Entering my twenty-first year on planet Earth with an honorary degree in being single isn’t so easy. Even the first month of it was already filled with news of engagements, new relationships among friends, and a guy I had a teeny tiny crush on having a girlfriend. Jokes on me. It is, even more, overwhelming in social media like Instagram when I see all these lovey-dovey pictures and captions about couples’ undying love for each other. Some days, I win the battles with my overthinking mind and give no space for comparison with other people that ultimately leads to feelings of despair. Some days, I don’t and it feels like all hope I have for love is forever lost.
Upward social comparison is what we usually do. It means that we compare ourselves with someone who is doing better than us in a certain something that leads us to feel bad about ourselves and have our self-esteem threatened. However, it is not like comparison is only specified to our love lives like the example I gave above from my experience, but we compare ourselves to others in almost all aspects and this has some detrimental consequences on us. But before knowing what should be done to stop comparing, let’s try to understand why we compare in the first place.
Social psychologists say that we compare ourselves to others because there is no yardstick to measure and evaluate how good we are at something. There is no ruler to measure how much talent you have in singing or how successful you have become in your career. Thus, to know where we stand in our quest to be better, we compare ourselves to people around us. We also think that other people are highly informed than we are. Thus, in times of confusion and dilemma, we always look at the stand of other people to understand and decide for ourselves.
Regardless, the explanation above doesn’t in any way lessen the negative impact such comparison with other people have on us. But, it does pave the way for acceptance which is the first step towards stop comparing ourselves with others. Our struggle to accept how we are and where we are at the moment is what prompts us to compare. To accept is to know and understand that everyone has a different journey to go through and a different race to run. Relating to the example above, most of the time I lose the battle to my overthinking mind because I don’t completely accept how and where I am now. Instead of being grateful for all the blessings in life that I currently have, I crave for what doesn’t exist in the now, a relationship. The craving for more than what is, that lacks acceptance creates the need to compare me with others and cry over my miserable non-existent love life like a baby. When in reality I should accept how things are at the moment to cease comparison and focus my energy on achieving my goals. When there is true acceptance of the difference in journey and goals, someone else progressing better in some aspects of life wouldn’t bother me so much because I have a different set of priorities. This is how I win over the battles with my overthinking mind on glorious days.
However, we have been comparing ourselves with others all the time to the point it has become a habit in us where we perform it without even thinking about it. The negative side of this upwards social comparison is amplified when materials and information that triggers our comparing habit are becoming saturated in this digital world of ours. For instance, people who have a hard time accepting their physical appearance as it is and have their self-esteem threatened with societal standards of beauty constantly seek to compare their looks with what’s considered to be beautiful, feel sorry for themselves further. Social media has made it even easier for this to take place as photos with the best make-up, the most perfect angle, and the most flawless body shapes are being shared online. Not forgetting airbrushing that takes place. Another way to stop comparing ourselves with others is to remove what you consider to be triggers for comparison to happen from your online world. Don’t hesitate to unfollow any accounts that trigger self-doubt and self-hate from comparing yourself with what is considered to be ideal and indirectly put pressure on you to meet expectations. Countless pages promote self-love and self-acceptance that can uplift your spirit and confidence into accepting yourself completely as you are.
This goes the same for all the other non-physical appearance-related content too. Instead commit to follow and share content that is aligned with your goals and aspirations, which functions as a motivation for you to work harder towards your goals. It is important to acknowledge that this is applicable in your offline world too. Remove people from your circle that constantly put you down and derail you which prompts you to compare yourself to people who are better and feel bad about yourself. Instead, surround yourself with people who also have the same mindset and energy to lift you to chase after your dreams.
It is only human to compare. But it is not okay to just leave something as it is when we do know it’s wreaking havoc in our lives sometimes. Acceptance of what is and cleansing our online and offline world of comparison triggers helps to stop comparing ourselves with others and also ultimately helps us focus more on achieving our goals. However, it is unwise to completely make the habit of comparing with others the bad guy because comparison does have its benefits and positive purposes to fulfill. But I guess that is content for another article.
Jananie Chandrarao is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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