We are social creatures who all want to belong. The catch: a side effect of this tendency is that we often consciously and/or unconsciously size ourselves up in relation to those around us – in fact it’s nearly impossible to not do. Whether it be our social media feeds, those we see on our favorite tv shows, or our coworkers – we are bombarded with reference points that give us a sense of how good, pretty, accomplished, etc. we are (or are not). Talk about a mental health mindfield!
Don’t believe me, let’s try an experiment. Which of the following middle circles is larger?
Did you say the right one? You are not alone, but the actual answer is they are the same.
The right circle seems bigger only because the reference points are smaller circles compared to the surrounding circles on the left image.
As the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy. Want to get nerdy? Read this study suggesting happier people avoid social comparison more.
Here’s four tips to combat our hardwiring to find yourself more happy, productive, and present in your day to day:
- You do you! – Use your energy to focus on what you have, not what you do not. It’s easy to forget how great our home, partner, car, job, relationships, or anything between are. Practice some gratitude to appreciate who you are and who you are becoming.
- Life is a Journey – Life is a journey and the best reference point is yourself. Instead of viewing yourself as “behind” or “ahead” of others – recognize that everyone has a unique path, with no one being better than the other.
- It is not a zero sum game – Just because you like a personality trait of someone else doesn’t mean you cannot also exhibit that trait. This isn’t a game of musical chairs where there are a finite amount of chairs to sit in.
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness has been shown to provide multiple benefits. One in particular is to bring us to the present moment and help us reset our reference points to a more helpful place.
All in all, social comparison can be a gnarly little brain trap that more often than not makes us feel bad about ourselves. By recognizing this tendency, and implementing some simple strategies, you can fight social comparison and accept the wonderful person you are.