How to cure social media comparisonitis (and why you need to)

Do you find yourself often comparing your life with what you see on social media – and finding it seriously wanting? Find out how you can cure comparisonitis, and why you need to.

We live in a world where we’re shown intimate details of everyone’s lives (or at least what they choose to present to the world). We no longer envy celebrities from afar – we feel we know them as we see inside their homes on social media.

We also compare ourselves against friends, peers, colleagues and influencers. Everyone is showcasing their achievements – from exercise to cooking and professional success. And we can feel we’re not worthy or successful if our life and achievements fall short.

But is this healthy? And if not, how can we stop?

What’s so damaging about comparison?

When you compare your life with social media, you’re not comparing like for like. You’re comparing your known, flawed reality to your perceptions of someone’s curated output.

You have no idea of what someone else’s true reality is, whether what you see is true, whether it brings them the satisfaction and true rewards you assign to them, and what help they may have had to achieve it. 

Comparison breeds dissatisfaction. It distracts you from your own authentic goals and robs you of positive feelings of your achievements. It can lead you to altering your direction and distracts you from focusing on your efforts.

Think of it as running a race. Imagine if runners, rather than focusing their energy on the finishing line, look around to see where everyone else is. They’ll start to veer off course as they are not looking where they are going. They’ll run more slowly as they are distracted. And they may even trip up. They risk being overtaken by more focused runners.  

It’s much better for you to focus not on what others are doing, but the race YOU are running. Put your energies into reaching the goals that you have set for yourself, and don’t be distracted by the perceived progress of others.

Social media has a strong hold over us – and it’s dangerous

Social media today is much like watching a TV show, but the danger of social media is we’re not knowingly watching actors or actresses knowingly act a role; we believe we’re observing real people living real lives.

And that gives the people we follow on social media real power. We’re far more accepting of the messages we see on social media – even sponsored content – because we believe it’s being shared by a real person. People who share the intimacies of their lives, posting in bed in their pyjamas, or playing with their children. One study found that 62% of social media users trust influencers more than celebrities.

We feel like we know the people we follow on social media, and we allow them a significant amount of space in our consciousness. Sometimes they can feel more real than the ‘real’ people in your life.

This is where social media can become dangerous for our mental health. The curated world shared by people online becomes what you judge your reality against. And it’s hard to live up to, which can lead to dissatisfaction, feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, and the pursuit of inauthentic goals.

How can we escape comparisonitis?

So how can you escape comparisonitis? To start, it’s important to remember that you don’t know the truth behind someone else’s social media feed. Do you recall the curse of Hello magazine? When celebrities would often split after doing a happy couple photo shoot?

Sometimes people project a happy image because they are compensating for a less happy reality. You don’t really know how someone else feels, or whether the body, home or lifestyle they share is even really theirs. 

Everything that you see on social media is deliberately curated, even the ‘honest’ and raw posts. It’s considered and filtered, sometimes literally – filters have become highly sophisticated today and are easily accessible. Don’t take anything you see or hear on social media at face value.

Curate your feed to cure comparisonitis

The easiest way to cure comparisonitis is to consciously choose not to consume content that distracts you and risks you feeling bad. Unfollow any accounts that make you feel inadequate or envious, and only follow those who make you feel at peace with your life. If necessary, come off social media altogether.

Curate the feed that literally feeds your brain. Follow accounts and people that make you feel good. That inspire you. That help you achieve what you want and feel great about it. And tune out anyone or anything that doesn’t.

And not just on social media – make a decision to edit out anyone or thing that makes you feel bad. Just think about how much time you spend online. Those hours are your reality. And if you fill that time with social media posts and news articles that make you feel bad, you are consciously creating an unhappy reality.

You have far more control over your life and feelings than you realise, and that control can start with what you choose to fill your mind with.

How can you manage negative feelings?

If you do feel something negative, don’t just unconsciously allow it unfettered access to your mind and body – take it out and examine it.

What is that feeling? How does it manifest for you? Can you physically feel it in your body? And if so, where and how does it feel? What’s the feeling connected to? If you feel envy for someone else, for example, why is that? What is it triggering in your own life? Often it’s not really about what someone else has, but what you lack. 

Accept too that life isn’t fair sometimes. People who don’t deserve to do so will sometimes succeed. And bad things can happen to good people. Focusing on that won’t help you. Instead make peace with things that don’t feel right, and try to move on. Focus instead on what you CAN do – something positive that makes your world a bit better. 

Find YOUR dreams and follow them

If you do find yourself envying the lives or achievements of others, take it as a sign that there may be something missing from your life.

Think about what you really envy that someone else has, and what feeling is attached to it. Is that lacking in your life? And if so, what steps can you take to address it? We’ve put together a free Love Your Life Audit that helps you assess where you can make changes. You can get your free copy here.

Make sure you have a full, rounded life and don’t be afraid to make changes to help you feel more fulfilled. Ensure to that you are setting authentic goals and following your passions.

Work out what you genuinely want to do. Who you are. What you want your legacy to be. Then make sure these are your focus, rather than external influences. Plan things every week that are aligned with your authentic self and things you enjoy. 

When you are busy living a fulfilling, authentic life you love, you won’t have the time, energy or inclination to envy the curated successes shared by strangers on social media. And you’ll be much richer for it.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin