Breaking the Comparison Trap: How Comparing Yourself to Others Can Hurt Your Mental Health
Comparison to others is an inevitable part of human nature. It is natural to compare ourselves to our peers, colleagues, friends, and even strangers. We are constantly bombarded with images of people who seem to have it all together, whether it's the influencer on social media with the perfect body or the colleague who always seems to get the promotion. However, while comparison can be motivational and inspire us to work harder and achieve more, it can also have a negative impact on our mental health. In this blog post, we will explore how comparison to others affects mental health and what can be done to mitigate its negative effects.
Comparing ourselves to others is a common habit that often leads to negative self-talk, self-doubt, and feelings of inadequacy. It is easy to feel inferior to someone who appears to be more successful, attractive, or talented than we are. Social media exacerbates this problem by presenting an idealised version of people's lives, creating a distorted reality where everyone seems to be living a perfect life except us.
Comparison to others can also cause anxiety, stress, and depression. When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we become fixated on our shortcomings and failures, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness and despair. It can also create a sense of competition, making it difficult to form genuine relationships with others and eroding our self-worth.
Furthermore, comparison to others can lead to a fear of failure and a reluctance to take risks. When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we may become afraid to pursue our goals and dreams, for fear of not measuring up. This can lead to a lack of self-confidence and a sense of paralysis, which can have a significant impact on our mental health.
So, what can we do to mitigate the negative effects of comparison to others? Here are some ideas below:
1. Embrace Your Uniqueness
Instead of comparing yourself to others, embrace your uniqueness. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and that's what makes us who we are. Instead of trying to fit into someone else's mould, focus on what makes you unique and celebrate it. Maybe you're great at art, or you have a fantastic sense of humour. Whatever it is, own it and be proud of it.
2. Flip the Script
When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, try flipping the script. Instead of thinking "they have it all together," think "I wonder what struggles they might be facing." Remember that everyone has their own challenges, even if they don't show them on the surface. By reframing your thoughts, you can shift your focus away from comparison and towards empathy and understand that no one has their sh*t together.
3. Gratitude Can Help
Another way to combat comparison is to focus on gratitude. Instead of focusing on what you don't have, focus on what you do have. Maybe you have a supportive family or great friends. Maybe you have a job that you enjoy or a hobby that brings you happiness. By focusing on gratitude, you can shift your perspective and feel more positive about yourself and your life.
4. Be Aware of Social Media
Social media can be a breeding ground for comparison, so limit your time on these platforms or unfollow/mute accounts that trigger negative feelings. Limiting our exposure to social media can help us avoid the comparison trap and focus on our own lives, especially if we are experiencing dips in mental health. It can also be really helpful to understand that people mostly only share their 'highs' on social media and not necessarily their 'lows'.
5. Practice Self-Care
Finally, one of the best ways to combat comparison is to practice self-care. Take time to do things that make you feel good, whether it's going for a walk, taking a bubble bath, or curling up with a good book. When you take care of yourself, you feel more confident and self-assured, which makes it easier to resist the urge to compare yourself to others.
6. Set Realistic Goals
Setting goals for yourself can be a healthy way to motivate yourself, but make sure they are realistic and achievable for you personally, not based on what others are doing. Focus on personal growth. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your personal growth and progress. Take steps to improve yourself and your life, rather than focusing on how you measure up to others.
7. Celebrate Your Successes
Celebrating your own successes is important for building self-confidence and motivation. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem. One way to do this is to take time to acknowledge and reflect on your achievement, treat yourself to something special, or share the news with people who will support and encourage you. By conciously reflecting on your successes, you may be surprised to see how far you have come in your own life.
8. Practice Self-Compassion
Be gentle and compassionate to yourself. It's okay to fall into the comparison trap now and again and feel low about it. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling low, see it as chance to practice being kind to your mind and body. Take care of yourself as you would a dear friend. Remember that everyone has their own struggles and challenges, and it's okay to make mistakes or have setbacks.
Breaking the habit of comparing ourselves to others takes time and effort, but with these tips, you can start to shift your mindset towards self-acceptance and appreciation for who you are.
If you need a little but of support to shift that negative inner voice to a more positive one, I'm hosting an online event with yoga + journalling here.
Hope you are being gentle with yourself always,