Why We Need to Stop Playing the Comparison Game

Our twenties are prime years of our lives. It’s when a lot of really exciting things happen: graduating college and/or grad school, landing a job, traveling all over the world, living the socialite life, maybe getting engaged or married, and maybe even having a baby.

Whatever happens in someone’s life undoubtedly appears on social media within 24 hours. In fact, my dad used to joke with me about how long it took me and my friends (or didn’t take, sometimes) to post pictures of some event on Facebook. Smartphones expedite this process, making it super easy to share how awesome life is. It’s a blessing and a curse. We’re all guilty of it, to some degree. “Look how awesome my life is,” we want to say.

When we see what our friends and peers post, how often do we think, “Man, look how awesome her life looks”? That’s the comparison game. You may not even realize you’re in it.

And we need to stop playing it.

In our defense, it’s easy to compare ourselves to those around us, in person and online. Just as social media makes it easy to show off our lives, it makes the counter effect that much easier, too. When our news feeds are filled with vacation photos, posts about new homes and jobs, plans for the future, beautiful gifts from friends and significant others, and more, it’s easy to think, “Why isn’t my life like that? Am I doing something wrong? Shouldn’t I be doing or experiencing some of those things, too?”

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Maybe we feel like we have to live up to those things. She’s my age and she’s engaged. I don’t even have a boyfriend. How does he have such a good job? We have the same degree from the same school. Ugh, what is my life?

Sound familiar?

But we don’t know what goes on behind the screen. More often than not, people only share the good parts of life, the happy memories, things they want to remember. They don’t show you the darker sides of what happens behind the screen.

The girl whose fiance just pulled off the most extravagant and romantic proposal won’t tell us that she suffers from severe anxiety disorder. But she’s more than happy to share pictures of her shiny ring.

My friend who battles depression doesn’t tell the social world about his struggles. He doesn’t post Facebook statuses about having panic attacks daily.

Another friend, whose parents are going through a difficult divorce, won’t tweet about the fights she overhears at night. She barely mentions her home life, and instead shares photos and funny tidbits about her job in the city.

These are very specific and somewhat extreme examples, but the point remains the same. What we see from our friends and peers online doesn’t always tell the whole story. It’s not fair to compare our own lives to others’ lives, no matter what the other lives look like. The circumstances are often different, thus leading to different outcomes. It’s a case of apples and oranges.

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Don’t compare your chapter two to someone else’s chapter six. Life happens at different paces for everyone. It’s okay if everything doesn’t happen all at once.

Sure, it’s difficult to remind ourselves of that, when social media is full of our friends sharing pictures and stories about their new jobs, going to grad school, epic travels across Europe, serving in the Peace Corps, extravagant marriage proposals, volunteering in Africa, and whatever else they’re doing. It makes our lives going to work and spending nights at home watching Netflix with our pets look boring in comparison.

There’s that word again… comparison. It makes us feel like we have something to prove, to live up to, or to even one-up.

But you know what? Our lives are pretty awesome, too. We graduated college. We finished our educations. We’re on our own. We may not have it all figured out yet, and that’s okay. We’re working on it. It’s a learning process.

That sounds pretty amazing and adventures in my book, too.

Fight the habit of comparing yourself to those around you. If it means taking a break from social media, then I encourage you to take the cleanse and go for it. If you can’t bring yourself to leave it completely alone, then take advantage of the “unfollow” or “mute” functions, and hide just those people who make you feel inferior, or like you aren’t accomplishing anything, or like your life isn’t amazing.

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Your life is amazing. You don’t need anyone telling you otherwise, deliberately or not. Your life is yours to live. Let it happen as it may.