In the age of social media, it's easy to flood yourself with images of people who are more successful, more glamorous or more popular than you imagine yourself to be. While this habit is certainly very popular, it can also easily turn into the voice of internal critic driving self defeat and self doubt.
The Comparison Trap by Rebecca Webber, published November 7, 2017 in Psychology Today, provides background on this phenomenon and offers some helpful strategies for combating the negativity fueled by comparison:
"1. Seek Connection, Not Comparison"Limit time on social media, but more important is how that time is used," says Mitch Prinstein, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina. Instead of passive scrolling, send private messages, talk about shared experiences, seek genuine emotional connection, and use social media in general to "foster the kind of relationships known to be valuable offline."
2. Look Up, Just a LittleDecades of research suggest that upward comparison can provoke motivation and effort; children who compare themselves to peers who slightly outperform them have produced higher grades, for instance. Seeing that the path to improvement is attainable is key—you're better off comparing yourself to someone a rung or two above you than to someone at the very top of the ladder.
3. Count Your BlessingsIf you focus on the good things in your life, you're less likely to obsess about what you lack. Loretta Breuning, the author of Habits of a Happy Brain, recommends engaging in "conscious downward comparison." For instance, Breuning says, compare yourself to your ancestors. "You don't have to drink water full of microbes. You don't have to tolerate violence on a daily basis. It'll remind you that despite some frustrations, you have a fabulous life."
4. Compare Yourself to...YourselfLike the tendency among older people to measure themselves against their own past, Sonja Lyubormirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside and the author of The How of Happiness notes that "people who are happy use themselves for internal evaluation." It's not that they don't notice upward comparisons, she says, but they don't let that affect their self-esteem, and they stay focused on their own improvement. "A happy runner compares himself to his last run, not to others who are faster."
5. Pursue Upward-JoyBased on his own Buddhist practice, San Francisco psychiatrist Ravi Chandra recommends using the social comparison impulse as a springboard for true self-growth. He recounts his own effort to do so in a new book, Facebuddha: Transcendence in the Age of Social Networks!"Instead of generating envy, which is a form of hostility, explore what you admire and appreciate about other people and cultivate joy for their success," Chandra says. "It can be a catalyst for personal growth.""
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