Between our friends’ parade of “perfect” social media posts and that voice inside our heads whispering that we don’t measure up, it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. Here, our expert panel of Cecilia Dintino, Psy.D. and assistant clinical professor of psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, Shainna Ali, Ph.D. and author of The Self-Love Workbook ($9.59, Amazon), and positive aging expert and and author of Love Your Age ($12.99, Amazon), Barbara Hannah Grufferman, offer up fool-proof tips on how to free yourself once and for all!
Let Yourself Off the Hook
Our brains are hardwired to make comparisons, says Dintino. “It’s a survival tactic that helped early humans keep up with their tribe,” she explains. The problem is that in today’s social media-crazed world, this automatic script is triggered easily and often.
An easy way to turn it off? “Just make a mental list of things you’re grateful for,” she urges. “Gratitude centers us in our reality, so we’re not as tempted to compare ourselves to others.”
No One’s Perfect
The old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” certainly applies to the idealized lives of friends on social media, says University of Central Florida and Chicago School of Professional Psychology instuctor, Ali. What you don’t see? “Missing details, like the argument that occurred after the photo was taken.”
Before logging on, Ali recommends telling yourself, “I’m seeing people’s highlights, not their real life.”
Look at the Big Picture
It’s natural to feel a twinge of envy over someone’s success. But that’s because you’re focused on a small part of the person’s life, says Grufferman. “Think of [the person you’re envious of] as a complete person and consider other aspects of her life,” she says. “You may realize you have it even better in some ways.”
For example, she may have vacationed in Hawaii, but she doesn’t have as beautiful a backyard garden as you do. Explains Grufferman: “This gives you perspective, curbing your desire to make comparisons.”
Another easy way to curb the urge to compare yourself to others is to write a list of the times when you felt confident and powerful, advises Dintino. Then read your list each day when you wake up. Maybe you recently bounced back from getting laid off or you negotiated a great deal on a new car. “Your ‘power list’ helps you stay positive regardless of what other people are doing, because you know that you have your own unique strengths,” Dintino says.
Applaud Every Effort
Like most of us, you’re probably trying to improve at least one area of your life. “Take time to recognize all the work you’re putting in,” urges Ali.
If you’re trying to be more active, for example, give yourself credit every time you take the stairs. Being aware of the measures you’re taking keeps you focused on the big picture, so you won’t be distracted by comparisons.
Cherish Your Growth
Like a fine wine, studies show that self-image improves with age. That’s because as we get older, we tend to become more comfortable in our own skin. “Just look back at how far you’ve come,” urges Grufferman.
That could mean remembering when you decided to take a class and how self-conscious you felt at first, only to end up acing the class. Says Grufferman, “Reviewing all you’ve accomplished over the years reminds you that your growth — not what anyone else is doing — is what’s important.”
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.
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