The comparison game.
It’s as old as time and a normal part of human cognition. Society trains us to compare ourselves to others, and the rise of social media hasn’t helped in decreasing its effects. With advancements in photo editing and filtering technologies, the perfect pose, and the ever-present need for new content, we tend to focus on artificial highlight moments that we see and read on our screens. This makes it all the more difficult to feel completely secure in who you are and your decisions. Even with the knowledge that what you see on social media is likely not someone’s actual daily life, it still tends to impact the image that people have of their own lives.
Since comparing yourself to others is so common, developing a system to help you do self-check-ins from time to time is essential. Self-check-ins will ensure that comparing yourself isn’t causing blows to your self-confidence but rather inspiring you to reach your full potential.
Effects of Comparing Yourself to Others
When it comes to comparing yourself to others, there are two potential scenarios:
You Compare Downwards
You’re observing someone and coming to the conclusion that you are doing better than them. This observation can feel very uplifting, mainly when you’re basing the comparison on something you’ve worked hard to accomplish.
Unfortunately, comparing downwards can have its own adverse effects and is actually shown to lead to sadness and concern just as often as feelings of relief and gratitude.
You Compare Upwards
You’re observing someone and coming to the conclusion that they are doing better than you. This isn’t always bad, but it’s crucial to your psyche to know where to draw the line. Sometimes, comparing yourself to someone else can inspire you, enabling growth and opening your eyes to new ways to improve yourself. It can also be living proof that your goals are achievable, pushing you to try harder.
Alternately, comparing upwards can very often be destructive. You are seeing the exact goal that you want to achieve being excelled by someone else can be a deterrent when your progress isn’t as far along as theirs. This can often make you feel less than or even cause you to spiral into questioning your capabilities. When you compare yourself to others, you only see a snapshot of what it took to get them to where they are in that moment of comparison.
The System of the Self-Check-In
Comparing yourself to others is almost inevitable, so it’s a great idea to have a system to check in with yourself that gives you the time and space to become fully aware of how you’re feeling.
“How old is this feeling?”
Sometimes, when you compare yourself to others, you begin to think and feel negative about yourself. You may not know that these feelings often aren’t brought on for the first time in that exact moment of comparison. Thinking things like, “I’m not good enough” or “I could never do that” are typically caused by events that happened throughout childhood and are now coming to the surface after being triggered by comparing yourself to others.
When these derogatory thoughts come up after you’ve compared yourself to someone else, ask yourself how old you feel at that moment. Do you feel like a child? A teenager? Possibly a young adult? Learning to pinpoint the age you feel when these thoughts come up can lead you to the event of when these feelings first came about, helping you to realize that they’re not true.
Gain Awareness of Your Thoughts
Start paying attention to what’s happening when you start playing the comparison game and try to avoid similar situations. For example, when scrolling through social media, do you compare yourself to others? Is there a particular person that puts you down? Are you in a particular area or doing a specific activity when you usually find yourself starting to compare?
It’s not possible to avoid every situation that triggers you to start comparing but gaining awareness of your thoughts will help pinpoint the things causing negative feelings to arise.
Think of Your Past as a Benchmark
Truthfully, we can’t accurately compare ourselves to others because their starting point differed from our own. The only person that you can really compare yourself to with any meaning is yourself. Remember the person you were five years ago, one year ago, or a month ago, and notice where you’ve progressed and how. Using your past as a benchmark can help you put into perspective just how far you’ve come and remind you that you are capable of the things that you want to accomplish.
Using the process of self-check-ins is done by allowing yourself to feel vulnerable with yourself to the extent that your feelings can rise to the surface. You may not feel progress after the first time practicing, so continue to be patient with yourself and don’t give up. If you need more guidance to overcome comparing yourself to others or practicing self-check-ins, reach out to me to schedule an appointment. I’d love to help.