How to avoid the 'comparison culture'
As much as this can be a magical time of year, the constant reminder of Christmas wherever you look can for many of us, be overwhelming and stressful. Aside from, if we’re fortunate, looking forward to a few days off, the over-emphasis on such endeavours as acquiring tasteful decorations that co-ordinate with our newly designed interiors, creating a photogenically delicious festive meal with an inspiring matching table setting, choosing beautifully wrapped presents that will leave our family and friends gasping in delight, sporting an array of perfectly co-ordinated and accessorised outfits - a different look for every fun festive occasion - all to be either discussed or displayed on Facebook for our friends to admire how fantastic our lives are… can frankly be relentless!
OK, so maybe for the majority of us this is a slight exaggeration (although I did read about someone who feels acute pressure to buy hundreds of new outfits a year as she never wants to be seen in the same one twice by her Facebook friends!). But I can’t help thinking that in this age of constant self-publication of our lives on Social Media, we are in fact becoming beholden to a comparison culture that can – if we’re not careful – mutate into a ‘green-eyed monster’ mentality that ultimately leads to a worrying depletion in our own confidence. A confidence that actually questions whether or not our own lives are good enough!
Of course we can’t put the blame for this entirely on Christmas (or indeed Facebook). We are brought up from a very early age to compare ourselves to our peers. Why do they have the latest iphone when we’re stuck with mum’s old Nokia? Why are they getting A’s in maths when we’re struggling with basic algebra? Why are they lined up for a top university when we’ll be lucky to get into the ex polytechnic down the road? Why is the guy at work up for promotion when we’re not? Why can’t we look like that model in Cosmo? Why can’t we also have the perfect wedding and two gorgeous children? And so it goes on… with teachers, parents and bosses (not to mention the media) fuelling this comparison culture that they themselves no doubt grew up in.
A little competition can be a healthy thing, in the right context. It can help provide focus and increase motivation. However, the greater our sense of (being happy with) ourselves, the less we are tempted into the comparison trap that in many circumstances seeks to undermine confidence and self-esteem.
So if you’re keen to escape the comparison culture, here’s some food for thought:
1) Make a plan that reflects you
We are all individuals with different life experiences, strengths and ways of seeing the world. Work out what you want out of life - do some goal setting including some well thought-out but practical steps of how to achieve this. Try to keep on track with this by checking in with yourself that you are living a life that is true to who you are on a regular basis.
2) Ditch the non-supporters
As much as possible, surround yourself with positive people to support you to gain clarity and confidence with the above. Those that buy into the comparison culture are probably not best suited to this.
3) Be your own best friend
Listen to what the voices are that are inside your head and be aware of your mindset. Are there negative voices that are holding you back by letting fear of failure take hold? A few simple affirmations on a daily basis can really help to kick-start a vital change in that mindset to something a lot more positive.
4) Switch off from social media
Do this as much as possible – engage productively in your own life rather than worrying about how well it measures up to other people’s.
5) Keep this in mind...
Comparison can be a negative, undermining thing… don’t give it any more attention than it deserves.
And just to end with, here’s a very apt analogy that was given to me by a wise friend:
“If an athlete is running a race and decides to look at his or her competitors, surely they run the risk of falling over?”