Humans are by nature social creatures. Looking at others to see how to behave was a productive survival strategy for early humans, and being observant in social situations can help people fit into existing groups and gauge their own progress. Today, however, the impulse to compare ourselves to others may do more harm than good.
Social media makes it easier than ever to compare your own happiness with that of others. It can seem like everybody is living a better, more glamorous life than you are — especially if all you see on Instagram is people on beaches doing yoga with their dogs and eating healthy breakfasts at the hippest new cafe.
Seeing all these images can put a lot of pressure on you to be picture perfect, causing you to spend fruitless hours doing things you don’t really like just because you feel you should. If comparing yourself to others, in real life or online, is taking the joy out of your life, you need to remember that most of the time you’re only seeing what people want you to see.
The truth is that everyone struggles sometimes. Even when they may project a happy exterior, people who seem perfect aren’t always happy. This isn’t bad news. It means you don’t have to look to others to be happy. Instead, you just need yourself.
Here are a few things to remind you to stop comparing yourself to others and do the things that make you happy instead.
You Have a Lot to Be Grateful For
Comparing yourself to others can produce low-self esteem and diminish your ability to recognize the things that are going well in your life. Because negative thoughts outweigh positive ones, this can be a trap that’s difficult to avoid.
Though you may not have everything you’re aiming for in life, there’s a good chance you have a few things to be grateful for. Maybe you even have a few opportunities to reach your larger goals. Appreciating the positives in your day-to-day life and thinking happier thoughts in general can help you avoid jealousy and feel more satisfied with your life. Try to identify a few things every day that made you happy.
Your Journey Is Your Own
It’s a cliche, but it’s true: Life isn’t a race. Everyone is different, and not all experiences are going to be exactly the same. Though it can be tempting to compare yourself to others, remember that your journey is uniquely your own.
It’s no use being disappointed that someone else got the job you applied for. Instead, focus on what you can do today to reach your goals in the future. By recognizing that life isn’t a competition, you can dedicate more energy to fostering positive personal growth at whatever pace is right for you. Wherever you are, you’re right where you need to be.
You’re Allowed to Be Yourself
Kids are unafraid to be genuinely themselves, so it’s no wonder that children are great models for happy living. When kids play, they give it their all without worrying about what adults think of them. If a little girl wants to wear her pirate costume to Thanksgiving dinner, she’s going to do it, and no one is going to get in her way.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, start being unapologetically yourself. Want to play Dungeons & Dragons by firelight on a camping trip? Do it! Do you dream of starting your own cupcake empire? You should! If the people around you tell you something you like is stupid, tell them to mind their own business, just like you are.
Ultimately, the only way to get what you want out of life is to do the things you know will make you happy. Embrace the things you love without feeling ashamed, and don’t try to make yourself into someone you’re not.
Chase Personal Growth
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t look to others for examples of how to live a happy life. Research has shown that there are proven ways people find happiness. Getting advice from a trusted friend or mentor can help you see your experiences from a different perspective. The difference is that jealousy and pointless self-comparison drags you down while constructive advice and observation allows you to improve yourself without giving up the core of who you are.
In the end, the only person you need to compare yourself to is you.
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