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Why comparing yourself can do more harm than good

social comparison

We’ve all been there. One minute you’re posting a Facebook status and the next your falling deep into the Facebook rabbit hole, comparing every life achievement with your friends list.

Then the self-doubt starts to hit. You may wonder why your life is on a different schedule to everyone else. Or how your life doesn’t look anything like the one you imagined for yourself as a teenager.

But is that really a bad thing?

Many people are guilty of falling into the darkness of social media and comparing yourself to others can actually do more harm than good. So why do we persist and how can we stop this habit in its tracks?

Is comparing yourself that bad? 

In one study by Lancaster University, researchers examined studies from 14 countries, with 35,000 participants over the age of 15 to determine if there is a link between Facebook and depression. They reported that frequent Facebook users often compare themselves with others, which can lead to overthinking and rumination of negative thoughts, and in turn, a decline in mental health.

Why do we keep on doing it?  

Social comparison theory says that we determine our personal self-worth based on how we compare with others around us. Due to this, we often evaluate ourselves and others across a range of personal qualities such as attractiveness, intelligence, and wealth.

When used positively, social comparison can be a fantastic tool to motivate and inspire people to achieve higher feats. However, as is shown with social media, our social comparisons can also manifest in subtle negative ways.

Here are three actions you can take to reduce the effects social comparison can have on your feelings and mental health.  

 1. Stop comparing your everyday life to your friends’ highlight reel

This is essentially the same as watching the Oscars or Brownlow red carpet and thinking these men and women look this way 24/7.

Let’s be realistic. No one wakes up looking that good! It takes a lot of time, effort and often a whole team of people. We only have 168 hours in each week. Do you want to waste precious time, worrying how you compare to celebrities or old friends from high school?

2. Remember that you’re unique

One of the biggest issues with comparisons is that they cannot be obtained fairly. We are all unique with our own set of skills, successes and purpose in the world. Thus there is no equal scale in which we can compare ourselves to others.

Instead, consider your unique qualities as strengths and the essence of what makes you who you are.

3. Show gratitude for what you have

It is easy to dismiss gratitude as something unrelated to social comparison.

But what if it was related?

Research by Robert Emmons, Ph.D. has uncovered a relationship between gratitude and feeling satisfied with life. He found that those who view life as a gift that they are thankful for, experienced better mood, stronger relationships, as well as, better health and resilience.

In one study, participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress towards personal goals related to aspects of study, work or health.

Small acts like keeping a gratitude journal, reminiscing about good times, or saying thank you to people who show generosity, can improve your wellbeing tenfold.

We understand how easy it is to fall down the Facebook rabbit hole. Next time you feel yourself slipping, get up, go for a walk to clear your mind and revisit these actions for a positivity boost.