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The Mental Impact of Comparison

Every time you scroll through social media, it’s filled with photos of people who seem to have it all. A friend always has the best memes, funny one-liners, and more “likes” than you have followers. A coworker boasts about their latest promotion and bonus, and it feels like you never receive recognition for a job well done. According to Twitter, your neighbor has a social life and travel itinerary to die for, and couch surfing feels like your only weekend outlet. 

Comparison is a trap of the mind, heart, and soul that has a significant impact on your mental health. When envious feelings take root and consume your thoughts, they can lead to depression and anxiety. However, there is some good news: If you feel envious from time-to-time, you’re not alone—you’re normal.

Feeling envious of others is 100% normal, but it can challenge those in fragile mental states. When comparison becomes all-consuming, negative self-talk can happen or you can revisit destructive behaviors of the past. We can never completely isolate ourselves from experiencing envy. However, you can begin to understand how comparative thoughts lead you down jealous paths. It’s possible to stop comparative thoughts before they start. Only then will you be thankful for what you have in your life rather than what you don’t.

Social Comparison Theory

In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger developed a theory about social comparison. At the heart of the idea is one’s innate need to look out for themselves while protecting their interests and assets from what the mind perceives as threats. Measuring ourselves against others is a double-edged sword. It may inspire you to do more, achieve more, or even be more. Yet there’s a fine line between using it as motivation to improve your life versus wallowing in what you believe your life is missing. Comparison can be damaging to your self-esteem and can also ruin relationships you care about.

How to break the habit

There’s more than one technique to defeating jealousy. Here are a few ideas you may find useful:

  • Be aware – Because the act of comparison is natural, it can begin taking over your mind before your awareness kicks in. Become conscious of these thought patterns. When you’re on the lookout for these feelings and emotions, you’ll notice when they begin.
  • Stop! – Once comparison, negative self-talk, or degrading thoughts fill your head, stop. Don’t let them take over. Take a moment to acknowledge your feelings, then shift your mind away onto something else.
  • Count your blessings – Our lives are filled with lucky stars. Count them. Remind yourself that blessings abound and choose to see them. Focus on what makes you unique, healthy, and prosperous. Be proud of who you are and what you’ve overcome.
  • No one’s perfect – Perfection is an illusion. We all have issues we’re battling. Your friend who seems to have it all together has problems too. Be okay with your imperfections.
  • No more judging – Belittling someone else to make yourself look better is destructive for your relationships and only hurts you. Stay focused on where you want to go, not the path of others.
  • Love yourself – If envying what others have is your sole focus, your desire to accumulate more, or be more, will never be satisfied. Having a closet filled with clothes, accolades on the shelves, and driving the fastest car will not fill your life with contentment. Only loving yourself can do that. 

Valley Oaks knows when people in recovery focus on the wrong things, it can derail progress. If you’ve put actions into place, such as avoiding social media and avoiding situations that bring comparison, yet feel like you still need help, let our team of professionals know. Remember, another person’s success in life never diminishes your accomplishments. We’re all in this life together.

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