Humans are social creatures. We need communities, friends, peers, and colleagues to help us get through life. Part of our interactions as humans involve comparing ourselves to those around us. This can help us understand our place in the world, set benchmarks to help us see what we can achieve, and help us find commonalities and form connections with others. But what happens when we focus so much on comparing ourselves to others that it consumes our time and energy?
Constant comparisons to those around us often leads to unhealthy and unhelpful emotions and can have a very detrimental effect on our mental health. Often, we look to others who are successful and think about why we don’t have the same success in our lives. We typically compare the strengths of others to our own weaknesses. This is an uneven comparison and can only lead to us feeling worse about ourselves.
This, of course, is all amplified by social media. We are all so connected and are bombarded with images, videos, and the statuses of others. It’s constant. Seeing others put their best forward can lead us to think that everyone else is doing so well, while we might be struggling or not where we want to be in our lives. Of course, these are curated versions of everyone else’s lives, and we don’t see the struggles that others may have to achieve their success. This doesn’t matter in the moment though, because the feelings of inadequacy that we can feel are very real.
So what can we do about this? Here are a few things you can consider if you are feeling like constant comparisons to others are bringing you down or taking up too much of your energy.
1. Firstly, try to practice self-awareness
Stop and think about what you’re feeling when these emotions crop up. Is there something deeper going on that is bothering you about your own life? Is it a feeling of jealousy, and if so, why are you jealous? Ask yourself why several times and try to understand what your emotions are about.
2. Focus on your strengths
Take a bit of time and think about what is really great about you, and what’s really good in your life right now. Things are not perfect; trust me, they aren’t for anyone, but I’m certain there are some positives in your life. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Go through this exercise and reflect on it. Let it sink in. Be conscious of your strengths and your good qualities.
3. Don’t try to bring others down
If you are feeling jealous or upset over someone else’s success, return to step one and try to understand what is really happening. But don’t get angry or negative. Just stop and accept the success others are having and the happiness they are sharing. Just take a deep breath and move on. It is not worth your energy focusing on negative feelings about others.
4. Take a social media break
Especially if you are really struggling with this, step away from social media for short periods. This is hard, I know, but try it for small periods at a time. Take a two hour break from checking Instagram and do something you enjoy. Make conscious efforts to not check social media throughout the day. The updates will be there when you do check, you won’t miss out. And it will start to give you some space to focus on yourself without those nagging feelings creeping in.
5. Create time for yourself
In step two you identified your own strengths. Give yourself some time to do the things that you are good at and enjoy. This will make you feel good and is much more productive than focusing on how much better others are than you or feeling jealous.
We need to accept our own strengths and flaws and those of others. Others are better than you at a lot of things. That’s okay — you bring other value. We are all unique and have different things we are good at and different things we struggle with. Your life doesn’t have to be a competition. You are here to learn and grow and share and love, you do not need to be better than anyone else. Try to be at peace with this. This is challenging but worth the effort to work on.
Comparing ourselves to others does serve a purpose, and it’s good to recognize this. But when it starts to interfere with your daily happiness, take a step back and try the steps above. You are in control of how you respond to others’ success and their curated versions of themselves that they share. Take control.