How to get out of the comparison trap
“I’m not ______ enough.”
Rich, skinny, nice, cool, smart, put together, the list goes on and on.
So many of us fall into this “not enough” trap, constantly berating ourselves for not being a certain way. The more we beat ourselves up, the more down and despondent we feel. This is a form of practicing meanness to ourselves, and we do it far too often.
One of the major triggers for this “not enough” trap is social media. We mindlessly scroll through images and videos of people’s well-manicured, perfectly clean, happy, luxurious lives, and we compare ourselves and our situation to their’s, resulting in depression, anxiety, sadness, jealousy, or just plain old ungratefulness.
If we’re not careful, comparison to others’ curated social media lives and our own tendency to beat ourselves up for “not being ______ enough,” can drain our time, energy, and life force.
Here are 6 ways that you can step out of this social media trap and refocus your energy in a positive direction.
1. Notice your triggers; avoid those triggers.
The first step is noticing what type of content triggers your feelings of “not enoughness.” For me, seeing beautiful photos of perfectly chic women traveling the world really brings me down. For others, maybe it’s celebrities, weight-loss “inspiration,” athletes, “perfect” moms, comedians, or any other number of Instagram pages one can find.
Once you identify the type of content that gets you down, you have several options. You can unfollow the accounts, delete the app from your phone for a little reset, or even delete your account. Maybe you unfollow anybody whose profile doesn’t fill you with authentic joy and curiosity. Take charge of the media you consume!
2. Do not compare your insides to other people’s outsides.
Social media makes it so easy to compare how we feel to the way that other people look, but I’m here to tell you that you can’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Social media is curated and designed to look in a very specific way. Try to remind yourself that behind those perfect vegan cupcakes and six-packs is a person who may be dealing with a very painful and real reality—just like you.
You don’t know what’s going on for a person just based on how they appear, so challenge yourself when your brain automatically fills in a story for that person.
3. Practice gratitude for everything you already have.
Take a moment each day (bonus points if you write it down) to think of a few things that you are grateful for. Taking the time to notice and reflect on the things you’re grateful for can prompt more positive emotions, better sleep, more compassion, and even better immune system functioning.
Shift your perception to notice the abundance that is already in and around you. What we pay attention to in our brains is what we see more of in our life. What seeds are you choosing to water?
4. Stay in your own lane.
Keep your eyes on your own paper and focus on doing the best you can with what you have. There are endless ways to continue nourishing ourselves, even in the tiniest ways. Look inward at your own goals and passions and gently direct your energy there instead.
5. Differentiate yourself from others.
Let yourself be different. You don’t have to look like, be like, live like other people. What works for some folks may or may not work for you. Celebrate what makes you perfectly imperfect. Tend the embers in your soul and watch your fire grow.
6. Use envy.
Finally, jealousy can be a great teacher. It can show us what we want and what we are seeking. Notice when feelings of envy arise and direct that internal energy to a goal that you have. If we see ourselves grow envious of someone traveling, notice how you can incorporate more adventure in your life, even if that’s just taking a new route to work or reading new books.
Remember, you don't have to be like anyone other than yourself. Who you are is wonderful enough!
Charlotte McKernan is a couple and individual therapist in Fort Collins, CO.