are also downloadable extensions that perform a similar function for your web browser. Once you have reached the limit, you will be locked out of the app until the next day. This can prevent you from getting distracted by other people and focus your energy on your own goals instead.
As well, it is important to unfollow any accounts that trigger comparison and feelings of insecurity. If you are having this problem with someone in your personal life, Instagram also allows you to mute their posts and stories. This allows you to avoid their content without offending them.
The best rule of thumb to follow for a healthy relationship to social media is to create more than you consume. When you have this balance, your mind will always be oriented towards your own path and development instead of everyone else’s.
People who judge others tend to be very judgmental towards themselves. If you find yourself looking down on other people because of how they look, their class standing, or their academic and professional success, it is probably because you have insecurities regarding this area of your own life.
Most of the time, we engage in this habit of judgement as a way to validate ourselves. However, this toxic validation does not bring us true happiness in the end. It only suppresses our insecurities that need to be confronted and dealt with in order to feel satisfied and fulfilled with our lives.
It is very helpful to write down every occasion that you find yourself judging yourself or others. It is important to know what triggers us to judge ourselves and others and put these judgements on trial. Finding evidence that refutes these judgements allows us to adopt a different perspective and release our attachment to these metrics of worthiness.
Over time, you will internalize the reality that you (and other people) are not defined by surface level traits. We are multidimensional beings whose worth cannot be defined by accomplishments or numerical values.
Cultivating joy in your own life reduces the weight that other people’s lives have on your emotional and mental health. When your own happiness becomes your focus, what other people have or are becomes irrelevant. You simply don’t have time to worry about what everyone else has going on when you are fully committed to your own personal development.
Daily journaling, meditation, and breathing exercises are great ways to connect with yourself, reduce your stress levels, and cultivate a deeper sense of gratitude for your daily life. This is because these reflective habits allow you to zoom out and shift your perspective away from what you don’t have so you can appreciate what you do have. These practices also help you to sort through any difficult issues that need to be handled in a caring and mindful way.
Hobbies and sports are also great habits to shift your focus back onto yourself. Whether you choose to take up soccer, guitar lessons, or painting, the activity should be something that consumes your focus and elevates your mood.
With consistency, structure, and dedication to your own progress, other people’s lives will slowly fade away from your consciousness as you will be completely enraptured in the joy of your regular activities.
Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.