Social Comparison…

This is a transitional post as I prepare to write on John Bevere’s book Good or God.  We will begin that book within the next week.

In a recent news release, it was reported that social media can cause depression.  You might think that strange due to the fact that millions of users are signed up for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

The problem resides in the fact that users don’t just go onto social media and keep up with what their friends and relatives are doing; they compare their lives to those they see on social media.  People who post every night parties and frequent trips to desirable locations become sources of envy for those who lead humdrum lives.

The thought that occurs is “I don’t do anything compared to ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’” who are always going somewhere and always doing something exciting.

This brings me to the topic I have wanted to write on for some time, the topic of social comparison and how this can steal the joy of our lives.  In this post, I will explain how social comparison steals our joy and in the next post, I will deal with what we can do to fight this debilitating negative thought habit.

Social comparison is determining our social and personal worth based on how we think we stack up to others.  We can fall into this trap by constantly making judgements about our attractiveness, intelligence, wealth and success.   The problem is we judge ourselves in light of how we perceive others.

Comparison creates competition because we are prone to think of ourselves as trying to be the best in everything.  Our society focuses on being the winner so much that we don’t allow ourselves to feel gratitude for what we have.  We must have the best of everything.  If we don’t perceive ourselves as having the best, we lose the competition and hence disappointment.

If comparison is the thief of joy, jealousy is its companion.  Jealousy is when we get so focused on the wonderful aspects of another’s life that we only see the positive.  No one has mountain top experiences all the time; there are valleys in everyone’s life.  The jealous person has an obscured vision.  They are blind to the pain, the failure, and the flaws in another life.  They ignore the work the other person has done to take that trip or the sacrifice of family time they have made to have that ample salary.  All they see is the end result and they want that same result minus the work.

Comparison creates very unrealistic expectations.  We all have certain God-given skills and abilities and what one person can do is not necessarily what you can do.  We can easily look at the relative ease that someone has as an athlete, artist or public speaker and say “I should be able to do that.”  Maybe you can polish your skills in some areas of your life if you have a vision, specific goals, commitment and a willingness to devote major chunks of your life to practice. That is what it takes to excel in life.  Too often we compare ourselves to others when we shouldn’t.  We don’t have the God-given skill that others do and we don’t have the drive to develop the skills that we have.

Jealousy can make one feel powerless.  If you don’t have a commitment to take action to be better than you are, then envy of another’s talent can leave you with a feeling that you are stuck.  If you think you would like to be a marathon runner but you don’t like running, that is a problem. Also comparing yourself to others can ruin friendships.  Envy of friends can lead to such insecurity that you don’t even want to spend time with them.   To be around them [or to look at their Facebook posts] can hurt your self-esteem so much that the pleasure of their company is no longer a positive.    

Finally, jealously can cause you to want to give less to others.  Envy can cause us to want so much that we become stingy with what we have.  We find ourselves unwilling to donate time or money to a good cause because we need our precious resources to accomplish our own selfish dream.   We can become “miserly” about complimenting others due to the fact that we are experiencing so much jealousy. 

Back to Facebook.  Have you ever withheld a “like” on Facebook because you were jealous?  Have you ever withheld a face-to-face compliment because you were envious of another’s good fortune?

Life is too short to deny others a positive comment.  We all need love, joy, laughter, friendship and peace.  In fact, we can’t get too much of these things. 

There is an expression that seems appropriate here.   We often hear that it is best to be the “bigger person” and do the right thing.   Doing the right thing is not easy.  Sometimes it may involve admitting that other people have accomplished what we have not.   That is not denying our worth; it is just allowing ourselves to affirm others. 

Social comparison is probably inevitable but jealousy, envy and selfishness are not.  Jealously, envy and selfishness are corrosive.   They will eat away at your ability to be content with your life.   You will never be confident if you often have those feelings.  It is not an overstatement to say that social comparison is a thief of your joy.

In the next post, we will discuss what we can do to prevent this.

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