The Comparison Trap and how to avoid it

Have you fallen into the comparison trap lately? I know I have. Social media has always been a touch paper for comparison – all those posts of perfect bodies doing perfect yoga; all those humble brags about immaculate homes, shiny happy children and stylish feasts. Since the coronavirus crisis, it’s only become worse. We’re seeing the rise of Covid guilt – the feeling that we should be using this strange time to do extraordinary things – start a new business, write a bestseller, get killer abs, learn a new language. Those suddenly thrust into being teachers as well as parents have it particularly tough as blog posts on perfect parenting proliferate. We judge ourselves so harshly.

Comparison is a dangerous business. A certain amount of healthy competition can fire us up to achieve our goals but when it starts denting our confidence and our self-esteem, it becomes toxic.

So what’s the answer? If you can, delete the apps that cause you grief, or change how you use them. My son has recently taken Instagram off his phone – he said it was getting him down. If going cold turkey isn’t an option, choose the people you follow carefully. It’s interesting that we tend to fall into what’s called upward comparison – comparing ourselves to people we assume are doing better than ourselves, rather than its opposite – downward comparison. We focus on our perceived shortcomings, rather than dwelling on our triumphs, our successes – however small we might consider them to be. So if you’re following a swathe of super-achievers, maybe have a rethink. Also remind yourself that social media is rarely ‘real’. People edit their lives; they show the high spots; they filter and Photoshop and depict themselves in the best possible light. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

So, in the time you’d usually spend online, I’d suggest sitting quietly and having a ponder about what really matters. What are your values? What’s truly important for your most authentic self? So what if you don’t cook your own perfect sourdough? So what if your home schooling is a bit haphazard? Is now really the best time to write that bestseller or re-decorate the house?

What feels right in your bones? These are tough times and we all react differently to losing our normal lives and everyday structures. If all you manage some days is to breath, that’s absolutely fine – you’re doing great. Try some downward comparison too – think about the people who are doing way worse than you are. Gratitude is a powerful remedy for comparison, guilt and envy.

It’s not about giving up your dreams. It’s about being kind and gentle to ourselves at a time when many of us are feeling lost and bewildered.

My latest books The Energy Secret and Ancient Wisdom for Modern Living have many exercises and techniques to help in troubled times.


This feature first appeared in my column for Natural Health magazine.

Image by Georgia de Lotz via Unsplash