The Comparison Trap: How Comparison Ruined My Day

I want to take a moment to introduce you to the two versions of myself. 

No, I don’t have a split personality or anything like that- there is- two sides of me, one that you see in everyday life and one that only visits every now and again, usually unannounced and with too much baggage.

  • ·         Elyssa 1: She is the everyday version of myself, the one that is talking to you right now, the one that I have worked hard to become and sustain being that version of myself. She is confident and motivated, completely fine with running her own race and not phased by what other people seem to be doing or not doing. She is focused on her own goals and is continually educating herself in a way that will propel her closer towards those goals.

  • ·         And then we have Elyssa 2 (who for the purpose of not getting confused between the two versions we are going to call Anne for this post): Her self-confidence is in tatters, she feels like things are completely out of her reach and questions if there is any point in trying anything anymore. She feels like giving up is the only way and she is unmotivated, and most of all spends a lot of time looking at social media and comparing what her life looks like to what those of other people’s looks like. She is stuck in a trap of comparison and when she visits drags everyone down. 

Both versions of myself look the same, but they act, sound and think completely differently to each other. Thankfully I can say that I am version 1 a lot of the time these days, and that took a whole lot of work, effort and tears to be able to accurately say that. 
However, version two, Anne- she is still inside me, I couldn’t get rid of her completely- kind of like cockroaches, you can think you got rid of them, but they always come back. Some days, Anne takes over and she wins the right to be at the forefront and present herself to anyone and everyone who will listen. When I say that- it is usually just me that listens.

Yesterday was one of those days, Anne showed up unannounced and ready to bring me down. I was tired, my menstrual cycle was making me emotionally weak and everything seemed to be piling up on top of me, ready to bury me like an avalanche of snow in the winter. It was already not a good day and the arrival of Anne only made it 100% worse. Sometimes you can see her coming and quickly shut the door and deadbolt it, on other days, like yesterday you just are not quick enough to let her know you aren’t keen on a visit.

Anne is stuck in a comparison trap, that is her flaw, she likes to compare one thing to another all the time. She has the ability to convince you that you need to be comparing yourself to not only other people, you also need to be comparing yourself to the past version of yourself.

Comparing me to me

On a usual day I can look at my body and at myself and think “you’re healthy and fit, everything is well.” I can feel like I am doing a-okay at this balanced lifestyle thing and be thankful for what I do have.

Yesterday Anne convinced me that I needed to take a photo to compare my physical features to that of this time last year.
I took the photo knowing that it was not going to serve me any purpose in the days to come, once Anne had left but she had consumed me. At the time of taking the photos I was so horrified that I had made what I thought, or rather what Anne was telling me- was no progress with my body, I was mad that I was putting in a workout almost every day and eating as clean and healthy as possible and what was there to show for it? Physically there was not a drastic change between this time last year and yesterday, and that left Anne frustrated that I didn’t have an “ideal” body, that there was no dramatic changes.

This morning I looked at that photo and thought “girl you’re doing well, you’re healthy, you’re happier than you were this time last year, your stronger and fitter than you were in this photo!” Anne can warp my self-confidence to extreme levels which blindsights me into seeing things in a skewered vision.
She tells me I’ve put on weight when there is nothing to reflect that. She tells me that I need eat cleaner when I know I am already eating a balanced diet that makes me happy and makes me feel good. She tells me I need to go harder in the gym when I know I am already pushing myself to be fitter and stronger. Anne is very critical of my body, she has eyes like a magnifying glass and the ability to create a flaw out of thin air.

Not only is Anne critical of my body, she is also criticial of my work and work ethic. On a normal day, I can go home from my office and be confident that I have done as much as I could to be productive on that day. Some days I get more accomplished than on others and I know that's okay because I have learnt how to identify when I am overdoing it and need to cut back a bit. Anne doesn't. She thinks that it is okay to push yourself to the brink of tears for the sake of getting one more task checked off the list- there is always something more that can be done with her. 

Yesterday, Anne did push me to the brink of tears and if you saw my Instagram stories you would know that. She made me evaluate everything I had been doing up until that point and then pointed out that there wasn't much to show for the amount of work that I had been putting in. My readership hasn't improved greatly, my Instagram following hasn't moved, I haven't made any big deals for this blog or my writing or anything like that- so she made me question why I was bothering. She told me I should just give up now and save myself the time and the effort. 

Once Anne had left and clarity had been restored, I knew why I was bothering- because I love writing and I'm putting in all the effort because I am confident that one day something will come out of it. I'm not in a rush and I am very aware that I have a lot of work to do, and I just need to be motivated to keep on doing what i am doing and contiunally educate myself in the process. 

Comparing me to social media

As well as comparing myself to well… myself, Anne tells me that I need to compare myself to other people- particularly on social media. The popularity and access of social media makes it very easy for Anne to tell me that these people are setting the standards and I need to live up to them- or why am I even bothering? 

I, as Elyssa #1 am very aware of the fact that social media is the highlight reel of people’s lives, the evidence of them living their best lives and very little of their normal day to day life- I know that. Anne believes that everything on social media is real and should be the standard of how you live your life. Why does Anne think that it is fair to compare me behind the scenes to someone’s else’s curated, probably edited feed of their best moments?

It isn’t fair, Anne is an arsehole.

Using social media as a comparison tool is not only damaging to your self-esteem, but it can make your sense of identity take a beating as well. For Anne, she loses herself in trying to be more likeable, a more Instagram friendly version of herself. She tells herself that she must change aspects of herself and her life to be worthier of followers and likes and engagement on a social media platform. But here is the thing- those likes and followers and how many views you get on your story, they don’t matter if you are a miserable version of yourself.

Elyssa is not afraid to be a true, authentic version of herself on Instagram, my mentality has changed from "i need people to like me" to "I'm fine if people don't".  What you see on my platform is basically what you get in real life, I try not to dress it up too much. If Anne had her way it would be all posed shots, no mention of mental health and don’t you dare post a less than perfect selfie.

Yesterday, while Anne was around I was mindlessly scrolling as you do. Usually I see poeples photos and give them a like or a nice comment and move along- yesterday Anne stopped me on one particular photo. This girl was around my age, she is beautiful, has a following and is successful at what she does. Elyssa would usually admire her for a second before some more scrolling. Anne stopped me, told me that I should be more like this girl if I want more followers. She told me I had to idolise her and analyse what she did in order to make herself that way.

So many people, not just Anne, get caught in the trap of comparing yourself to the likes of someone with a social media following. It is a toxic mindset to be in and can be SO hard to get out of. For me, I am lucky that I have the tools and knowledge on how to tell Anne where to shove her comparisons. Others don't- but here is my best advice on ways to leave the comparison trap. 

·       Be conscious of when you are comparing yourself and pause.
Be on the lookout for these comparisons, whether you are comparing yourself to someone on the street, someone on Instagram or even your old self, be wary of them and notice when they are taking place. Once you realise it, pause, take a breath and cut yourself off. Don’t get mad at yourself, don’t beat yourself up about it, acknowledge that you had that thought and move away from it. Don't let it cross your mind again. 
·         Put the focus on your strengths.
Too often it is easier to rattle off what we are bad at, but when asked what we are good it we struggle to name more than one thing. Time to change that. Be proud of your strengths, showcase them to yourself and accept that you have your weaknesses.
·        Remind yourself of how blessed you are.
As I said before on a good day, I can look at my body and be thankful that I am fit and healthy, and that I am still here with good people around me- focus on the positives, what you do have to be thankful for? What makes you feel blessed? Remind yourself of those points. 

It is a hard one to get out, the comparison trap and you always at one point or another will get dragged back in (Anne!!!!), but learn to fight, learn to claw your way out. Once you realise how much better it is when you aren't in that constantly comparing yourself mindset, you will want to stay out of it and that will give you the motivation to tell Anne to fuck off. 

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