How to beat comparison with gratitude
“We struggle with insecurity because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
– Steven Furtick
We live in a world where you can see inside someone’s life in a matter of seconds. By just scrolling through pictures on social media, you are able to “know” millions of people and virtually see what their day-to-day looks like, opening the door to more self-comparison than we ever thought was possible. Someone has a new car. Just got married. Has the best clothes, pretty hair. But the problem with social media is that a person can paint a picture of their life on social media any way they choose, whether it’s reality or not - and we are left comparing our behind-the-scenes with someone else’s top moments. Social media is not the full reality. A new baby or adventurous trip to Bali are things that people showcase on social media without having to share the whole picture (because a beachside cocktail is far more cooler and interesting to see than the 3am feedings and lost luggage). Those things still happen, but are easier to hide with accomplishments and peaks of life (like successfully cooking a meal on valentine’s day or buying your dog a new outfit). The reality is, social media only represents the best aspects of our lives - sadness, anxiety, and any other feeling besides “happy” are not captured in most of the posts we see on social media.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t compare myself to others on social media every single day, despite the fact that what I actually post may seem quite the opposite. It’s something I wish I didn’t do as often. Comparison creates a continuous cycle of pride and despair, as we say things like “good thing I’m not like her” or “I wish I was more like them”. I don’t know about you, but lately I've found it difficult to find contentment in life with my phone in my hand. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have every time we log in to Facebook, or see someone’s filet minon on Instagram. Rather than abandoning social media altogether (which would seriously end the problem, but is almost impossible to do in this day and age), I’ve cultivated a list of things that can help us stop making these unfair and unrealistic comparisons.
1. Appreciate good health.
Social media makes it so easy to forget what’s really important in our lives. Health and wellness is not necessarily something that is celebrated on our feeds (it’s more like clothes, pretty hair, and fancy cappuccinos in my opinion). Having good health is something that I’ve easily taken for granted, especially while mindlessly scrolling through social media. I think the older I get, the more I appreciate having good health. Health is a gift that we should be thankful for daily, and when I consider how grateful I am to be alive and healthy, I feel less likely to compare my life to the ones I follow on social media.
2. Take a break from the indoors and get outside.
It’s sometimes so hard for me to put my phone down, turn off the part of my brain that is constantly bouncing with thoughts/ideas/to-do lists, and step outside for some fresh air. Nature just makes gratitude so much easier. Getting outside has helped me appreciate the beauty in the “real world” around me. Plus, taking a brief moment of time to be with myself has been a life changer.
3. Celebrate what you have, rather than what you lack.
It sounds simple enough. We obviously wouldn’t be so susceptible to comparing ourselves to others on social media if we didn’t want what we don’t have so often. But I totally get it, it’s easier said than done. Using a gratitude journal at the end of the day has completely changed how I feel about my life. Even if it’s something as small as thanking God for my dog’s health, or feeling grateful to live somewhere with beautiful weather. When I’m thankful for what each day brings me, the people in it, and how much I actually have, I’m more satisfied with my life. Social media can seriously make it so hard to realize what you do have in your life. You have to seek out a mindset of gratitude because it’s something that doesn’t come naturally in everyone.
4. Focus on the present and worry less about the future.
I think the more time I spend worrying about the future, the more I am missing out on the present. Being in grad school has made it easy for me to get caught up in the “not enough hours in the day” syndrome. When you’re too focused on your next to-do, you don’t have time to appreciate what you’ve already accomplished. Gratitude has the power to make you think less about the future, and more about the now.
Comparing ourselves to unreal expectations has become so normal in our culture that we have missed how harmful it can be. So rather than getting stuck in an instagram story loop tonight, try reading a book, taking a walk, or cozying up and watching netflix instead. Your own worth is not measured by the success, happiness, or adventures of someone else. Happy Saturday loves!