We hear it all the time “don’t compare yourself to others” but in reality, it’s very difficult. As soon as we see someone with something we want, we feel envious and it often leads to feelings of inadequacy or feeling like we don’t have enough. When we do something that we see as taking us away from achieving what they have (like eating ice cream when we’re trying to lose weight) we may chastise ourselves and say things to ourselves like ‘no wonder you’ll never look like so and so, you have no self-control”.
Other than being nasty to ourselves, envy and comparison can cause us to be hostile or even rude to someone else (eg. keyboard warriors). Being rude or unkind never feels nice, we may defend our behaviour or excuse it, but deep down we know that hurting others is really only hurting ourselves. But sometimes it’s hard to avoid, and the result is that we either dislike ourselves or dislike others as a result of comparison and envy.
So how to overcome the green eyed monster?
- Acknowledge what we’re feeling. Sometimes just saying “I’m feeling shame and sadness because I think I don’t make enough money after talking to Sally about how much she earns” or “I’m feeling envious of Nikki because she has a beautiful body and I don’t think mine compares” can put it into perspective – both the fact that we’re experiencing emotions (that come and go) but also that we’re having negative thoughts (and thoughts aren’t facts).
- Have compassion for ourselves – envy, shame, guilt, sadness – they’re all human emotions, and other people feel them too, it’s totally normal but you’re not alone and you’re certainly not inadequate for feeling them!
- Compassion toward others – putting someone on a pedestal is almost saying that their life is easy, or easier than yours. But that discounts that they are also human and therefore deal with all the same things we do – envy, self-doubt, worry about their weight or size, ill family and friends, personal illness and injury, they miss promotions and forget their friend’s birthdays too! Give them compassion and love rather than thinking they have an easy life (especially if they portray an easy life on social media – often this sets them up for high levels of anxiety, should the truth come out or should they lose the things that make them instafamous like their lean body or good looks. They’re often highly scrutinized too, and online bullies hit them hard so it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Give them love and you’ll feel better almost instantly!
- Use it as a motivator: okay, so if you think someone’s thinner than you certainly don’t try to lose weight, but it’s really their happiness you envy (which you assume is a result of their lean body) so why not use it as a motivator to be more positive and grateful? These are the things that really make us happier after all.
Remember, as with any negative (or positive) emotions, they’re just emotions and they come and go. Emotions change constantly and although we’re feeling a particular way, it doesn’t mean we need to act upon that feeling. Take a deep breath, get outside and get perspective. If your envy and comparison occurs most often when scrolling through your Insta-feed or watching SnapChat then consider unfollowing these people, or deleting the apps off your phone for a few days while you connect with the things in the real world that make life truly satisfying.