Today I did something that may not seem huge to some people, but those who know me know how huge this move is.
I deleted the main Facebook app from my phone.
Wow – big news right? Well, actually, it is big news because I have openly expressed my addiction to social media publicly in the past but now, this addiction is affecting me in more detrimental ways.
Put simply, it’s bringing me down.
Now, I need social media for my businesses, so this is going to be a challenge for me but, removing the app from my phone means I need to sit at my computer and actively “work” on the platform instead of being tempted to scroll aimlessly and voyeuristically looking at other people’s lives whilst I should be living my own.
It seems that I’m suffering from a fairly severe case of “comparisonitis”.
This isn’t a word I just made up, yourdictionary.com describes it as:
"The compulsion to compare one’s accomplishments to another’s to determine relative importance..."
I believe I have had this affliction for most, if not all, of my life. I think it affects many people even if they haven’t named “it” yet and social media is the drug that is feeding the affliction rather than healing it.
You know what I mean...when you wake up first thing in the morning and scroll through your *insert name of your chosen social media drug here* feed and those inadequacies that lie dormant at the back of your mind (or not so dormant depending on the day) are highlighted in technicolour on your screen.
Having difficulty starting a family? Cute babies, creative pregnancy announcements and beautiful round bellies are a dime a dozen on social media!
Wondering where your next pay cheque is coming from? Scroll a bit further and you are sure to find someone lounging with a cocktail on a tropical island somewhere.
Feeling a bit fat? Look no further, social media is a playground for tight, toned and generally tanned bodies in a skimpy bikini…even better if they are the ones lounging with a cocktail on a tropical island!
Concerned that your business isn’t heading in the right direction? There is a new successful start-up just a few swipes down that will really make you question every business decision you have made.
And the list goes on…and on…and on.
It’s gotten to the point where I feel anxious if someone posts a photo of me publicly that I haven’t edited. You know, that tight feeling in the chest that makes you feel nauseous and adrenalin-filled all at the same time? All sorts of thoughts go through my head…
Things like; what if people don’t like what they see? What if they judge me?
I came to the realisation that this was a major issue for me when a friend of mine took a shot of me in my swimmers whilst on a writing assignment on a beach in Vietnam several month's back. It was a stunning shot but, when I looked at it, all I saw was a stomach that was larger than I wanted it to be, thunder thighs, boobs that were too big and chunky arms. I did not show myself any love at all when looking at that photo. The fact that everyone else said I looked beautiful meant nothing to me.
My response was to return to my sun lounge to use an app on my phone to shape my body into what I thought was a more acceptable way to look. Now, I’m really getting out of my comfort zone because, here, for the first time in a public arena is the before and after shot:
With a few strokes of the screen, I was able to make myself feel instantly better but there was a side-dish of guilt at the same time.
So why do we do it to ourselves?
According to renowned Pastor and Philosopher Steve Furtick, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”
I wanted to dig deeper about the psychology behind comparisonitis, so I contacted friend of Biz Gals and Psychologist Melanie Schilling.
“When you think about it, the act of comparing our REAL selves with the perfectly curated social media versions of others is like trying to measure an elephant and the concept of time with a 30cm ruler.
In life, we all have our emotional triggers; the things, people or situations that spark our deepest insecurities and self-doubt. On our social platforms, the source and number of triggers is multiplied by every scroll.
One of the key things social media comparison can trigger is a ‘lack mindset’. That is, a focus on what they have and what I do not have. Our self-talk spirals into a checklist of all the things – thigh gap, smooth skin, long hair, strong muscles, the perfect career trajectory, the ideal husband – that other women have and we do not.
Rather than coming from the place of solid self-esteem and confidence, where it’s possible to celebrate and honour the positive attributes of others, it pushes us into a corner of lack, where all we can see is what we don’t have. It’s quite an ego-driven place to sit, a place where we choose to make other people’s posts all about us.
There is certainly an addictive element to this form of self-torture. Perhaps it’s the random nature of posts, never knowing what’s coming next, the possibility that maybe the next post will make you feel good about yourself. If you were to scroll for 5 minutes with a ‘Lack Mindset’, you might encounter 1 or 2 posts that make you feel good. Not very good odds, eh?
The key issue here, is seeking validation and self-esteem boosts from external rather than internal sources. Whether it’s social media, the words of others, numbers on a scoreboard or the scales, seeking reassurance from external things is a fruitless exercise.
The research tells us that trying to change things that are outside our control is a sure-fire ticket to stress town and the impact on self-esteem can be brutal.”
So what can we do to combat comparisonitis in our day-to-day lives?
Melanie says that we should make some intentional, conscious choices about the way we approach social media as well as the way we gratify our self-esteem.
How to turn your social media interaction into a positive love affair in 4-steps:
Set up a pop-up reminder on your phone to prompt you to engage a gratitude mindset before scrolling. Try something like ‘I am a work in progress, I’m learning and growing every day, I’m taking steps toward my goals every day, I am on my way to being the best possible version of ME’
When scrolling, if you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk, ask yourself why. Is this about where I’m at today? What does this tell me about myself today? What do I need to make me feel better? And log out.
Un-follow any accounts that make you question your own worth. Immediately!
Try this experiment: set yourself a time limit, say 15 minutes, to go through your feed and make (genuine) positive comments on every post you see. Notice how this shifts your mindset. The idea here, is to train your brain to start associating social media with positive thoughts and emotions (plus happy hormones) and to start dissociating it from your self-doubt.
How to help improve your self-esteem in 3-steps:
Learn about your own strengths. What are the 3 personal attributes that you are most proud of? Most successful at? Best known for?
Seek out ways to reinforce these strengths in your environment. For example, if compassion is one of your strengths, you could volunteer for a not-for-profit once a month and notice what this does for your confidence.
Shift your focus from the social media accounts of others (external factors) to your own personal strengths (internal factors) you will become more empowered and more likely to dilute the impact of comparisonitis.
Are you willing to start combatting comparisonitis with me?
Words: Natalie Kessell
Melanie Schilling is a registered psychologist, speaker, media commentator and passionate contributor to the education, empowerment and inspiration of Australian audiences. In her roles as expert contributor to Channel 9’s Married At First Sight, consultant to selected corporate clients and advisory board member for The Mindshift Foundation, Mel influences the conversation about wellbeing and relationships in Australia. Whether she is speaking to groups, presenting on camera, facilitating workshops, running global online programs or coaching 1:1, Mel brings her signature style of humour, warmth, energy, intelligence and sass.