Nowadays, you can witness the ins and outs of just about anyone’s life. You can view pictures on social media, watch a video sent on Snapchat, or even tune in to a reality show of your favorite celebrity. But what do you really know of his or her real story? We form opinions of others’ lives from what we see or hear, all the while not knowing their full narrative. Or maybe you have the details. You know how much money they have or the things they have acquired. You’ve heard all about how amazing their jobs are. How great their husbands treat them. You feel a pang of jealousy because you hate your job, you can’t remember your last date night, or you can barely afford to pay back your student loans.
One of the hardest things to do is to stop comparing yourself to others. It is like a reflex. You see yourself in relation to others because it is how you initially form an idea of being a person. Comparative thinking starts when we are children. We begin life as a blank slate and learn how to act by mimicking those around us. They mirror back whether a behavior is desired. Our caregivers slowly allow us to have more freedoms, to test our limits. We then leave home and are on our own. We learn even more about ourselves and the world. A major challenge in life is how we become mature in our thought process and form our own identity—what most people call a sense of self. But it remains difficult to hear our own voices and form our own conclusions when for so long we mimicked others and did what they told us. We were concerned about how others viewed us. It is so easy to elicit only the information that you want to perceive. You see the aspects of others’ lives that you appreciate, not the full story.
You see her hot husband and adorable children, not the mother with cancer. You see her thin and shapely frame, not her dead-end job. You start to take snapshots of everyone’s story and create an ideal, leaving out negative aspects. If you are not careful, continued social comparisons can cause self-esteem issues and lead to anxiety or depression. Social comparison has become more frequent in the digital age, with the ability to get a front-row seat at the show of information that people want to give.
It is time to break the cycle of social comparison. All humans are created equal. Take away money, beauty, and the appearance of happiness, and you will see that all people have strengths and weaknesses, highs and lows, and insecurities. Having things or achieving goals does not make anyone immune from tragedy or mortality. You do not know anyone’s internal struggles other than your own, so don’t compare your worst to someone else’s best! Don’t get me wrong—you can be inspired by others. Comparing is evaluating or measuring yourself against others, whereas inspiration is looking to the outside for motivation or encouragement. Inspiration is a beautiful thing as it often leads to positive change or stimulation on the inside.
The only person you need to evaluate is the person you are today, to analyze whether you are moving in the right direction. Celebrate your own personal successes, and learn from your own mistakes. The more time you spend looking outward, the less time you have to look inward. Use your precious time to learn about and develop yourself.
Your journey is unique. Your story is your own.
Now go and live it!