5 Tactics To Avoid The Comparison Trap
I love social media. Truly. My business and this blog exists because of it! I’ve made new friends, kept in touch with old friends and so much more. It has given us so many incredible opportunities to create and build community, relationships and even businesses that otherwise would not have existed. Social media has done so many good things. It allows us to share missions and causes, it allows us to stay in touch or reconnect with our college roommate. So much good has come from social media. And yet, it so easily gives us a million reasons a day to feel not good enough, to feel like we don’t measure up…and to feel like we never will. Social media has turned the comparison bug, into a comparison beast. A trap that once it has you, it’s hard to escape. But all is not lost! I’ve put together 5 sure-fire actionable tactics to avoid the comparison trap and tactics you can use when you feel yourself falling back in.
Last year, when I was spiralling into the comparison trap again, I read and bookmarked this article that discusses how social media fuels anxiety. The article refers to Twitter in particular, but I think we can say the same for any social platform. In fact, “Psychologists typically distinguish between two types of anxiety: trait anxiety, a persistent and lasting tendency to experience fear and worry; and state anxiety, a temporary response of fear to a threatening situation. Many forms of social media can agitate both trait and state anxiety.” One line that stuck out for me was that ‘[social media] is a megaphone for achievements and a magnifying glass for insecurities, and when you start comparing your insecurities with another person’s achievements, it’s a recipe for anxiety’.
Whilst a lot of the ways to manage and avoid the comparison trap are useful tips – things like ‘just remember that it’s a highlight reel, not the whole truth’ – I couldn’t find any actual activities to avoid the comparison trap. What I could actually do in those moments that I found myself spinning and descending into the social media blackhole of comparison. (You know the ones. Where you start scrolling through Instagram and suddenly it’s been two hours and you feel a whole lot crappier about yourself than you did before….we’ve all been there!)
Whilst comparison is a natural human tendency, late last year, I started implementing actual tactics to help me actually combat the comparisonitis bug when it does pop up and rear it’s ugly head. So I’m sharing the practical ways that I now avoid and bust the comparison trap as soon as I find myself pushing towards the edge!
1. Curate what you consume
Not long ago, I went through my Instagram and only chose to continue following accounts and people that I found inspiring, genuine content or loved to follow. You get to choose what you consume, so do it mindfully and avoid following the accounts and people who make you feel crappy about yourself. Even if it’s a good friend. Sometimes an unfollow online can do a world of good for your ‘real life’ friendship. Any accounts you follow that inspire gossip, bitching or any form of negative entertainment….purge it. You don’t need that in your life.
2. Start your day with a digital detox
You know you do it. The alarm goes off and you immediately reach for your phone, check your notifications and before you know it, you’re on Instagram, or Facebook or whatever the latest app is that tickles your fancy. You’re immediately starting your day off on the wrong side of the bed with a head full of comparisons. Turn your phone off overnight. Use it as an alarm? Buy an old school alarm clock! Or if you can manage it, be strict with yourself and turn the alarm off and put the phone back down immediately. Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’ll just check that ‘one thing’ - start your day without the mindless scroll and other people’s highlight reel. Create a beautiful morning routine that sets you up to feel good about your day!
3. Get some perspective
When I lost my Dad in 2016, it put so much into perspective. I realised that there was so many things more important than what people thought of me, that life was too short to treat myself like crap, than how many followers I had on Instagram. Sometimes life has a way of reminding you what’s important. And the online world and social media? It’s not up there on the list. In fact, it’s way, way down there. What’s important? Love. Real connection. The beauty of this world. We have so much to be grateful for and that comes from being present. Social media pulls us away from that. I’ve often told myself that I couldn’t live without my phone.
But recently I had a couple of days where I was out and about and left my phone behind. It wasn’t until then, that I realised just how FINE I was, but also how much I really needed the distance from notifications, emails and the mindless scroll. I now try to enforce a digital detox on myself regularly (I only wish I could convince hubby to do the same!) But you don’t need to experience a tragedy to get some perspective. Have a think - will this matter in 5 years? Will this matter in 10, 20 years? More often than not, the fact that that bikini model looks amazing in that photo on Instagram really won’t matter to you in 20 years. So let it go, and pour that energy into what does matter - you and your own self love and acceptance!
4. Focus on your own dreams and goals
The times I’ve found myself in the social media loop of checking one app, then moving to another, then back to app A and then back to app B and before I know it, it’s 5pm and I’ve done no work - it’s because I haven’t got clarity around my own dreams and goals. I wasted brainpower and bandwidth on envying others success, when I could have been channelling that into my goals that move me forward and in the direction that I choose. If you’re a blogger or a business owner, you can be constantly on a merry-go-round of comparison. It amplifies any fears, doubts and insecurities around your own abilities and talents.
The constant scroll and binge on social media is wasted time and energy, that could be much better poured into your own work, your own dreams and your own goals. So take some time to sit down, create your short and long term goals and develop a strategy to execute! There is SO MUCH information floating around out there, we are bombarded with content, content, content. So first thing in the morning, create before you consume!
5. An act of kindness
Stuck in the track of thinking that your life sucks and everyone else is just luckier/thinner/smarter/prettier/more #blessed than you? At its core, comparison is a honestly, self-indulgent emotion. The pity party can become a pit! Sometimes, it just takes a little perspective and doing something for someone else outside of my comparison bubble to pop it. Whether it volunteering at the local animal shelter, catching up with a friend for coffee, visiting your nana, making a meal for your neighbour who’s a new mum. An act of kindness and giving is often one of the most simple, yet effective ways to stop yourself from falling prey to those, in truth, energy-wasting thoughts.
Remembering that everyone is fighting their own battles, no matter how shiny and pretty their live looks on the outside is paramount. Everyone’s doing the best they can with what they have - focusing on being a kind, compassionate human, towards both yourself and others will truly make a difference to your life. You’ve been comparing yourself up until now, where has it got you? So why not try something else? Because we all know that comparison is the thief of joy. And we all want more joy, right?
So let me know if that helps you lovely – at the end of the day, it’s a work in progress. It’s human nature to compare ourselves, but social media has fuelled that fire and if we let it take control of us, it can result in a heck of a lot of unhappiness. So choose to avoid the comparison trap!