All Articles Tagged "comparison"
I nervously fidgeted in the hard classroom chair. It was finally my first day of graduate school and my professor had just requested that each student stand up, one by one and introduce themselves as well as the business that they would be looking to develop during their time as an MBA student. After apprehensively scanning the room, I gulped. Every student sat confidently and poised as if they had it altogether. I swore my rapidly beating heart could be heard by everyone in the room as each student spoke of their business plan with assurance that it would change the world of media as we know it. After hearing business idea after business idea I realized that not one student was working on anything even close to what I was working on. Failing to realize that this was a gift instead of a curse I quickly made an appointment with my professor, hoping to pick her brain to see if I should shift gears and change direction of the company that I was seeking to build. She quickly reassured me that I was fine and that many successful and unique businesses were birthed out of our program. “Don’t allow what everyone else is doing to cause you to doubt yourself. One student has absolutely nothing to do with another, it’s like apples and oranges,” she said to me before shooing me out of her office. I learned a valuable lesson that day.
We all face the temptation to compare ourselves to those around us, it is human nature. It is sometimes how we measure our own progression, successes, and failures. While this may be a natural behavior, it isn’t always a healthy one. Making a habit out of trying to appraise your own self-worth by paralleling your life against that of another can be detrimental to your mental and emotional well-being. This behavior will often place one on the road to feelings of unhappiness, inferiority, inadequacy, failure, envy, and a host of other undesired emotions. Living in the age of social media, with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which give us the ability to voyeur into the lives of others with the mere click of a mouse, only intensifies the ever present temptation to compare. We’ve all sat in front of the computer at one point or another and while innocently scanning through one of our social media timeline’s, have come across a distant (or close) friend’s major life announcement that has caused us to question the place in which we are in our own lives. Whether it be a graduation announcement, a sonogram photo, new business venture, or a relationship status update, and so on.
So here’s the thing, one of the most enthralling things about life is that we were all created to be individuals. No two people are exactly the same. We all move at our own separate paces. Consider your life an unfinished work of art. How can it ever be considered a masterpiece if it is a mere copy of something else? Dr. Judith Orloff, author of Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life said it best in an April 2012 feature she wrote for the Huffington Post, “ Your life is explicitly designed for your own growth. Every person you meet, every situation you encounter, challenges you to become a stronger, more loving, and confident person.”
Social comparison can be a pretty difficult habit to break because it comes so naturally, but here are some things to remember that may help you out along the way:
1. You are one of a kind. There is literally no one walking this earth quite like you.
2. Life isn’t a competition so pursue what makes you happy in a pace that you are comfortable with.
3. Remind yourself of how wonderful you are.
4. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem to others.
5. Realize that you won’t always be the best at everything and that’s okay. Try focusing on beating your own best score instead of someone else’s, it will help measure your growth in a healthy way.
6. Be grateful for what you do have and what you’ve already accomplished, instead of harping on what you don’t.
7. Realize that everything that glitters isn’t gold. Just because a person appears to have it all on the outward doesn’t mean they actually do. You’ll never know a person’s full story until you’ve actually walked in their shoes.
8. It is cool to learn from the successes and failures of others, but don’t dwell on them.
9. It is impossible to keep up with the Joneses! They can’t even keep up with themselves.
Sometimes, I wonder if I would lead a much more satisfied life if I deactivated my social media accounts — Twitter and Facebook especially.
Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. What I don’t love is the power it can wield over my mood when I least expect it.
I first noticed this phenomena during my Senior year of college. I was having a great day, rushing through classes and looking forward to meeting my best friend for lunch. I stopped by the school library to print off a term paper and mindlessly clicked through Facebook. There on my newsfeed was an old classmate posing in a picture with a guy I had recently stopped dating. I could tell from the background that they were at a popular mall in my hometown and I was absolutely devastated. The picture was nothing in and of itself – just two people standing side-by-side smiling. It wasn’t clear why they were taking a picture, when the picture was taken or who took it. Unfortunately for me, the facts surrounding the photo were largely left up to my wild speculations. Obviously, I could have assumed they were old friends who bumped into each other at the mall and decided to take a picture. Instead, I decided they were on a date, probably one of many, and that he was in love with her and not thinking about me anymore. My mood went from 100 to 0 in about 45 seconds and whatever conversations I’d planned to have with my best friend at lunch that day were totally eclipsed by my need to talk about the picture and figure out what it meant.
Another (decidedly less emotional) instance happened only a few months ago. I had just run four miles straight – my longest distance ever. Breathless and excited, I shared my feat with my Twitter followers. As soon as I pressed send, I scrolled through my Timeline and came across another Tweeps status announcing: “Just ran 10 miles. Easy Saturday” and my entire countenance fell.
Those instances are only two of the (way too many) times I’ve allowed what I read on social media to make me feel bad about my own life. Enamored by other’s success and blessings, I either minimize or completely forget about my own.
Twitter and Facebook are great tools to keep up with friends, hear about the news, complain about poor customer service and talk to the occasional celebrity who tweets or Facebooks back, but it can also be detrimental to self-esteem and personal satisfaction. At least, this is true in my case. Some days, I find myself scrolling through my Timeline or looking at my Facebook newsfeed and playing the comparison game: I just got married, but she passed the bar; or she got a promotion at work, but I lost ten pounds; or I got an iPhone but he got an iPad, the list goes on and on. Of course, there are no winners in the comparison game. The only result is to be repulsively bitter or impossibly vain…or both at the same time. Still, it is a constant struggle to keep from playing this lose-lose game.
The thing is, Facebook and Twitter are basically platforms for everyone you care about (and don’t care about) to broadcast their lives. And, besides those people who don’t seem to have a single good thing to say about themselves, most people only announce the positive. The amount of grandstanding on these sites is incredible. Everyone does it though, including me. I get annoyed by all the “I just got my Master’s/JD/Doctorate!!!” shrill graduation posts, but have no problem tweeting about having #TheBestHusbandEver. I don’t Tweet or Facebook to promote envy in anyone else, but it can be hard for me not to let other’s posts promote envy in me…even when (especially when) I don’t know the Facebook friends or Twitter followers in real life.
I think the key to not letting social media get the best of me is to use it in moderation. When I do use it, I need to practice self-awareness and resist viewing everyone as some sort of competitor in the “Who’s Happier, More Accomplished, and More Likely to Succeed in Life” contest. Just as I know that I tend to post positive things and glaze over the negative, others tend to do the same thing and just because someone is having a great day doesn’t mean I’m having a horrible life. Further, I’ve found that if I am focusing on the things in my life that I want to improve and taking the necessary steps to improve them, then I will be less inclined (and have less time) to look around on social media to see what everyone else is doing.
What do you think? Do you compare your life to those you follow on Twitter or friend on Facebook?
Alissa Henry is a freelance writer living in Columbus, OH. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaInPink
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