We live in the time of social media and the internet, where, for their own reasons, people feel the need to broadcast their personal and professional lives for everyone to see. From their achievements, relationships, children, cars, vacations, and houses, to simple things like the food they eat. All these public displays can make others engage in social comparisons either online or in real life when they see how perfect other people’s lives appear to be.
If you don’t have the same things or can’t afford them, you may start to feel inadequate and dissatisfied with your life after comparing yourself with others. Since it can result in mental health issues, low self-esteem, insecurities, and loss of motivation, learning how to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction is crucial. But first, what is social comparison?
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- Meaning of social comparison
- Types of social comparison
- Why people compare themselves with others
- How to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction
Social Comparison Definition
In psychology, social comparison is the act of evaluating your life and what you have in contrast to other people’s lives and possessions. It is usually based on the information you have about them or what they present publicly, for example, by posting pictures on social media.
The social comparison theory was first explored in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger as he sought to understand why people compare themselves with others. This theory has become better understood in recent years due to the increase in popularity of social media platforms leading to easier access to information about other people, thus making comparing oneself with others almost inevitable.
Some social comparison examples include comparing your professional achievements, appearance, relationships, material possessions, or family life, with those of someone else.
On the other hand, life dissatisfaction is the feeling of discontent, restlessness, yearning, and wishing you could have a better or different lifestyle than you do currently. Many things can make you feel dissatisfied with your life, one of which is comparing yourself with others. In today’s post, we discuss how to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction in order to be happy.
Types of Social Comparison
There are two types of social comparison you might engage in depending on what you hope to achieve by comparing yourself with others. These are;
- Upward social comparison
This is the type of social comparison that happens when you compare yourself to someone you think is doing better than you. For example, upward social comparison involves comparing yourself with those who are wealthier, have a higher social status, seem happier, are more attractive, or age mates who are married with kids, etc.
Upward social comparison affects people differently. For some, seeing other people’s achievements could serve as inspiration and motivation for self-improvement. They might even consider them role models and use their pictures when creating a vision board to manifest their ideal future. For others, however, engaging in upward social comparison could lead to them developing negative feelings such as jealousy, envy, inferiority, or inadequacy, thus resulting in life dissatisfaction.
- Downward social comparison
This type of social comparison occurs when someone compares themselves with those they think are in a worse situation than them, for example, comparing yourself with a less skilled or unemployed person.
People engage in downward comparison mainly because it makes them feel good about themselves as it reminds them that there is someone who is in a worse position than they are. Read on for the other reasons why people engage in social comparison.
5 Reasons Why People Compare Themselves with Others
Everyone has their own reasons for engaging in upward and downward social comparison. Nonetheless, comparing yourself with others in either of the two ways is a form of self-sabotage as it could make you feel inadequate or dissatisfied with your life. Since you cannot resolve a problem if you do not know what is causing it, the first step is identifying what makes you compare yourself with others.
If you want to learn how to overcome social comparison and become more satisfied with your life, here are some of the most common reasons why people compare themselves with others.
- For self-evaluation by measuring their accomplishments against those of their age mates and peers
- Looking for inspiration and motivation to improve themselves
- Seeking validation about the areas they are comparing themselves with others
- Needing an ego boost to feel good about themselves for their achievements or status, and
- To define themselves.
How to Overcome Social Comparison and Life Dissatisfaction
- Stay off social media
Even though you can compare yourself with people in real life based on what you see and hear about them, social media provides an easier way to engage in social comparison. Almost everyone is on these social networking sites posting things about themselves, thus making accessing the information you need to compare yourself with others easy.
Reducing your screen time or staying off social media is one of the most effective ways to overcome social comparison. You won’t know what is going on in other people’s lives, and they won’t know about yours either.
In a way, by becoming a more private person and not posting about your life, you will protect others who might also be trying to learn how to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction.
- Unfollow/Unfriend triggering accounts
If you don’t want to stay off social media completely, or if you usually use these platforms for work, you have to find other ways to overcome social comparison. Identifying the social media accounts that make you feel this way and then unfollowing, unsubscribing, or unfriending them is one way to avoid comparing yourself with others or feeling dissatisfied with your life.
Doing this will reduce your exposure to content that makes you feel inadequate or behind on things and grow.
- Focus on your growth
If you pay too much attention to other people’s achievements, you are bound to feel inadequate and dissatisfied with your life. You will under-appreciate your own accomplishments and feel like you are too small in comparison or be demotivated to keep working on yourself. Additionally, you might burn yourself out trying to get the same achievements someone else has.
When learning how to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction, however, you have to focus on yourself and your growth instead of others. Acknowledge that everyone goes at their own pace, and your dreams will come true eventually, no matter how long it takes. Nevertheless, achieving your goals and making your life extraordinary will only be possible if you stay focused and keep working on improving yourself.
- Practice gratitude
If you often compare yourself with others, you will never feel fulfilled. There will always be someone who is doing better than you because no one’s life is perfect in all areas. In the process of social comparison, you lose sight of all the wonderful things you have in your life. Instead, you focus on what you don’t have and wish you had the same things someone else has, making you dissatisfied with your life.
Practicing gratitude by appreciating and being content with what you have can be helpful when learning how to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction. As Oprah said,
Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.OPRAH WINFREY
- Reframe your thoughts
Your thoughts can determine how good or bad you feel about yourself or your achievements. If you usually feel inadequate or dissatisfied with your life after comparing yourself with others, reframing your thoughts is another great way to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction.
You can reframe your thoughts by using affirmations and positive self-talk to remind yourself that you are good enough and to be content with your life. For example, you could practice affirmations for manifesting abundance, contentment, confidence, and self-acceptance in order to overcome social comparison.
However, comparing yourself with others is not always a bad thing. If you are having trouble learning how to overcome social comparison, you could embrace it, and instead, change your mindset. For instance, you could use upward social comparison as motivation or a challenge to improve your life. After all, if those people you are comparing yourself with made it, why can’t you?
Feeling a little discontent with your life can lead to progress by pushing you to work harder at improving your life.
- Take care of your mental health
Comparing yourself with others can affect your mental health negatively by leading to issues such as low self-esteem, anxiety, stress, and depression. For this reason, one of the best ways to overcome social comparison is by adopting habits that protect your mental health.
Such practices include reducing screen time, journaling to sort out your feelings and identify triggers, getting a new hobby, sleeping more, eating healthy foods, exercising, and maintaining close relationships with your loved ones.
Since comparing yourself with others can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks, you could also use breathing exercises and meditation to stay calm and present.
- Build a strong support system
The people you surround yourself with affect your attitude towards yourself and life in general. Thus, surrounding yourself with people who share the same goals can help you stop comparing yourself with others.
Your support system can be your family, friends, or even colleagues. Depending on their role in your life, they will love and support you, keep you grounded, help you stay focused, and motivate you to keep improving yourself. Due to your shared goals, you can celebrate the small wins along the way together.
Since it won’t always be smooth sailing either, and you might still end up comparing yourself with others, these people will also provide emotional support when you fail or when feeling low. They can help you learn how to overcome social comparison and be content by encouraging you or simply being present and reminding you of what is important to you.
Social comparison can rob you of your joy, and in worse cases, even lead to mental health issues. So, if you often compare yourself with others on social media and feel dissatisfied with your life, try to remind yourself that people only post what they want you to see. Like everyone else, they also have hardships but choose not to share that part of their lives with the world, thus why their lives seem perfect.
Now that you know why people compare themselves with others, you can use the above tips to learn how to overcome social comparison and life dissatisfaction so that you can finally be happy.
Read more articles from Aisles of Life here.