How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
(Photos of me having a mental breakdown about my appearance and my ability to like my face without putting on makeup and posing from a certain angle...)
This past week, I have been spending an unhealthy amount of time on social media, scrolling through Instagram posts and TikToks of people doing amazing things and living what I would consider a dream life. While seeing these types of posts at first motivates me and inspires me, more often than not it leaves me feeling like I’m not good enough, and angry at myself for not being able to achieve what my peers have.
Whether it be starting a business, or reaching a certain amount of followers, or getting a partnership with a brand, all of these achievements seem to come so easily to my friends, while I frustratedly pull my hair out at my inability to get anywhere with my untalented, mediocre self.
At this point in my mental breakdown over all of my shortcomings and failures, my self esteem is crumbling and I completely let my negative thoughts control my actions. You might see me grumping around the house, or being unable to get out of bed, or just procrastinating by watching YouTube videos as an escape from reality.
I’m sure this process isn’t unique to just me - many of you have probably been through similar experiences, where in comparing yourself to one of your peers or someone similar to you has caused you to feel just absolutely terrible about yourself and distressed about your future, if you even have a chance at one.
But what I’ve realized after each breakdown, after each fit of self-hatred and inner turmoil, is that I am also living a dream life for many other people. I am also someone that could make others feel like they aren’t doing enough with their lives. There are achievements that I have been able to reach that made others feel similarly precious and envious.
I’m not saying this because I think I’m actually special or out of the ordinary, but because I am actually VERY ORDINARY. Each and every one of us has things we are good at and excel at. And because of that, there will always be something special about us that others will notice, whether it be a certain talent or aspect of our personality or achievement we have worked really hard to unlock. Trust me, there are a thousand, a million things about you that people are jealous of, even if it doesn’t feel like you’re all that special or worth being jealous over.
I think this really has to do with the way the world has grown to become more interconnected with social media and the internet. We can now easily have conversations with each other, see what others are up to, piece together someone’s entire life story (if we spend enough time stalking their Instagram), and more without ever even having to leave the house. This has in turn created a culture of increased comparison and competition. I believe that Gen-Z is likely the most competitive-spirited generation to date in history, because we are constantly viewing ourselves in context to those around us.
For lack of a less overused example, comparing the amount of likes we get on our posts to those of our friends is something that many of us do without even consciously WANTING to do it - we just do. I sometimes catch myself judging others by the amount of likes they get, or envying those who effortlessly get a lot of likes and comments. These kinds of reflexes honestly scare me, because I don’t want to feel them, I don’t want to constantly compare myself to people I actually like or am friends with, but for some reason I still end up doing it.
If you can relate, I want to tell you that you are definitely not alone. I, as well as many other teens I have talked to, face this type of issue, not just in the singular context of social media, but in almost every aspect of life, from school grades to social popularity to appearance. I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with you, but rather it is a system that we have grown up within that causes this type of behavior. Because we are constantly around other people, even when we are technically alone, we have become accustomed to comparing ourselves and measuring our worth in terms of how much better or worse we are than those around us.
So how can we combat this type of thinking, that will only lead to further negativity and self-hatred?
Well firstly, I want to establish that we can never entirely “fix” this broken system of thinking, unless we entirely leave society and live in seclusion by ourselves. Where there is a community of people, there is comparison and competition.
I believe that the best way to fight against the deadliness of peer-comparison is to believe that you are special. I know, this sounds stupid. In fact, it almost contradicts what I previously said about realizing we are all the same and ordinary in comparing and competing with each other. But even if we are actually the most mediocre, normal person ever, we must still hold the belief that we are special and one of a kind and world-changing. Why?
Because this will give us the confidence we need to change the world. I firmly believe that one can achieve any goal as long as they have enough confidence in themselves and their ability. Everything in this world follows the “fake it till you make it” principal, there are almost zero exceptions. That’s why there are so many people with crazy success stories, going from zero to hero or rags to riches etc. Their ability to hold onto their self confidence and belief in themselves was what allowed them to persist and eventually succeed.
When asked “why do you think you can change the world?”, you need say nothing more than “because I can”.
And most of all, when faced with peer comparisons or competition, this confidence in one’s ability to become great will allow us to get through the worst of it. Instead of having feelings of not being good enough or not measuring up to your peers’ achievements, you must begin trusting yourself and your abilities. You could have also achieved what others have achieved if you put in the same amount of work, persisted the same amount. But you are special. You have your own thing going, even if it isn’t clearly apparent yet. There are so many things that uniquely make you you, that those around you don’t necessarily have. And for that, you should be thankful that just like you cannot copy the life paths of those around you, they cannot copy yours either.
The real danger comes from believing everyone but us is special, and it’s because of their specialness that they are able to achieve everything they can. But on the other hand, we are unfortunately only able to reach up to whatever our mediocre selves can get to before we’d stopped at some invisible limit. If you begin to feel like this, I would recommend re-centering yourself by leaving whatever social media app or conversation or thought that is making you feel that way, and instead reflect on all of the amazing things you have done that make you you. Ask yourself, what am I proud of myself for doing? It can be subjective as well, since tasks that may come simple to those around us might be difficult to us due to context and situation.
For example, it might take a lot more for you to post a photo of yourself on social media than someone else, so be proud that you courageously put yourself out there rather than comparing yourself to those that make a living off of social media or enjoy openly expressing themselves through social media. Since their situations are different from your own, comparing how many likes or comments may be completely inappropriate, and instead measuring how much you felt fulfilled by sharing a captured moment with others is what you should be interested in.
All in all, it is not easy to stop constantly comparing yourself to those around you. So don’t feel bad if it happens, just acknowledge your feelings and do your best to affirm what your heart wants to hear: that you are still full of worth and appeal and specialness!
Never doubt that you are a special person, because that is what will guide you to do things that you wouldn’t usually be comfortable with doing. Oh, the amazing things that self confidence can do to you! It’ll make you a better version of yourself!
That being said, I hope you all will consider this next time you start to feel down about yourself. Don’t lose your self confidence and your belief in yourself! And as always, I write this