We live in a world where there is stiff competition in every aspect of our lives. There is always someone who is doing the things we want to do and from our limited perspective, they look like they are doing it better than us. So often, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with our peers. We are always on a clock that is socially constructed and we compare ourselves with each other based on this social timeline. It is a mental trap because it is the thought in our heads whenever we see someone else doing what we wish we could be doing, and it can be toxic if uncontrolled. It can turn into jealousy, low self-esteem, self-hate and even depression.
In the world of academia, this often leads to a phenomenon called imposter syndrome:
impostor syndromenounnoun: imposter syndrome
- the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.“people suffering from impostor syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety”
When I was in grad school, I got caught up in the cycle of comparison and it often made me feel like an imposter. Even now post-PhD, I find myself looking at my peers and it looks like they are doing better than I am doing. I even caught myself comparing myself with students who are just beginning their academic journey and feeling like they were better off because they seem to have more support than I ever did. The truth is this comparison is not helpful or productive, but it is also human nature. So, I don’t beat myself up about it. However, I do want to view myself in a way that is actually beneficial and not detrimental to my mental health, and comparing myself with others is not the way to do it.
Here are three of the ways to beat the comparison trap:
- To celebrate others.
I want to try this instead of comparing myself with anyone. When you celebrate others, you are saying that “we all have different talents and it’s this person’s turn to shine so I am going to celebrate them without looking at my own circumstance.” That reframes the narrative. I believe we all want to be surrounded by people who celebrate us and not compete with us. If one of us has a victory, we are all winning.
- Limiting social media
Social media is the best place to fall into the comparison trap, particularly Instagram where everyone is portraying their best lives and Twitter, where everyone is self-promoting. Limiting your time on these platforms might be one of the ways to stay grounded in your own reality and not allowing people (often strangers) to dictate how your life should look, where you should be and how you should be living. If scrolling on social media for hours on end leaves you feeling drained, you are probably falling into the comparison trap. I recently looked at the type of people I follow because I realised this was also important. What is your timeline feeding you? Are you following people who live realistic lives, who post motivating stuff or it is the opposite? Some people feed off the “glamorous” lives posted on social media, but how real is it really?
- Seeing myself the way God sees me,
That means that there is no way I can think of myself as less than capable. The word of God tells me that I am created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God sees me as an amazing and talented individual, so that is who I am. It is all about FAITH and you can believe that too. The next time I am tempted to compare myself with someone else, I just have to remind myself that I am capable of doing all that I set my mind to. This may not be my time, but in due season, I will shine as I am meant to shine.
I only wrote about three ways but I am sure there are many more ways to stop comparing ourselves with others. Let me know some of the ways that work for you down below.