In our lives we are constantly surrounded by images designed to – in some way, shape, or form – make us feel badly about ourselves. Advertisements, sponsored content, diet information – all of these things are created with one purpose: to tell us that there is something missing from our lives, and that by buying this product, supporting this company, or trying this diet, we can achieve actual happiness. The world around us is designed to make us feel inadequate, and as a result we are constantly comparing ourselves to those around us. We do it when we look around at other people at the gym, when we scroll through instagram, even when speaking to those we love about successes in their lives. There is a constant desire to measure up to the same ‘achievements’ that others have accomplished, whether that be their body, their income, or their relationships.
But this constant competition is hard, it’s unhealthy, and it can have devastating affects on our relationships with others. Luckily, life in competition is something that we learn, and so it’s also something we can unlearn. By being intentional about our thoughts and our actions we can limit how much we compare ourselves to others, and instead live authentically as the people we are and realizing who we have the potential to be.
- Insides and Outsides
It’s been said many many times, but it is so unfair to you to compare your ‘behind the scenes’ with other people’s ‘highlight reels’. What people choose to post on social media is crafted specifically as something they want others to see, it is part of an image of themselves they curate for the consumption of others. And this is not inherently negative, we all do this rather naturally, wanting others to be proud of our accomplishments and share in our joy. But it’s important when scrolling through social media that you take a step back and remember that people post what they want others to see in the way that they want them to see it. Social media can be a great source of inspiration, but when it starts to trigger feelings of inadequacy and frustration, then it might be time to rethink the way you interact with it. I regularly go through my ‘following’ list and make sure that all accounts I am following are ones that I feel add something positive to my life. I make sure that I am controlling my social media, not the other way around.
2. Envy as a wake-up call
When I find myself feeling jealous and as though something about myself has to change as a result of seeing an aspect of someone else’s life, I know that it’s time for me to re-evaluate how I measure my own worth. This happens fairly regularly as a result of sponsored work-out videos appearing on my social media pretty much every day. I see these videos and feel like I need to push myself harder, eat differently, or change my habits. But when I feel these things I know that acting on them will not create the change I truly want, instead I see these feelings as an opportunity to reflect on why I shouldn’t be using these aspects of life as indicators of my worth. How much I exercise and what I choose to consume are not things that make any difference in how worthy I am of love and acceptance.
3. Recognize what cannot be compared
To compare something is to quantify it. There are so many aspects of life that I have found myself and others comparing that cannot be quantified in a meaningful way. The strength of a relationship, the depth of a friendship, the meaningfulness of a job, the magnitude of one’s happiness. These are things that people cannot (and should not try to) measure and compare. When you find yourself comparing these things, take a step back and think about what you are using as indicators in these measurements, look at the flaws in those measurements.
4. Comparison as a habit to break
Once comparing yourself begins, its not something I’ve found that goes away naturally. It becomes a state of mind that you remain in, no matter what you accomplish or how much time you put towards ‘improving’ your life in an attempt to live up to unrealistic expectations. As long as you are in this ‘competition mindset’ you will feel inadequate for the rest of your life; there will always be something else to be envious of in those around you. With only one life and one persons actions that you are in control of, to compare yourself consistently to others means that you are putting energy towards analyzing others lives rather than your own. Your energy is better spent working towards getting out of this mindset and finding fulfillment in your life rather than searching for ways to make your life better than someone else’s.
5. Notice yourself
Finding joy in your own life is actually much easier when you start actually looking for joy in your own life. Stop discounting yourself, diminishing your accomplishments, and refusing to accept compliments. Invest in yourself, in your confidence, and in your abilities to make yourself happy. This also means finding validation not only from others noticing your accomplishments, but finding validation in the accomplishments themselves. Be proud of your successes, learn from your mistakes, and recognize your worth from who you are.
“I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” ― Erica Cook