Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: The comparison epidemic
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
I believe there is a “disease” going around – the disease of COMPARISON. In fact, from many of the statements made to me in therapy, I would say it is bordering on becoming an epidemic! Are you one of the victims of this disease?
Consider: You know those people who are in our circle of influence who have more … more money, more acclaim, more looks, more power? In reality, the spike of envy they trigger is natural, but beyond that, we honestly can say that social media is primed to amp it up.
It’s easy to get sucked into the social media trap – where the sheer number of “friends” and “likes” can seem to signify “proof” of a person’s worth. It has become especially easy to compare self to friends, colleagues and people from the past (all of whom are your “friends” on social media), and the resulting feelings of inadequacy are turbo-charged because of this tool that feeds comparison like nothing else in our history.
Of course, not all comparison is bad. In fact, it actually can be helpful! When you are inspired by a friend’s achievement, when you are motivated to action by an affinity to a friend’s accomplishment, all can lead to a self-proclaimed “jump-start” to improve one’s own life! Additionally, when your own abilities and accomplishments are just a notch above someone else’s, this can boost your self-esteem!
Negative comparisons, however, can leave a person feeling chronically inferior or even depressed. Thoughts hatched and reinforced proclaim, “I am less than …”, “I have less than …”, “I will always be less than …”
Whew, this negative self-condemnation can get so powerful it is like a tsunami of degradation and insults! Face it! Those on social media tend to paint a heavily skewed picture of their lives – peak experiences and flattering news that are like a “highlight reel” of their lives.
Our own danger comes from concluding that these flattering and aggrandized posts are complete truth rather than seeing them as they are – a narrow, distorted slice of reality that is almost perfectly constructed to make viewers feel deficient and discouraged.
Remember, though, that comparison is a fundamental human impulse – there’s really no way to complete shut it down, in my opinion. Therefore, we must be acutely aware that rarely are there completely accurate displays of the circumstances of one’s life on social media.
For example, we may view a friend’s post of his/her romantic seaside vacation as picture perfect – the handsome and beautifully tanned bodies, the toes in the white sand beaches, and the leisure act of reading a significant piece of literature under a big umbrella with a fruity drink in one’s right hand!
What we don’t see are the flaws – the babysitter’s call to say one child is vomiting and the other hit his head on an open drawer, the dog peed on the carpet and one of the fish died in the aquarium.
Perhaps we need to filter what we see and hear! Mostly, however, I believe we need to remember our Creator – He left nothing to chance when He formed you (and me). And always realize that He only creates masterpieces!
So how can we heal the disease of comparison?
Water Your Own Grass! When we compare ourselves to others, the grass ALWAYS looks greener on the other side of the fence. No! No! No! The grass is greener where YOU water it!
Detox from Social Media! Take a break and, instead, engage in real relationships! Investments WILL pay dividends!
Turn Comparison into Inspiration! Instead of falling victim to the green-eyed monster, be inspired to be more, grow more and ultimately love yourself more!
Be the Author of Your Own Story! Instead of your focus being on others’ “stories and adventures,” write your own! Your story is uniquely and wonderfully YOU!
Yes, we obviously need to filter what we see and hear! Mostly, however, I believe we need to remember our Creator – He left nothing to chance when He formed you (and me). “His works are wonderful.”
You are Beautiful – in His Eyes!
You are Accomplished – by the skills and talents He has given!
You are Worthy – after all, He made you!
You are Loved – by the Creator, Himself!
You are Special, Unique, Prized – by Him!
Social media is likely here to stay. Unless filtered, it can steal your value and worth, and it can cause uncertainty, self-degradation and COMPARISON! Let’s take a stand, join hands and say, “No!”