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  • Ela Senghera

The Comparison Trap

A girl talking to someone

Comparison is rooted in our basic human need to belong. As social creatures, feeling accepted by the group has long been critical to our safety and survival. Fitting in and measuring up against societal standards or norms makes us feel secure. We learn values like basing self-worth on productivity, appearance, wealth, and success from early childhood influences. Comparison gets ingrained as we absorb messages from family, school, media, or culture about what qualities are most valuable. As we grow older, comparison becomes almost reflexive as we habitually assess if we meet the mark for praise or belonging. Social media intensifies this by surrounding us with carefully curated glimpses into others’ lives. Beneath the constant evaluating is simply a longing to feel good enough and to know we matter. We strive to prove our worth, seeking validation through likes and the approval of others. But the standards keep shifting, leaving us in perpetual inadequacy. The root is misplaced searching outside ourselves for security and confidence we must foster within. We have internalized society’s conditioned metrics without realizing our innate worth beyond any possessions, titles, or changing trends. Escape comes through reclaiming our wholeness.

Why is it an important topic to talk about?

  • Comparison is so common and damaging to us, especially with social media's dominance. I'm sure most of you grappling with this issue.

  • Comparison is a major roadblock to cultivating self-acceptance and resilience, which are core to your mental well-being. 

  • Exploring the root of comparison will empower you when seeking life balance and inner peace amidst unrealistic standards.

  • Comparison often silently erodes relationships and fuels resentment towards loved ones’ success.

  • Releasing toxic comparisons and defining self-worth internally is truly liberating!

Women holding a mirror

When is Comparison Problematic?

Comparing ourselves, our lives, relationships, or careers to the carefully curated snapshots we see on social media or reality TV gives us a distorted perception of reality. We end up feeling inadequate or unsuccessful if our lives don’t match the unrealistic standards we see others projecting. Additionally, comparison disrupts the deep connections with others we could be cultivating. When we get stuck in envy, we view even loved ones through a scarcity lens - seeing them as having something we don’t and this breeds resentment, eroding intimacy and trust over time. Comparison prevents us from making friends and deepening bonds in our romantic relationships. The truth is no one's life is perfect. What we see online is just a sliver of someone’s experience. Comparing erodes self-confidence and keeps us stuck in negative thought patterns instead of appreciating our circumstances. 

How to Avoid the Comparison Trap?

Start by limiting time on social media apps if you notice it triggers comparison. Be mindful of thoughts like “I wish I had what they have” and intentionally shift your mindset when they arise. Focus on gratitude for what YOU DO have rather than what you lack. Comparison stems from wanting external validation. But lasting confidence comes from within. So work on self-acceptance and defining success on your terms. Avoid basing your self-worth on possessions, job titles, or keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, practice self-acceptance and show gratitude. A few simple ways to cultivate self-acceptance and gratitude are:

  • Identify your inner critic's voice and respond with empathy rather than criticism 

  • Celebrate small wins and rewards on your unique journey  

  • Note negative self-talk and intentionally shift your inner dialogue to be nurturing

  • Focus on growth and progress over perfection  

  • Spend meaningful time doing activities that help you feel alive and express your authentic self

  • Keep a daily gratitude journal listing what you feel thankful for

  • Share appreciation and validation verbally with your loved ones

  • Write thank you notes to special people in your life  

  • Take time to enjoy and be fully present during meals  

  • Practice gratitude for your body and its miraculous abilities

I hope these steps inspire you to be a little kinder to yourself and more attuned to the blessings in your life. Appreciate the journey you’re on and celebrate your successes however small, rather than comparing yourself to another person. They might be on a completely different life path with their own unique problems and key learnings. Your worth isn’t tied to matching unrealistic standards. Release comparison so you can live freely as your authentic self focused on your goals and dreams !

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