Self Comparison: The New Mental Health Epidemic

As a therapist, I pick up quickly on what is a healthy behavior for clients, and what is a harmful one. The most harmful behavior to date is comparing ourselves to others. An example of this can be drawn from anyone who is sitting on their lunch break and scrolling through Instagram or Facebook to catch up on the world. The first thing you see is a beautiful model, perfect hair, flawless tanned skin, and advertising the latest beauty product, sitting in bed and wearing a t-shirt that says ‘I woke up like this’. And the danger is, is that our minds drift to what we look like in the morning, we compare, and come to the conclusion that ‘we’re not good enough’, when in reality, the model in the picture, has been in hair and makeup for 3 hours before the picture was taken, but that becomes our reference of ‘what we should look like’ in the morning, and so the self-hatred begins.

This scenario is a true story for many of us. It's human nature to compare. In its purest form, comparing ourselves to others can motivate us to improve. However, the dark side emerges when we use it as a benchmark for what we think our life should be. And we do it all the time.

Perfection is an illusion

The problem with social media is that people only put up the best version of themselves. The glorious vacations, the enviable professional accomplishments, the perfect children and spouses we see on our friends’ Facebook pages are just one sliver of their real lives. A friend may proudly announce the publication of their new novel, but conceal the 12 rejections their manuscript received before being published. That perfect family picture doesn’t show the family argument they had the night before. The perfect selfie doesn’t show the hour it took, just to get one that they felt ‘good enough in’, or the time they spent criticizing themselves before they got the perfect shot. The problem comes from when we compare our behind the scenes to others highlight reels. In the case stated at the beginning of this blog, The negativity begins when we start pinning our happiness with ourselves on how we measure up to others.

We have no idea what the context is around photos. So without that backstory, we see life for the people in the ‘perfect photos’ as easier and better, and we are stuck believing that we have mediocre existence. If we knew others’ whole truths, we might not feel so inadequate when comparing ourselves to their carefully crafted public images of "perfection."

How do we stop self-comparing?

Self-comparing can be healthy; when we compare ourselves to us. Compare yourself to who you were last month. What have you learned? What could you improve on? Constantly compete to be a better you, because no amount of consistent effort will ever make you into another person. Complete with yourself to be the best you, you can be because no one can do you, better than you.

Jessica Leigh