Battling With Comparing Yourself To Others
The reason I so often cite social media as being detrimental for mental health is because it negatively affects my own in an array of ways – comparing myself to others being a major one. And yet I continue to engage with it because I feel I have to. Because these days, unless you are a Sally Rooney or a Matt Haig, you need a social media presence to make any sort of headway as a writer.
Recently it was suggested that I am a hypocrite because I talk about how bad social media while using social media to share this message. Fair enough. However, whenever I talk about a mental health issue it is more often than not because I struggle with said issue. It’s not coming from a place above, but rather that I am in the trenches with you. I thought that was clear by now but perhaps not.
Most persistent of all the negative aspects of social media for me is how it seduces us into comparing our lives to others. This isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve all fallen prey to comparison, seeing the perfect lives of other people and weighing them up with our own seemingly drab lives.
Every time I go online I see other writers excelling, succeeding, flourishing. And I am truly happy for them, especially when they are writers I know, admire, and have cherished friendships with. There is nothing within me that feels resentment towards them for being rewarded for hard work and talent. The problem is that I compare their deserved recognition and success with my own career, and suddenly I’m in a death spiral of jealousy and self-contempt. Suddenly I am upset because I didn’t win an award I only found out about 30 seconds previously.
The feelings of inadequacy can be devastating, and they manifest, not because other people are doing what they do, but rather because I am often focusing on what other people are doing. You’ll often hear me talk about staying in your own lane, and not worry about what other people are doing and saying. I say this because I believe these are the healthiest methods of being content with yourself, but I also continue to repeat these sentiments because some days I really need to hear it.
Some days all I can do is compare myself to others even though I know I shouldn’t.
Is it an addiction? Possibly. Spending so much time online doesn’t help. I am not always this way, either. It is in the moments when self-esteem is low that the comparison returns. It is when I am down already that my mind decides to kick me again and again.
And I suppose I just wanted to record that here, because I know I am not the only one who struggles with this. In the age of social media, be you creative or not, it is increasingly difficult to prevent yourself from looking over fences and seeing what other people have.
There are tropes about this aspect of human nature for a reason. The grass always seems greener and comparison is the thief of joy. You can know these things to be true, but that isn’t enough to stop the behaviour. More needs to be done than awareness.
And I think admitting that comparing myself to others is affecting me is a pretty good place to begin.