It’s almost inevitable that at some point you’ll compare yourself to other people in your life. Careers, finances, and relationships can be frustrating when it seems like everyone else is reaching important milestones—enrolling in grad school, snagging promotions at work, getting married, etc.—while you’re stuck treading water.
If you find yourself huffing why can’t it be me? after seeing a friend’s exuberant status update announcing her wedding engagement while she’s vacationing in Tulum with her hot boyfriend (who’s a pediatrician, naturally), it’s totally understandable. A recent study in the Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking journal found that Facebook use was associated with lower self-esteem, poorer mental health, and greater body shame. In fact, those that quit Facebook immediately experienced a boost in life satisfaction and positive emotions.
To be clear, comparing yourself to others isn’t inherently a bad thing. Feeling a sharp pang of envy can put you in touch with your inner desires. If you’re mooning over your friends’ successes, maybe you can direct some energy into improving facets of your own life.
But if your envy isn’t a useful emotion, and you truly feel like your life isn’t measuring up to those around you, there are ways you can snap yourself out of it. We asked therapists, life coaches, and financial whizzes what you can do to shake off those feelings of inadequacy.
Unfollow and Refocus
Are you obsessed with all 5,000 fashion bloggers you're following and feeling bad about yourself because you can't afford to wear a new outfit every day? If that's the case, unfollow them! Unfollow anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself for any reason. Or, just limit your use of social media. Don't check it ten times in a hour. Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to where you were yesterday. Compare yourself to where you were a year ago, five years ago, even. Stay in your own lane, think about your own goals, and focus on achieving them. That's a lot more productive than focusing on what everyone else is doing. —Kayla Buell, Founder, Gen Y Girl
Comparison is not always a bad thing. Comparing yourself to others helps us to keep reaching for our goals and not settling for mediocrity. It becomes unhealthy when it is being obsessed over daily and is prohibiting you from living your best life in the here-and-now. Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can only control your life, not the life of others. Ultimately, you are wasting precious time focusing on other people’s life than your own. —Kiaundra Jackson, LMFT, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Rewire Yourself and Say Thanks
As soon as you catch yourself comparing yourself to someone, replace the habitual thought (“So and so is so much [fill in the blank] than me”) and replace it with a helpful truth. For example: “So and so is [beautiful, rich, popular etc] but I don’t know what the rest of their life is like. They surely have struggles I don’t know about.” Another trick you can use when tempted to compare yourself to others is to catch yourself in the habit and instead think of something you’re grateful for. If you focus on what you don’t have, you’ll feel frustrated and envious. If you focus on what you do have instead, you’ll feel so much more content and less tempted to compare. —Dr. Susan Biali Haas, Wellness Expert, Life and Health Coach
Be a friend. Ask how someone else is. If you have a friend whose life always seems perfect, make a point to connect with them in person. Talk to them about how their life is going. In most cases they will share the truth, which may be a lot more “real” than you perceived. People have breakups. People have career setbacks. People have boring lives sometimes. But it’s not the kind of thing people show (or should) show publicly. Be a real friend and you will get real info and feel a lot more like you are the same level playing field as everyone else. Everyone has something, trust me. Also as a quick fix, meditate. I use the Headspace app. — Bobbi Rebell, Certified Financial Planner and host of the Financial Grownup podcast
Answers have been edited and condensed.
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