One of the conversations I frequently have with clients is how to manage the negative effects of comparing themselves to others.
All of us do this from time to time and it seems to have become worse in the past few years, which I think is partly the result of social media. We know that Facebook and Instagram give us a biased account of other people’s lives, but we still make comparisons.
It’s worth remembering that the people we follow on social media share the same doubts we do – we just don’t get to see those doubts in their news feeds [click to tweet].
Both in real life and on social media, people share stories about the beautiful and inspiring parts of their lives, not because they’re trying to make others feel bad but because they’re doing what they can to stay positive.
It’s hard not to compare our own sometimes-uninteresting lives and our less than perfect bodies, homes, holidays and outfits with those stories. It’s impossible to just switch off the comparisons we make. They’re part of what we naturally do. However, we can learn to minimise the impact.
Try the following tips to help create a more balanced and emotionally supportive view.
Raise your awareness. When you find yourself making comparisons, notice the buttons that get pushed when your experience is negative. Do you feel irritated, jealous, angry, isolated, lonely, less beautiful or less successful than others?
Name your feelings and soften into them. Name those feelings: “I feel jealous”, “I’m filled with envy”, “I feel alone”, “I don’t feel good enough”, “I don’t feel attractive”. As Tara Brach says in her book Radical Self-Acceptance, one of the most important keys to feeling ok about ourselves is to make room for all of our emotions (even the difficult ones). Don’t push them away, instead pay attention and be kind to yourself as you acknowledge them. Having negative emotions doesn’t make you a bad person.
Watch your behaviour. Often when we feel ‘not good enough’ we do things to numb the pain. It could be having a few drinks, splurging on a credit card, texting an ex-lover, starting a diet or a rigid exercise campaign – or any other unhelpful behaviour.
Take the right kind of action. Instead, choose mindful action. For starters, pay attention to the social media posts that are draining your energy and limit your access to them. Pay attention to the real-life relationships that make you feel ‘less than’ and limit your time with those people or have an open conversation addressing your concerns. Recognise that it’s ok to make comparisons sometimes, as long as you use those comparisons as a source of inspiration to move in the direction of your dreams. Identify small action steps you can take that will help you achieve your goals and genuinely make you feel better.
Seek out your tribe. Seek out people who share your interests and in particular, look for those who interact like you do – from a place of generosity and kindness.