I think we’ve all been there at one moment or another. Maybe you scroll through social media and feeling like everyone else has things perfectly figured out. Perhaps you measure your sense of success against what others are posting about, and then get down on yourself for “not measuring up.”
Comparing ourselves to others and then using this to shame ourselves, can be highly detrimental to our mental health.
As a psychotherapist, here are a few quick tips to stop the social media comparisons from getting you down.
1. Recognize that people typically post their “highlight reel” on social media.
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel” -Steven Furtick
New babies, engagements, happy marriages, promotions-generally people use social media to project and craft an idealized image of their lives.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to share these things with the world, however it’s important to acknowledge that much like an Instagram image with a “filter,” what people post on social media is often carefully filtered and curated as well.
Life can be tough at times, and we all go through painful and difficult moments. However, often it feels far more comfortable to post about the highlights on social media.
A personal example for me, is a picture I posted on Facebook four months ago, which generated a lot of likes and comments. For some background, I’m an eating disorder therapist and I was given the opportunity to go on Fox 5 News with Amanda Tarlton to talk about our concerns over Netflix’s ‘To The Bone’ and it’s portrayal of anorexia.
I noticed that in my conversations with people, everyone seemed to automatically assume that I was having a fantastic week. I also started getting comments like this one.
And then, I got up the courage to post this Facebook status.
I could give countless other examples and I’m sure you could too, of how social media often doesn’t tell the full story of someone’s life and the struggles they may be going through at any particular time.
We are generally able to recognize that magazines are all airbrushed and reality shows aren’t actually “reality,” so why do we forget that social media often doesn’t show the full picture?
2. Acknowledge that life isn’t a race and that we are all on our own journey.
It’s so easy to compare yourself to others on social media and to believe that somehow you are “behind” where you should be.
It can be helpful to recognize that life isn’t a race to the finish line and that we are all on our own paths. Where you are in your journey right now is perfectly ok. I truly believe that things happen in the timing that they are meant to. Be patient with yourself and work to trust the timing of your life.
Also, it’s so important to try to be compassionate with yourself. Would you shame someone else for not being “further along,” or not having accomplished something yet?
Practice speaking to yourself like you would someone that you love.
3. Filter out any “unhelpful” content on social media and add in positive messaging.
If someone’s social media feed is constantly making you feel badly about yourself, you can choose to “hide it,” or unfollow their content.
For instance, if someone is posting photos of their “six pack abs” and you are comparing yourself negatively, simply unfollow that person. If you are struggling to get pregnant and someone is posting updates about how happy they are with their new baby, you can unfollow their updates. I could give a million examples, but you have no obligation to continue to surround yourself with messaging that makes you feel badly about yourself. It is not “mean” to do so, it’s simply taking good care of yourself.
The next step is to add in some positive, inspirational, and helpful pages and messages onto your social media feed. For instance, as an eating disorder therapist, I enjoy having my feed filled with “anti-diet,” “body-positive,” and “self-kindness” messaging.
The Bottom Line
Like most things in life, social media isn’t “black or white.” Social media is a tool like anything else and certainly you can use it to find support, stay in touch with people, and to surround yourself with positive and inspirational messaging.
If you are finding that social media is having a negative impact on you, it also could be a good goal to take a “social media vacation,” whether that is for a few hours, a day, or a few weeks.
The next time you catch yourself falling into the social media comparison trap, work to simply notice the things that you are telling yourself, and then practice responding to yourself as you would someone that you love.
Ultimately, you are enough, you are worthy, and you are doing the best that you can.
Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C: is an eating disorder therapist in private practice in Rockville, Maryland. Jennifer specializes in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, and bulimia, and body image issues. Jennifer provides eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Germantown, and Washington D.C. Connect with Jennifer through her website: www.jenniferrollin.com