It’s so easy to get caught up in seeing other people’s “outsides,” in other words, what they portray to the world about what their lives are like, and comparing this view to our own “inside” lives, especially during the holiday season. So not only do we see people’s pictures on social media of them with friends and family and at parties, their decorated houses, their gifts, their meals, etc., but we also see commercials on TV of couples and families skating and frolicking in the snow, and enjoying new toys and electronics and cars and romantic moments and kisses on New Year’s Eve. It’s hard to avoid these images. Then people compare their “insides,” either how they’re feeling on the inside or what’s happening inside their homes and relationships and parenting worlds to the view of other people’s outsides. This can cause so much pain when those insides don’t seem to measure up to what they’re seeing.
It’s important to remember that what you’re seeing, the “outsides,” doesn’t portray the whole picture. Other people’s “insides” have ups and downs and hard stuff happening too. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my work, it’s that everyone struggles sometimes, no matter how pulled together they look from the outside. Pain and suffering are universal human experiences. As the song says, “Everybody hurts…sometimes.”
Mostly people are showing the good stuff, not the tough stuff. (This isn’t always true of course, but you know what I mean…the good stuff is the stuff one can tend to compare oneself to.) Many times when we’re comparing, our “inner critic” gets vocal and tells us that our life doesn’t measure up. Helping yourself with this starts with noticing. Notice that your inner critic is piping up.
Then you can remind yourself that comparing isn’t helpful and you’re only seeing a limited view. Remind yourself that if you saw everyone else’s “insides” too, you’d likely realize that they have ups and downs just like you…you’re not alone.
If you notice you’re comparing when using social media a lot, also notice if you’re interacting with others or just scrolling through and looking at what others are posting. After all, social media is meant to be just that…social, meaning engaging with each other, not just watching each other. So your mind may do more comparing when you’re simply watching and not engaging with others. Make a commitment to interact more…post your thoughts, comment on others’ posts, message someone privately and start up a conversation!
Once you notice that you’re comparing, you can take a deep breath and refocus your attention on something that’s important to you. Your inner critic may still prattle on, but you can continually refocus your attention, which can eventually make your inner critic fade into the background and not be front and center. This practice of refocusing your attention can be a game-changer over time.
I’ve seen this comparison thing in action frequently, year-round and not just during the holiday season, and I want you to know that if you find yourself doing this, you’re not alone and you can practice doing it differently.
As always, you’re welcome to write to me at dawn[at]dawnstratton[dot]com and share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you!