Comparison is a trap. That’s nothing you haven’t heard before, I’m sure! You’re here looking for some practical tips on how to stop comparing your looks to others because the comparison trap is real. We have all probably been caught up in it at some point in our lives, some people have been in it their whole lives.
We compare physical appearance, but we also compare our own accomplishments, or lack thereof, to other people’s accomplishments. Often we also compare the material things we have to the things other people have. We make all kinds of social comparisons day in and day out. Some of which we are so used to making that we don’t even realize we’re doing it anymore or it seems totally normal.
Why We All Play the Comparison Game
Comparison may be normal, but if you’ve followed me for any time you’ve probably heard me say that normal does not mean healthy. Unfortunately, there are so many unhealthy habits that most of us have had our whole lives that we haven’t addressed because they are “normal.” Comparison is one of those things. It’s a default of human nature because human beings just want to belong. We want to be accepted, loved, and valued and we tend to look in the wrong places for that acceptance.
In today’s world, this natural tendency to compare is intensified by the way we live. We have access to excessive information and constant access to each other through social media use. Combine that with this self-improvement culture we have created, what a mess. The end result is a whole lot of people believing that the perfect life is not the one they are living, but instead the one the person they are observing is living. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to stop comparing your looks to others, among other things.
Why Comparison is Harmful to Your Health
Comparison and Mental Health
We all have negative thoughts about ourselves sometimes. Comparison perpetuates those thoughts and exasperates the negative effects they have on our mental health and our overall happiness. We are social creatures, but the more pressure we feel from comparison, the more we struggle to live in the present moment and find ourselves shutting down because of feelings of inadequacy. Of course, different people experience comparison and its effects on different levels, but the dangers of escalation are there for all of us.
The saying ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ couldn’t be more true. Comparison breeds feelings of jealousy, endless negative self-talk, and doubt in one’s own abilities. It prevents us from being able to have healthy relationships because these negative feelings create unrealistic beauty standards as well as standards for our personal growth and achievements.
Comparison and Physical Health
Not only can comparison take a toll on your mental health, but it also impacts your physical health. When we’re wrapped up in desperation to look differently than we look or to look like someone else, we tend to do things that might not be the healthiest options for weight loss. Drastically cutting calories, excessively exercising, depriving ourselves of social connection so we don’t “mess up” and eat the “wrong foods,” and more. All of these things are unhealthy behaviors that lead to unhealthy bodies and are all the reasons you need to learn how to stop comparing your looks to others.
How to Stop Comparing Your Looks to Others
When we compare ourselves to others, it’s rarely just about our looks versus theirs. It’s easy to believe that they have it all, simply because when a person looks good and feels confident in their bodies, it conveys a sense of contentment. The truth is, underneath it all, that may be a false sense that they are giving off or that you’re interpreting.
I honestly believe it takes years of real life experience and wisdom gained from those experiences to be able to completely ditch comparison. Maybe no one ever beats it completely, but many people learn to squash the thoughts in their minds before they manifest into anything in their lives. Either way, there are some things you can do now to start fighting against comparison in your own life.
Reconsider Who You’re Following on Social Media
This is the first thing on my list because with the rise of social media in our culture we have seen a rise in dissatisfaction, anxiety, stress, depression, body image concerns, and loneliness. We have also seen a rise in depression that coincides with the growth of social media use. One 10-year study found an elevated suicide risk for teen girls who use social media daily. There are so many more studies just like this one that highlight the risks of social media use for our mental health, not just for young people, but for adults as well.
Social media is a big part of most people’s lives these days. If you can be off of social media 100%, I highly recommend it. But if you can’t or don’t want to, try taking regular social media sabbaticals and when you’re on social media, check who you’re following. One of the best ways to diminish comparison, before you’re mentally strong enough to fight it, is to reduce the number of chances you have to compare.
A while back I took a year off from all social media. I did this for a few reasons, but one of them was an issue with comparison. When I received my holistic nutritionist certification and decided to start Renew Wellness Coaching, I made the choice to get back on social media for my business. Knowing what I had struggled with in the past and having had a year to reflect on that without the pressures of comparison from social media, I knew what I had to do.
At first, I didn’t follow a single individual on any platform. No influencers (especially no influencers), only businesses that were related to my specific interests and local businesses for business networking. I know that on social media it’s hard to separate the businesses from the influencers because influencing has become a business. But being influenced is a part of the comparison trap. The reason we can be influenced is because we want to fit in. That’s another reason who you follow on social media is so important.
This will be highly individualized for each person because we all compare for different reasons. Just think about the negative feelings you experience regularly. They could be about the way you look, the job you have, your relationship, your personality, your house, your car, or whatever. Then scroll through your social media feeds. When you feel any of those negative feelings rise up in relation to a post you’re seeing, unfollow. Hit that unfollow button as many times as you need to and move the heck on.
However well-meaning any of those people may be, you need to focus on your own strengths and the best version of yourself will not come from comparing yourself to them.
Get a Little Perspective
Ah, perspective. We each have a unique perspective, but there is the way things look from my view, the way they look from someone else’s view, and then the way things actually are. There is an objective truth there and part of getting the perspective, the big picture perspective, of the way things actually are is acknowledging that your perspective may not be the way things actually are. Quite often, in the context of comparison, that will be the case. That means getting out of our own heads.
Celebrate Your Non-Appearance Qualities
Man, the emphasis we put on appearance in our society is intense! We’re obsessed, not just with our physical appearance but with the way we appear to other people overall. Try thinking about your other positive qualities. How many can you come up with? If you aren’t coming up with at least five, you need to get to work viewing yourself and your life in a more positive way. I guarantee you that you have at least five positive qualities.
Sit down and work through this ongoing process in your mind regularly. There are more deep and meaningful things for you to focus on in your life than your appearance. Qualities that you will want to say you possessed when you come to the end of your life. At that time I can pretty much guarantee you that you won’t be reflecting on how good you looked and neither will your family and friends.
Learn to Self Coach
I love to teach people how to self-coach. Self coaching is an invaluable tool to learn but it takes more than just a script to talk yourself through the day. In order to coach yourself, you have to be able to get that big-picture perspective that we talked about earlier.
I like to use the analogy of standing next to a cruise ship in port. When you are deep in comparison, you are standing on the doc right beside the cruise ship, facing the cruise ship, and all you can see is the cruise ship. The people who are standing a couple of hundred yards back, facing the cruise ship, can see the cruise ship too, but they can see a whole lot of other things you can’t see because you’re standing too close to the cruise ship to see anything except the side of the cruise ship. You’re standing so close you can’t even see the entire cruise ship.
That’s what it means to not have any perspective but your own. Understanding that allows you to step back to a place where you can self-coach. You can be looking at the cruise ship (comparing), but you can also have an internal dialog with yourself that says, “hey, maybe you should look to the left or the right instead.” And when you do, there is actually something else there for you to see, because you have stepped back to see the big-picture perspective.
Self-coaching is all about having some self-awareness, talking with yourself and deciding a plan of action, and taking action to move forward to something better.
Gratitude changes everything. You won’t be an overnight success at squashing comparison in your life. None of us are and most of us never get rid of it completely. But shifting your focus to gratitude is a practice that never fails to pull you out of the slump of comparison.
Regularly practicing gratitude is so beneficial for our mental health. So many studies have been done on the power of gratitude and they all show that those who regularly express their gratitude for literally anything positive in their life are happier overall. They have lower rates of stress and depression and are more optimistic. Nothing actually changes in their lives besides their perspective. Instead of complaining or worrying or comparing, they express thankfulness for where they are, who they are, and what they have at the moment.
Talk it Out With Someone Close
Finally, one of the best things you can do when you’re wrestling with comparison is to talk to family members or your closest friends about the grip comparison culture has on you. Whether it’s a momentary issue or something you’ve been struggling with for a long time, it’s often the people in your inner circle, the ones who know your core values and who you really are, who can bring you out of that funk. Talk to them often and ask them to keep you accountable for each small step you take to stop the comparisons in your life.
I hope these tips will help release you from the trap of comparison. You may have noticed that I didn’t talk much about having a positive body image in this post. That’s because if we all stopped comparing the way we look, our body image would naturally resolve itself. Shifting your focus to what matters most in life will have the biggest impact on your happiness. You don’t have to love the way you look and it’s okay to want to change that. But a healthy, happy you will more than likely be found when you zero in on the truly important things in life.