Comparing Yourself to Others

outward_longingSummer: wedding season and a time when people are traveling and posting fabulous pictures of themselves in exotic places. Summer can also be a time when it’s easier to get caught up in comparing ourselves to other. Whether we are wishing we were the one getting married, wishing we had the money to take an amazing trip, or wishing our plans to get our bodies right by the summer had worked out, there are ample opportunities to feel like the grass is greener in other people’s yards.

Comparing ourselves to others can start by simply perusing Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to keep up with what’s going on in our friends’ lives. While looking at the beautiful images, the fun events, the weddings, babies, and fabulous trips, it’s easy to start to feel like other people’s lives are better than ours. This can create subtle feelings of discontentment even though it is not likely that your life is significantly different from the lives of your friends. One challenge with letting go of comparing ourselves is that it makes us feel good when our lives “look better.” However, most of the time the highlight reel of other people’s lives seems better than the ups and downs of our own life. Ultimately, comparing ourselves leaves us feeling good only temporarily and generally discontent. Below are my suggestions for avoiding the trap of comparing yourself to others and increasing contentment with your life.

Remember that you’re seeing the highlight reel of other people’s lives 

We don’t see all aspects of other people’s lives on social media. We usually don’t see pictures of middle of the night feedings for newborns, the fights between newlyweds, or the stomach problems that come from eating in foreign places. These are realities along with the wonderful things that happen in people’s lives yet without explicit reminders of the challenges that everyone faces we can start fantasizing about how wonderful her life is and how much better our life would be if it were just like hers.

When you are scrolling through social media sites watch your thinking, try to let go of thoughts that someone else’s life is more amazing than yours or that they are happier than you. Also, try to avoid negative judgments about people based on their posts; even though these judgments can make us feel better momentarily they are part of the larger comparison problem. See if you can focus on feeling happy for other people and not think about whether they are better or worse off than you are. Remember that while people in your news feed are experiencing wonderful things they have probably also experienced their share of hard things too.

Focus on the wonderful things in your life 

It’s easy to focus on the positives in other people’s lives and the negatives in our own lives. I encourage you to actively look for positive experiences in your own life. Try to pay attention to the small things in addition to the big things. Some small positive experiences that are easy to overlook are having time to read for pleasure, spending time looking at flowers in a garden, catching a beautiful sunset, or talking to a good friend. One way to do this is through starting a gratitude journal where you write down things that you are grateful for every night. Another way to fully absorb the wonderful things happening in your life is to make an effort to notice and be aware of things that you experience. If you are always texting or on your phone you may be missing some great moments.

Limit your time on social media 

If you are finding yourself increasingly discontent with your life and feeling like everyone else’s life is going better try limiting the time you spend on social media. This will give you more time to actively engage in your own life and help you spend less time comparing your life to others.

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