How to manage the stress of social comparison

The stress of social comparison has been exacerbated in the modern age, especially as social media platforms increase our point of comparison and hold us to impossible standards.

Often the most talented, wealthy or beautiful are the ones who have the platform to share it.  How do we manage this comparison?  How do we learn to feel adequate and content in our own lives, all the while acknowledging that this ‘perfect picture’ is anything but real?

Particularly for many young people to not compare themselves to others at times can feel impossible.  At the flick of a finger they have access to seeing what is happening around the world; in the lives of others, who is seeing who, what they’re wearing, how much they earn, how thin they are or large they have become over time, who they’re dating and how much they’re worth.

The internet can be our greatest friend, but also our greatest enemy.

Social comparison theory explains that individuals assess their own personal and social worth based on how they see themselves stacking up against others.  This social comparison can be seen as a light-hearted sense of looking at what others have, and they don’t, but for some it can be a dangerous activity – by comparing themselves to others, they run the risk of feeling deflated, less than, inadequate.

We will always find people wealthier, more attractive, more likeable, more capable and, by this social comparison, overly competitive and biased, judgemental attitudes towards ourselves can form.

When you find yourself envious of what someone else has, and feel jealous, inferior or inadequate as the result, you’re experiencing negative social comparison.

Habitual negative social comparisons can cause a person to experience greater stressanxietydepression, and make self-defeating choices.

According to Psychology today, research shows that people who regularly compare themselves to others often experience negative feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt and remorse and engage in destructive behaviours like lying and eating disorders.

Getting over social comparison

  • Often this comes as we mature, when the feelings and thoughts of others impact us less. When we start to realise that our life journey is what we make of it and as long as we are happy within ourselves, our sense of self and worth is all that matters.
  • You are a unique human being who is not the same as anybody else. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time.
  • Think about the positives you have – the great family you have, the kind and caring friends you have who care for you and your health.
  • The job you enjoy and find stimulating and the people at work with whom you enjoy.

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