10 Ways to Let Go of Unhelpful Social Comparisons

I find it often comes up in counselling sessions that clients have been comparing themselves unfavourably to others and that this is affecting their mood and self-image. Studies suggest that as many as 10% of our thoughts involve comparisons of some kind. Often these are comparisons with people that we think are better than us in some way, and usually people we know, such as family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Evaluating ourselves against others tends to make us feel inferior, envious, guilty, remorseful, and ultimately dissatisfied. These painful feelings can contribute to low mood, anxiety and depleted self-esteem. Letting go of comparisons can help us to feel happier and enjoy life more fully. 

Unfortunately social media has amplified the comparisons we make, as it gives us access to so many more acquaintances to compare ourselves with, so much more information about what they are doing and tends to show us the most positive highlights of their lives.

Comparison is a fundamental human impulse and part of our common humanity. We naturally compare ourselves to others and care about what people think, our reputation and our status. These qualities have helped us to survive as a species. However, it is worth trying to minimise the detrimental impact of comparisons on our wellbeing. Here are a few ways to lessen its hold over you:

  • Remember that you are comparing your private experiences to someone else’s external appearances. Although it may seem like their life is perfect, they probably have some vulnerabilities or struggles that you don’t necessarily know about.
  • Notice when you have slipped into making comparisons and name this thinking e.g. “ah, there goes the mind making comparisons again”. Then try to place your attention back onto what you were doing before this started. Mindfulness can be helpful for recognising comparative thought patterns when they start and being able to step out of them.
  • Focus on your own journey. Instead of comparing your skill in a certain area to someone else’s, consider how much you have improved at this skill over time.
  • Consider what really matters to you. For example, if you are comparing your earnings to someone else’s and feeling inadequate, contemplate how important wealth is to you in relation to the compromises you might have to make to achieve it e.g. health (it’s hard to think of many high earning jobs that wouldn’t be stressful) and living where you want to live (think how few high earning jobs there are in rural locations).
  • Notice what you’re aspiring to be when you make a comparison e.g. when you’re thinking someone is better at a certain activity than you, how could you improve at that activity and what could you learn from the way the other person does it. Commit to making the regular effort needed to get to where you want to be.
  • Contemplate what you admire and appreciate about the people you are comparing yourself with, and endeavour to cultivate joy in their success. Make the choice to be happy for the person rather than envious.
  • Focus on the good things in your life rather than where you feel a lack. You could start a gratitude journal or it can be helpful to bring attention to what we have that some of our ancestors didn’t e.g. clean running water, electric lighting, etc.
  • Develop and maintain a stable sense of self. Be authentic and nourish relationships with people who see you for who you really are.
  • Learn to be compassionate with yourself when you find something more difficult than someone else. Acknowledge how many different factors there are that have shaped how successful you are and that most were not in your control.
  • Limit time on social media and use it in a way that helps you feel more connected e.g. by sending private messages, sharing or commenting on posts rather than passively scrolling.

If you would like to explore any of the issues raised in this article further, I offer integrative counselling in Exeter city centre, Newton Abbot and online. I also provide Mindfulness Courses and Compassionate Mind Training

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close