Seriously. Your mental health will thank you.
Here’s the thing- comparing yourself to other people is one of the biggest blocks to your personal growth. There’s a reason the saying ‘comparison kills’ exists. Measuring your own growth, progress, and successes against the growth, progress, and successes of other people is detrimental to your well-being, no matter who you are and where you’re at in your personal development.
We all know it, and yet so many of us still do it. There’s not always an easy answer as to why comparison is such a difficult habit to break, but learning to end comparison is one of the best things you can do for yourself (and your mental health).
I’ll start by saying that I still struggle with comparison sometimes. As someone who’s just starting to begin adult life, it’s easy to look around at my peers and try to measure my own life and choices against theirs. I didn’t take the path that most people my age choose; I decided to work instead of go to college. I’m incredibly lucky to have found an opportunity to start working somewhere I really enjoy at eighteen with no prior experience in that field, and I’m really excited to learn more and see where it leads me.
But when I see people posting about their new sorority on Instagram, or watching Snapchat stories of people having fun in their new dorm rooms, or talking about how much they love their school, I find myself comparing myself to them and wondering if I made the right choice. Even though I have a totally different set of circumstances in my life, it can make me feel doubtful about the choices I’ve made when I see my peers living out the life that I would be leading too, if I hadn’t taken a different path.
There’s two things that I have to remind myself of:
What someone posts on social media isn’t the whole story.
This one is huge for anyone who struggles with comparison and has any sort of social media account. Most people only broadcast their good moments on social media, and avoid posting about their bad ones. Some people do both, but as a general rule, what you see on someone’s profile is a curated version of their life.
Social media is about the image you portray, and most of us want to keep our image positive and attractive to other people. Scroll through a friend’s Instagram, and try to take note of what you see. Chances are, most (or all) of their pictures are going to be related to something positive; a dream trip they took, a college acceptance letter, a group picture of a great night out with their closest friends.
A lot of times, this curation isn’t intentional; people usually aren’t thinking too extensively about what they’re posting, they just want to share their positive moments with people. Each channel of social media is different, too; you’re more likely to find candid, day-to-day posts on Snapchat, while Instagram is usually where people share snippets of bigger life events. But who wants to share the negatives? Unless someone is making a conscious effort to be realistic on their social media, it’s likely that they’re not going to shed much light on the day where they sleep past their alarm, skip breakfast, get a flat tire in the pouring rain, and end up showing up late to class without their homework.
It’s easy to see someone’s social media and think that they have their whole life together, because that’s the image they’re presenting to you through pictures and posts. But remembering that what you see on someone’s profile isn’t the whole story is key. I know a lot of people who seem like they have everything figured out, but very few people who actually do.
People who seem like they have the ‘perfect life’, the people that you’re comparing yourself to, are just like everyone else.
No one is perfect, and everyone has both good and bad moments, whether they present them to the world or not. When you compare yourself to someone (especially when basing it off of what you see on their social media), you’re really just comparing yourself to a curated image of a person, which usually isn’t a realistic version of that person. It’s the auto-tuned, the filtered, the edited version that they want you to see.
And I should note, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to have a certain image or way that others perceive you. We all do it to some extent! It’s not vain or fake or lying to portray a certain image of yourself, whether online or in real life. The challenge we face is to be realistic about what we broadcast to the world.
You don’t have to post about every single detail of your life if that’s not your thing, but being mindful about our image and how other people might perceive us is a step in the right direction. Being unapologetically honest and candid about the little things opens up the door to realistic conversations about bigger issues in our lives and in society. And you never know, you might encourage someone to speak up about something they want to say, or inspire someone else to be realistic about their own image.
Embrace your own journey.
The second thing to remember is to identify the positives in your own life. Your personal growth, your achievements and success, the things you’re proud of. Maybe you’ve conquered a fear, or reached an important milestone, or maybe you’ve just managed to get through a difficult experience. Maybe the only thing you’ve done recently is that you’ve been able to get out of bed each day. Those are all things to be celebrated!
It’s important to remember that we all live different lives with different circumstances. Not everyone faces the same kind of problems, and not everyone has the same definition of success. Not everyone is at the same point in their journey, either. This is where comparing yourself to others can be so harmful to your confidence and well-being. Comparing yourself to someone who’s farther along in their own journey, whether because of age, experience, or anything else, leads to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.
When you see someone who’s reached the same point in life that you want to be in, instead of comparing yourself to them and wondering why you haven’t reached the same goal yet, take a step back and think about that person. Have they had more experience with something that’s helped them get to where they are today? Would you say that their definition of success is the same as your own?
An example of this is art. When I see someone who has an amazing art style, I can’t help but feel that nagging sense of comparison, and wish that I could draw as well as them. But then I have to take a step back and remember that this person probably draws every day and practices the skills they want to improve, whereas I haven’t opened my sketchbook in weeks. Maybe they’ve had more extensive training than I have. I also have to remind myself that while they may be really good at their given style, maybe they struggle more with a different style, one that I’m good at. Different people have different abilities, depending on their circumstances.
So what can you do to break the habit of comparison?
Next time you go to compare yourself to someone, try to think about the things you’re good at doing. Write it down if you have to: list your strengths and abilities, as well as your own accomplishments and things you’re proud of. These don’t have to be huge life-changing things. Just identify the places where you’ve grown and progressed, and whenever you start comparing yourself to someone else, remind yourself of how far you’ve come and the effort you’ve put in to get there.
Then, list the areas where you want to improve, or goals you want to reach. Identify what steps you need to take to get there. Maybe you want to hone in on a skill like art or music; make a resolution to practice often. Maybe you want to overcome a struggle you face; find out what you need to do to get there, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Maybe you want to further your personal growth; read books and articles on the area you want to improve, written by people who have been there and done it.
- Everyone has an image they portray, and no one’s perfect.
- Accept that different people have different circumstances.
- Identify and be grateful for the positives in your own life.
- Embrace and celebrate your own progress, and make an effort to reach your goals.
And if you find yourself getting caught up in the comparison game, don’t beat yourself up over it. Being positive and making change in our lives is a constant effort, and it’s not always easy. Be proud of yourself for putting in the effort in the first place, and have faith that you’ll get to where you need to be.
What do you do to beat comparison? Leave a comment or message me on any of my social media!