Why do we tend to compare ourselves to others? And how it is getting in the way of self acceptance.

‘Epiphany’ is a word that describes the feeling or an experience of sudden and striking realization. While the term is seen to be extensively used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, it can also be applied in a situation where an enlightening realization allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new or deeper perspective. They may be triggered by some sort of new or key piece of information. I had such experience when I was watching a series (to be particular, The Big Bang Theory).

Being the youngest child, I got a fair share of pampering. But being the young one also had its own downside. Everyone could to things I couldn’t. Moreover, my sibling was the artistic kid so she would let me try doing the artistic stuff with her. And to be very blunt, I could do no such thing for the life of me. There began my journey of social comparison.

Then came the social media era. Everyone seemed to be thriving and prospering in life. With the social media influencers doing all sorts of activities, that I like many others dreamed of but didn’t really have the resources to fulfill, the journey of social comparison expanded. As a result, I started having what they call inferiority complex.

It all starts with having big expectations from yourself by comparing yourself to others. I am sure many of us had this feeling, “if they can, why can’t I?”. I mean, that is a good way of getting inspiration and motivation to do better. We have often learned that it’s important to thrive and try to become a better version of yourself. Growth is an important process in life. But, to what extent and at the expense of what, are we willing to do that?

In positive psychology, comparing yourself is thought to a specific type of overthinking. So, like any other type of overthinking, this too is advised to be neglected. It must be said that it is natural and, unless you live in a cave, difficult to avoid. However, comparisons often run counter to the goal of becoming a happier person. That’s because it leads to us feeling envious, distressed, and having diminished self-esteem. So, are we willing to compare ourselves to the extent that we forsake our happiness?

Coming back to what made me experience a striking realization, I must give a warning that this might sound a bit pessimistic. Howard in an episode (S8 Ep10) of the said series states and I quote, “I guess the sad truth is, not everyone will accomplish something great. Some of us may just have to find meaning in the little moments that make up life.”

This “something great” is a relative phenomenon. More than that, it always keeps changing because it’s not just about you but also about what everyone is achieving around you. You might have once believed that owning your own car would be something great but you see someone else buying a BMW and now your something great has changed.

All in all, you go round and round in the circle of wanting something great because someone has that something great, not getting just that or getting that and wanting to change that, and resorting to intense self-criticism.

But it’s important to understand that someone will always be better than us at something or the other. If our happiness is based on maintaining a precarious position at the top, we will be easily dethroned when someone better than us comes along.

That’s another problem we have, wanting to be top of everything. We simply cannot settle for less, can we? Making ourselves the heroes of our story is the right thing to do. But wanting that our life story turns out just like the others is toxic. Just because they could do it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do it. After all, it would be boring if all the superheroes or princesses had the same story.

Truths as said by Mark Manson are usually the most unpleasant to hear but necessary too. And well the truth is we are only humans with so many capabilities. We can either stay happy and live on with whatever we have or sulk around and survive with everything we don’t seem to have.

But the social comparison is something really difficult to avoid. So, somedays I stop myself thinking about how toxic it is and well the other days, I cry myself to sleep thinking about how good everyone else seems to be doing. After all, one must live a well-balanced life, don’t they?

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