This one has sometimes been a challenge for me. Although I’m not prone to comparison with most things, I remember very clearly a moment in my early childhood where an advert came on the TV (I think it was Martini) and my world changed forever (a little dramatic perhaps!). Many of you will be too young to remember, but my recollection is there were a group of stunning girls in skimpy bikinis, on a boat, drinking near a paradise island. They were happy, very happy. The implication being if you drank the drink, you too would be happy. But I remember so clearly thinking, “I will never be happy, because I will never be that thin and that beautiful”. Well many, many years later that comparison continued.
I, like so many women, have struggled not to compare myself with media images and ideals. But, as we all know, it’s not just women, and the comparisons can be anything and everything – and they are everywhere. Some figures suggest that the number of advertisement and brand exposures a person is exposed to daily is over five thousand. We are bombarded with them, surrounded by them. “The media keep you that bit dissatisfied. If it gave you the perfect lifestyle then they wouldn’t sell. It is a moving target – it will always change, you will never win.” says Professor Glenn Waller.
Furthermore, much of the time, it is almost impossible to hear about others’ successes and failures, or good and bad fortune, without reflecting on our own accomplishment; that is human nature. Yet research regularly shows that people who make frequent social comparisons are more likely to experience envy, guilt, regret, and defensiveness, and to have low self-esteem. Social media isn’t helping (see Day 6), and evidence suggests that regardless of whether it’s upward or downward social comparison (that is comparing ourselves to those we perceive better or worse off) it will still lead to greater unhappiness.
Now this one is easier said than done, especially when it’s something deeply ingrained like low self-esteem. There was no way a couple of words to myself was going to stop this continual mind chatter. Yet I have come to realise that perfection is an illusion, and comparing inflames unhappiness. So let me reassure you, with repeated practice, you can halt the comparisons. Stop the negative thought in its track, acknowledge the feeling, and just say NO. Try redirecting the mind, and using your energy to focus on what you have, not on what others have.
Get that gratitude diary out and start writing!
Please click here for further research on Don’t Compare.