Comparing ourselves to others is a behavior that could be helpful in some situations, like when we are competing in sports and need a marker in which we can measure the improvement we need to make. Or if we are learning a skill ,like knitting, and need to compare our skill to another persons to make sure we are doing it right.
When we are children we observe the world around us to determine how to act towards others, how to share, or how to speak. We were sponges taking in the world around us so that we can learn how to be in that world.
When does comparing yourself become dangerous? When you become an adult and the comparison is no longer used to learn something you don’t know how to do but rather you are using the comparison as a measurement of how you should be. Sure, when we are little it is ok to compare ourselves to others so we can determine what is the right way to act. However when we are adults the comparisons tend to be focused on where we think we should be in life but just aren’t there yet.
One easy way to compare ourselves is by going on social networking sites like Facebook to try to figure out how you measure up to those you grew up with: who makes more, who got married, who has a family, who still lives in the hometown and who moved away. In other words, who appears to have a better life than me?
This is where we get into a dangerous territory because for those who are struggling with self-value, it will be easy to go down a slippery slope of self destructive thinking and even self-destructive behavior. The first one might mean what I call “turning on yourself”. It is the self-dialogue that you use to put your self down when you are feeling inferior or insecure. It might sound like “I am so stupid, I could never get a great job like that, I am worthless” or “There is obviously something wrong with me, that is the only explanation for no one wanting to marry me, I don’t deserve love.”
The former, self-destructive behavior, is when you might take these thoughts and put them into action and start engaging in self-defeating behaviours. This might be called acting-as-if. While the technique of acting-as-if can be very therapeutic, it could lead to problems if you start acting-as-if you have a great job with lots of financial resources but in reality you don’t. One way this might play out is buying more house than you can afford create the image of success. Or, creating the image that you are in a happy relationship by “playing house” before getting the commitment you want. If your curious, a positive way to use acting-as-if could be if you want to become more confident, acting-as-if you are in situations that make you uncomfortable could help you actually become more confident.
We have to keep in mind, what is real and what is image? Facebook and sites like this create an image. A snap shot or rose colored window in which you can view someones life. However it is the image they want to share with you and usually it hightlights the positives in life. Who posts pictures of themselves looking their worst? Or who posts comment acknowledging the difficulties they struggle with.
For the most part sites like these and the information we collect from others can act as a mirror of what we really want in life. It is ok to recognize that there are somethings in life you feel you are missing out on. In fact, realizing you want something in your life that you don’t have is a good place to start examining what could be standing in your way of achieving your goals. Beating yourself up over it however, will not get you closer to those goals. Be kind and patient to yourself. Goals of making changes in interpersonal relationships is something that is very common and very attainable and you really can see a change in those areas if you want to. Please call if you want to set up an appointment to work on these issues. Phone or Skype appointments are also available for those who are out of the area.