With social media announcing every friend’s promotion, latest holiday, house purchase, engagement or wedding, it can sometimes lead us to feel inadequate about our own lives especially if we feel we’re ‘falling behind’ in life.
But the comparison game is a dangerous one. The pressure to keep up with how other people are living their lives compared to our own, can leave us feeling depressed and takes away the focus we have on our goals and our own unique life path.
Why Comparing Ourselves with Others Is Problematic
If comparing and measuring ourselves with others brings the tendency to make us feel ‘less-than’, why do we put ourselves through it?
According to the social comparison theory  fundamentally, we’re social creatures and we have an overwhelming need to understand ourselves and our place in the world. This includes those around us and especially our closest peers.
Social comparisons are separated into two categories – downward comparison (comparing yourself to somebody worse off than you) and upward comparison (comparing yourself with those who are perceived as better off than you). These two can both create problems with how we view ourselves.
While downward comparison may seem like a way to make us feel better about ourselves, it actually means we’re tying our confidence and self-esteem to the misfortune of others. It also causes us to focus too much on negative aspects of people rather than seeing the whole picture.
And, of course, upward comparison can allow us to feel motivated and inspired but our negative minds tend to sway towards fuelling envy or unrealistic standards. This means we overlook the complexity of our own lives and focus on the ‘highlight reel’ of somebody else’s.
Most of the Time People Don’t Really Care, They’re Just Curious
The other problem with comparison is that, although we may not have the habit of comparing ourselves, others can have the tendency to point out how we’re doing compared with others.
Whether it’s making the choice to not get married or have kids, or what career path we’ve chosen to follow (or not follow), there will likely be someone who has an opposing opinion and perspective on it. This can potentially lead us to self-doubt and even contemplating changing our decisions.
But we have to understand the importance of focusing on ourselves because others’ perspectives are limited and based on their own opinions and experiences. Much of the time it can be pure curiosity rather than having true intentions to guide us. This is why it’s paramount to tune out these unneeded opinions and just focus on what you want your life to look like.
How to Block Out Distracting Noise and Focus on Yourself
If scrolling through social media leaves you feeling down, insecure, and inadequate or you just want to stop caring about the ‘helpful’ opinions others like to force on you about your life, then there are ways to shift your perspective and lead a much happier life in the process.
Create a Clear Roadmap of Your Life
In order to be more confident in your decisions and therefore be strong enough to dismiss what others say, creating a roadmap of where you want go and how you’re going to get there, will bring more stability and less insecurity. By doing this, you will care much less about what other people are doing in comparison, or what they think about you.
Create a list of goals, note where you are now in relation to them (with no negative judgement) and write out an action plan for how you can achieve them. You can make a one week plan or a one year plan – whatever you feel comfortable with on any subject – and you’ll start to feel a sense of moving forward.
Do Some ‘All-Round’ Self-Improvement
Self-improvement is a wonderful way to focus on ourselves but often we tend to self-improve when the chips are down in certain areas of our lives. For example, if we want to improve our health, we may start to eat better and exercise more.
However, it can lead us to ignore other areas such as work, learning or relationships. Focusing on more than one area will create a feeling that we’re establishing abundance overall which, in turn, will stop us from feeling lack and causing us to compare one area of our life to someone else’s.
Write out a list of how you can improve each area of your life – perhaps learning something new for a dream job, an exercise routine to get healthy or improving your social skills in order to make new friends. Do a little bit at a time for each area and you’ll soon grow more and more confidence in yourself and where your life is heading.
Remember That Everything Takes Time
We’re often made to think that certain life goals must happen by a certain time but it doesn’t always work out that way (this is when the comparison game can be at its strongest!) Try not to focus on specific time-frames and understand that you’re always on your path to where you want to go.
People go along their own path at different speeds and that’s okay. Make peace with where you are, find all you can to appreciate your life no matter how small your successes, and believe that you will achieve your goals and dreams in your own timing – timing that’s best for you and no one else.
|||^||Sage: A Theory of Social Comparison Processes|