Compare and Despair!

By Siew Ching

How to escape from this trap.

Are you guilty of comparing yourself to others? We all do it. Especially now with social media with perfectly posed, “curated” and heavily filtered photos, we often wonder – wow that person has it good. Beautiful weddings. Dining adventures every weekend. Vacation photos. Business breakthroughs.

And then we turn the camera to ourselves and think of how we lack in all these areas. Other people seem to have it all… except you. They have the lifestyle you want. The latest gadgets you can’t even afford. The cool job you wished you were doing. The holiday you’ve been dreaming off.

Then you despair. About the things you don’t have and the things you’re not.

Compare and despair. Why do we do it? For one thing, it’s entirely natural to compare yourself to your peers. It can even serve as a source of motivation to work harder and level up your game, which isn’t such a bad idea if only this were happening.

But instead, we’re comparing our flaws with others’ perfection. Now even more easily done with social media! The thing we forget is that social media is often an illusion where you pick what to post and then leave out the rest. Think about your own social media feed. You’re not about to post a random photo at work, right? You’re more likely to post a photo of you having a great time or making great strides because you want to share the good news with your friends. Guess what – so is that friend who is uploading her vacay photos! She’s not going to share her mundane lifestyle (and trust us when we say she’s not on holiday all the time) but is instead going to fill up her social media feed with the good stuff only!

So why do we compare? Think of this act as a benchmark. You’re going to compare yourself to your peers, checking in on how they are doing and using that as a benchmark to see if you are anywhere near those achievements. It’s a point of reference, to learn from others.

The problem is when we despair, when we feel lowly about ourselves. You start focusing on the parts you are lacking, and this creates discontentment that leads to unhappiness. The compare and despair mindset can have a damaging effect on your mental health, making you feel inadequate (but everyone is different!), jealous (but you have it good too, you just don’t realise it), and overwhelmed (remember, it’s social media. It’s content that is specially created to make someone look good!).

Don’t fall into the trap of compare and despair. Instead do these:

#1 Compare yourself to…
Yourself! Sounds silly but it works. Instead of looking at other people’s achievements, compare your current self with your past self. Think of everything you wanted to achieve when you were younger and reflect on how you’ve actually achieved some of those things on the list. This is a great way to remind yourself that you too have it good and that you are capable of achieving what you put your mind to, boosting your self-confidence.

#2 Know that it’s not all real
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Social media is curated content. Photos are cropped, filtered, and there are about 20 more of the same photos that don’t make the cut. Plus, it’s just a way for us to receive validation from others (and ourselves) that we are doing not too bad in life. Like how you have good and bad days, the person you’re comparing yourself to on IG has them as well. It’s just not being posted on their feed.

#3 Work that jealousy in your favour!
Jealous of a friend’s recent trip to Bali? Plan a holiday there for yourself too! Ask what you need to do to make it come true and set a plan to get it in motion. Envious of a friend’s new job? You too can have one if you put your mind to it! That’s the beauty of comparing is when you use it to give yourself a push to achieve things.

#4 Set goals for yourself
It’s easy to compare and despair when we don’t have much going on. So set goals you want to achieve so you can concentrate on those instead of what others have achieved. Your goals don’t necessarily have to be the same as your friends; be clear about what YOU want that will make YOU happy. Then spend time on achieving those goals instead of browsing through social media. Before you know it, you’ll be posting your own achievements up on your feed.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash.

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