How many times have you been feeling pretty good about life, and then you went on a scroll through social media that sent you into a tailspin? Everyone out there appears to have more of what you want – they’re prettier, richer, happier than you are. This, my friends, is the comparison trap.
We’ve all been there. One minute you’re feeling good about your living situation and then you drive through a wealthier neighborhood. You love your car, until your friend pulls up in a new one. You were all excited about that road trip, until you see pictures of your coworker on white, sandy beaches – frosty beverage in hand.
Comparing ourselves to others can take the shine off the things that we are happy about and it can leave you feeling envious or depressed. If you feel like you “won” the comparison it might make you feel better than or smug – which isn’t a good look on anyone.
While the rise of social media has made it possible for us to compare ourselves to others on a global scale, keeping up with the Joneses is a tale as old as time.
The thing is that your grass doesn’t get any greener if you’re busy looking at what everyone else has. You need to get to work and water your own lawn if you really want any of those things they have.
Regardless of whether you’re willing to work for what others have or if it’s just a fleeting moment of envy – comparing yourself to others is at worst mentally damaging, and at best a waste of time.
You’re not just going to stop comparing yourself to others over night – it’s likely an ingrained habit you’ve had for years. But by taking some of the steps below you can catch yourself doing and turn it around so you can get on with YOUR life.
AVOID YOUR TRIGGERS
Learning to avoid the things that cause you to start the comparison game in the first place is more than half the battle.
Spend some time thinking about what makes you start feeling envious in a depressing way. If looking at pics of the vacation your friend went on motivates you to work that much harder, then that’s not a trigger for you, but if you just feel depressed about your situation afterwards – that’s a trigger.
For example, I don’t really care about luxury cars or fancy clothes. I can walk past Burberry and Coach stores without even caring to glance inside. But if we start driving through a really nice neighborhood, I’m likely to come out feeling depressed.
If I start rationally thinking about it, I don’t want an even bigger house than we have (if we’re being honest I don’t have the time to take care of the one we have), and I don’t want to buy more things to put in it either. But something about seeing those big, fancy houses gets to me on a visceral level that I can’t explain.
That’s what I’m talking about here. Triggers are things that you may not even understand but that affect you on a deep level in a way you can’t seem to control. It could be social media in general, or a certain person that brags all the time, walking through a luxury store, looking at expensive cars or houses. For me, I can’t even watch those luxury house hunter shows without getting bummed out. So I don’t.
Figure out what those things are for you, and avoid them. If social media is a big one for you, check out this post to help you detox from it.
Speaking of social media….
DON’T COMPARE THEIR HIGHLIGHT REEL TO YOUR EVERYDAY
For the most part we only share our best moments on social media. We might laugh and joke about how we’re hot mess moms too, but I don’t see a whole lot of us showing pics of our sinks overflowing with dishes or the inside of our junk drawers.
When you start to feel depressed or envious about what someone is showing on social media, remember all the parts of their life that they’re NOT showing. That vacation might have been paid for by 2 years of hard work sitting in a cubicle next to someone who hums off key all day and with a boss she hates. Or that “overnight success” you saw has actually been hustling with little pay off for the better part of a decade before she actually got a break.
Remember that just because they’re not sharing the hard times, everyone has them. It’s just that most people are unwilling or uninterested in sharing the not-so-spectacular parts of their lives.
MONEY DOESN’T BUY HAPPINESS
Growing up in a capitalist society, this concept is so difficult to believe. We’re programmed from the beginning to believe that more is better and that we’ll only be truly happy if we are part of the 1%.
But happiness doesn’t come from being popular or having money or things. If you doubt this fact take a look at the recent string of celebrity suicides. While some of them may have been known to have been depressed, others come as a complete shock. Even close family and friends had no idea how much the person was hurting because they seemed to “have it all”.
If you’re chasing what others have because you think it will make you happy, think again. Comparing what you don’t have to what they do is a double whammy. The comparison will bring you down and then if you do get what they have, you might find it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
For more info on what does actually bring sustainable happiness, check out this post.
COME BACK TO GRATITUDE
One of the things that research comes back to again and again is that gratitude is the way to turn any negative thought pattern around.
When you find yourself caught in comparing yourself, stop what you’re doing and think of the things that you already have that you’re grateful for. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about the topic at hand, unless that is what helps you the most.
Thinking about those things that you are truly, deeply grateful for changes the chemistry in your brain and helps improve your mood. Plus it will help break you out of the downward spiral of comparison so that you can step away from the situation that caused it and go do something better with your time.
USE COMPARISON TO MOTIVATE
As we’ve established above, the things that other people have aren’t going to make you any happier – so what good can come of comparison? If the person that you’re comparing yourself to is full of wonderful, positive traits that you want to emulate – then that can help motivate you to be better.
You might feel envious of or depressed by someones car or house or status, but I doubt you would feel those negative things if you wanted to be as generous or kind as someone.
If you find yourself getting caught up in the worldly possessions of a person, switch your thoughts to the good traits do they display that would you like to have. Would you wish to be as kind, generous, hard working, skillful as they are? And if you can’t find any good behaviors or traits in a person, is this really the life you would want to have anyway?
ONLY COMPETE WITH YOURSELF
No matter who you are there will always be someone out there that is wealthier, more successful, has more followers than you. As we’ve established, little good can come from comparing your life with theirs. Your life, your history, and who you are, are you unique to you and comparing any of it to another is unfair to you both.
What can help motivate you, though, is comparing yourself with yourself. Striving to be a better person than you were yesterday can help keep your eyes on your own paper. This will help you actually feel good about your progress instead of sucking away those good feelings by comparing your progress to someone else.
If you’re struggling to focus or make progress in your own life, please contact me. Coaching can help reclaim your time and energy so you can get what’s important to you.