Monday Musings….The Only Person You Should Compare Yourself With
Recently, I had the privilege of spending time with a group of 25 teen girls talking with them about some of the issues they face in this culture that seems to be bent on destroying their confidence in who they are as aspiring young women. Youth are constantly bombarded with images, messages, Facebook posts, and reality television shows, that make them believe they just don’t measure up. According to Pew Research in 2018, teenagers spend an average of 9 hours online a day and according to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Mental Health Survey, 5 hours of that is spent on social media. It’s no surprise then, that how young women define themselves is a reaction to what they allow to fill their head space. It’s no wonder that many of them struggle with anxiety and depression.
When we hear the social media stats, it seems that the innocence of childhood is being stripped away at younger and younger ages as they start to believe that the opinions of others means more than what they believe about themselves. I mean how can they live up to the expectations of perfection that is staring them in the face 24/7?
Bottom line – we live in a comparative culture, and the promoters of this want you to believe that there is no escaping it. And this magnetic lure doesn’t stop at the age of 18, it continues well into adulthood. How many young women, stay at home moms, or women in the workforce struggle with feeling inadequate in comparison with their peers? A lot! It often becomes their obsession and motivation to out-organize, out-decorate, out-exercise, or out-Pinterest their peers. Women somehow feel the need to telegraph: “Look at me! Look at me! I’m better than you. I’ve got it more together than you. Don’t you wish you were me?” This is what we did as little kids, trying to get attention and approval, and we based our self worth on that.
But now, you’ll read a blog or see an Instagram post and instantly feel jealousy, inadequacy, and defeat. It creates such a cyclical effect. You’re on a high from personal accomplishment, followed by a low that someone else does it better; then rebound to a high connected to your efforts, to a low when someone comments or ‘shames’ you for what you look like or what you’re doing. It’s a pretty demoralizing way of going through life.
At the end of the day, it is a waste of time and mental energy to get sucked into the world of social comparison. How can something that makes you second guess your skills, intelligence, parenting, or professional goals help move you forward in life? And yet, many will complain that you can’t escape it.
Yes, you can.
First, limit the time spent on social media. 9 hours a day is more than the allotted time for a shift in most jobs, and yet that’s the length of time some people are feasting online. This is not only unproductive use of your time, it’s unhealthy, filling your mind with images and ideas that will more than likely make you bitter and not better. If you can, eliminate it all together, and you may pleasantly surprised that the heavy burden of comparison might actually be lifted.
Second, consider who is influencing you. That might mean unfriending or unfollowing certain people. If you want to avoid getting sucked into the vortex of dissatisfaction with your life, stop listening to those whose agenda is self-promotion at the expense of other people’s emotions.
Third, take a dose of realism. Everyone has issues. Everyone has flaws. Facebook shouldbe called Fakebook because most people post things that put them in a positive or popular light. Catch that person when the kids are screaming and it’s day three of sleep deprivation and you’ll see a whole other story. Take off the photo filters and remove the make-up and people look way different than you imagined. Case in point, my daughter recently used the aging app and sent me what I’ll look like when I’m old, showed it to a friend and she said I look like that now. True story 😊
Fourth, stop the pity party. Comparison really fuels this. It’s pretty common to become resentful of what others have or the way they look, and feel sorry for yourself. “Why them? Why not me?” The end result is that you don’t feel like you’ll ever measure up. Your focus is on wanting what other people have and believing that will buy you happiness. It won’t.
Fifth, find your why. Now I can tell you, you won’t find it on the internet. It won’t magically appear as you are scrolling through someone’s Snapchat story. All of us were placed on this planet for a purpose. You are uniquely designed with gifts and talents specific to you. There is a reason you are here, in this moment in time. You might be a great listener, an amazing piano player, you’re amazing with children or the elderly, you enjoy knitting. The list is virtually endless, but think of what you enjoy and secondly how that gift can impact other people in a positive way. It doesn’t need to be monolithic or glamorous, it just needs to be something that you realize has the potential to make a difference in one other person’s life. You weren’t placed here to be an island with only one inhabitant, you’re here to provide something that social media thinks it’s offering but never can. When you find your why, you have no need to compare. You’ve got better things to do with your time.
So, if there is any comparison to be done, it’s with yourself. When you wake up ask yourself: “Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Am I growing and changing in a direction I want to go? When I've failed, can I get back up and try again to get closer to who I want to be? Can I do that today?” Note that none of those questions relate to how you measure up to other people. Your greatest competition isn’t with your social circle, it’s with yourself!
This song perfectly captures how to break the chains of social comparison!