The guy down the hall who got a promotion. The friend who always gets a table at the hottest restaurant in the city. The former roommate who takes the best vacations. Sure, you’re happy for them, but with people posting only the best parts of their lives on Facebook, it’s hard not to compare yourself to others.
Facebook and Twitter bring social comparison to a whole new level. "Social media is basically social comparison on steroids," says Ramani Durvasula, a Los Angeles-based licensed clinical psychologist and psychology professor at California State University.
People showcase the most aspirational version of themselves on social media—new houses, expensive dinners, exotic vacations. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others in order to learn how to behave and gauge societal expectations, but this becomes problematic when it feeds low self-esteem or causes anxiety, says Durvasula.
It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap online. "What you don’t see are the same things you don’t post about yourself: fights with loved ones, family drama, insecurities, problems at work," says Heidi Nazarudin, a Los Angeles-based style and success blogger at thesuccessfulstyle.com. If there’s someone she envies, say, a blogger around her age who seems more popular, Nazarudin makes an effort to get to know that person. "Once you reach out to someone and slowly become friends with them, you learn more about their strengths and their weaknesses, which makes them more human and relatable," she says.
So, how do we stop comparing ourselves? For starters, limit the amount of time you spend on social media, suggests Kelly Daugherty, a Chicago-area marketing consultant and co-owner of Smashing Golf & Tennis, a women’s line of athletic apparel. "Don’t compare your Chapter One with someone else’s Chapter Twelve," she says.
It’s important not to compare your work-in-progress to others who are farther along in their journey, warns Amita Patel, founder of Aligned Holistics, a New York-based coaching services company. "Realize that the comparison [you’re making] is not about the person, but a tool to tell you what you want in life," she says. "You need to set goals and use others to inspire you."
Instead of comparing yourself to others, re-focus your energy on what matters to you, says Sally Anne Giedrys, a Portland, Oregon-based career coach. "The more we pay attention to others, the less we are grounded in ourselves and what matters to us," she says. "It can be fueled by a lack of purpose, direction, or commitment within our own lives."
Giedrys recommends trying to meditate or sit quietly, allowing negative thoughts to come and go, instead of creating stories around them. "When you’re grounded in who you are and what matters to you, comparisons aren’t as attractive a distraction," she says. "You’ve got stuff to do."