Falling into the Comparison Trap

Have you ever felt pressure to “keep up with the Joneses?” Maybe your child’s best friend’s mother rolled up in the carpool line in yet another brand-new car. Maybe your buddy’s work schedule allows him the flexibility to get to the golf course multiple times per week while you’re “stuck” in the office. Maybe you glance over at the guy or gal on the treadmill next to you at the gym and think that your stomach has never been that flat. As social beings, we do not live in isolation and are constantly interacting with others and making observations. We tend to notice what others have that we do not. Media and social media (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) only enhance our awareness of others’ situations and possessions. We are inundated with advertisements for the best-rated vehicles, images of beautiful people with beautiful bodies, articles about the most effective weight-loss plans and fitness programs, and coupons for the most effective, anti-aging beauty products…just to name a few. Plus, on social media in particular, people tend to post about happiness, fun, and successes, which gives others a limited glimpse into their lives. So, we find ourselves falling into the Comparison Trap.

Constantly comparing our lives, families, jobs, appearances, belongings, finances, etc. to others eventually takes a toll on our own contentment, self-image, and self-esteem. Comparing how we think we measure up to our family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or even complete strangers is stressful, anxiety-provoking, discouraging, and sets us up for failure. So, how do we combat falling in the Comparison Trap? We must first realize that we, as humans, are prone to comparison. We naturally divide our field of vision. We want to know how we measure up, we want to know who’s on top and who’s on bottom, and we want to feel okay about ourselves… important, significant, and worthy.

This is a leftover survival instinct. We need to know who we are up against, and how we are going to meet the challenge of others’ power, success, and accomplishments. For most of us, though, we are not at the lower levels of life’s hierarcy of need. We aren’t in any real physical danger. So, we don’t need to operate out of a deficit model of thinking. What if we HAVE enough? What if we ARE enough? And what if the whole of our lives… the successes, the failures, the struggles, and the beauty, are all worth acknowledging, sharing, and appreciating?

We need to acknowledge that, on social media, we are only privy to select details of other people’s lives; the details that they want to share, which tend to be the good times. We want to be genuinely supportive of our friends and family, just as we hope that they will help us celebrate our successes and happiness, too. So what can we do?

We need an abundance model! We need to know that we have enough, are enough, and can somehow give it away to others. We must turn our focus internal, and invest our energy in working toward our own goals, both personal and professional, instead of expending time and effort comparing ourselves to others. And, we can assess if we truly want something that someone else has…Do you really want to go on that trip to Europe like a friend recently did? Do you really want a Master’s Degree like a co-worker has? What do YOU really want? Ask yourself this question. Not in response to other people’s paths… this is you, and you alone. What do YOU want? Then, pause and consider what steps you need to take to make that come to fruition and start taking those steps… one at a time. This is how you can be empowered in your life. This is how you can take your dreams and aspirations, and do something with them. And they must be YOUR dreams and aspirations, not someone else’s!

If you are looking for someone who can help you stop comparing yourself to others and support you in achieving what YOU really want to achieve, we can help. Our clinicians are awesome; personable, knowledgeable, and accessible. And they truly love what they do and genuinely care for their clients. Reach out to us by calling 303-393-0085 or email us at foundationsfamilycounseling1@gmail.com. We want to support you in going where YOU want to go!

~ Clinton J. Nunnally, LPC & Jennie Tuttle Baughn, LPC