When comparison strikes

Comparison is the thief of joy.
— Theodore Roosevelt

We’ve most likely all been there - we log in to Instagram/Facebook/other social media platform, start scrolling through our feed, and then hit a picture or caption that grabs our attention and makes us feel a bit insecure about ourselves. This might refer to a picture that makes us feel critical of our body, our business, blog, or even just about our life in general. This discussion has come up in quite a few conversations that I’ve had over the past couple of weeks so I thought it might be a good time to address it in a blogpost. Comparison is something that we all deal with at some point or another, and I believe that it’s so important that when it strikes us that we should acknowledge those feelings, without judgement, and then move forward without allowing them to rob us of our joy, excitement, and passion for life.

 UPDATE - Download my free printable workbook at the end of this post to help you work through some of the points that I discuss here.

1. Don’t be afraid to ‘unfollow’ 

If there are particular people/profiles that consistently make you feel inadequate, uncomfortable, and inclined to comparison, click ‘unfollow’ and leave it at that. This might be necessary for just a short period of time, until you’ve had the chance to work through and identify the root of those feelings, or it may be forever. Don’t be ashamed of having to do this, no one needs to know!

For example, I have had to unfollow a number of accounts (for the sake of my own mental health and well-being haha) that focus on sharing:

  • Unqualified ‘pseudoscientific’ nutrition information and tips, without understanding the harmful impact that their messages may have on their readers

  • Promote diets, weight loss as the primary endpoint and goal in life, and perpetuate diet-culture messages

  • Picture after picture of pre-/post-workout pics, ‘perfect’ bodies, ‘gains’, before/after comparisons

I’m not saying that it’s not okay to share these things - social media is a space where we are able to share what we want, when we want, however we want. What I do want to highlight is that these types of messages get underneath my skin, bring up old insecurities, and make me upset for a variety of reasons. So next time you're scrolling through that Instagram feed and find yourself thinking things like "I wish my body looked more like hers", "I need to start exercising more, and feel guilty about eating X for lunch today", or even "My life is so boring. I wish that I had that X", go ahead and click the ‘unfollow’ button, and move then forward from there.


2. Appreciate your strengths and accomplishments

We can often be so hard on ourselves, criticising our failures and inadequacies rather than appreciating and celebrating our strengths and accomplishments, no matter how big or small they might be. When you feel inclined to compare your failures and 'weaknesses' with the strengths of others, why not take a step back and do the following:

  • Look back on the past day, week, month, and year, and write down something that you are proud to have accomplished within each of those timeframes. Acknowledge how AWESOME you are for having achieved those things, and celebrate your victories!

  • Write down a list of 5 of your strengths. Next, ask a close friend or family member to do the same thing for you. Look at each of those lists, and acknowledge that they make you unique. Celebrate your strengths!

3. Celebrate your unique message

You are special. You are unique. There is no one out there who is able to do all of the wonderful things that you're able to do, and share all of the amazing things that you're able to share. Often I can feel inclined to compare what I have to share on this blog and on each of my social media platforms, especially since it feels like every second nutrition student is a blogger haha. When thoughts of comparison pop into my head I know that I have one of two choices to make:

  1. Feel insecure, inadequate, or like a bit of an imposter because what I have to share is not interesting, fun, or important enough for others to want to read

  2. Share my unique message with the world, and trust that it will impact that lives of those who find and appreciate it

You have the opportunity to do the same thing with your message! One more thing I'd like to mention here - it's great to gain inspiration and expertise from others in your field, but once again if following and reading their work makes you feel a bit inadequate, feel free to 'unfollow' them for a period of time whilst you figure out what your unique message and vision is! Once you feel more comfortable in who you are, what you have to share, and what your longer-term vision for your work is then you will be far more effective in putting your message out into the world. I spotted this quote on Haley Goodrich's Twitter feed just before posting this, and thought it was rather appropriate to share:

It’s normal to compare yourself to others. However, comparison keeps you from seeing your own beauty.
— Haley Goodrich

4. Don’t be afraid to collaborate

As I've already mentioned, there are so many people around the world doing amazing things. Despite your unique talents, gifting, and messages, I can guarantee that there is at least one other person out there doing similar work to you, sharing a similar message to you, or even with a similar goals to you. Comparison may be a thief of joy, but more often than not jealousy walks alongside it and takes root in our hearts. This quote that I read in a blogpost on The Body is Not an Apology does a great job of explaining my thought processes around this issue:

A posture of comparison often creates competition in an inappropriate context. Instead of celebrating diversity, comparison often requires that someone be labeled the winner and someone the loser. We view others as competitors instead of companions. This leads to a “better than versus worse than” mentality and feelings of superiority or inadequacy — neither of which helps us to be content and contributing members of a healthy community.
— The Body is Not an Apology

When I first started this blog, I often struggled with feelings of comparison and often found my heart leaning towards picking out something that I could criticise or discount in the work that others were doing within a similar field of interest. I very quickly realised that these thoughts and feelings were of no good, and had to do some serious work dealing with my own insecurities. I slowly started reaching out to others who were doing similar or complementary work to me, and have since collaborated with and gained lots of wisdom from them in the process.

In my case, there are plenty of people out there in need of what I (and many other nutrition professionals) have to offer, and more often than not it's these professionals that can walk beside me and encourage me, as each of us makes a difference in this world. Collaboration may look different for you, depending on your profession, passion, or stage of life, and that's great! I'd love to hear more about how you foster 'teamwork' over competition in your day-to-day life.

5. Take a break

Learning to switch off from technology and social media isn't (I'll admit!) the easiest thing to do, but it's a great way to protect our hearts from feelings of comparison once in a while. It's actually quite scary how much we depend on the rush that those 'likes' and 'follows' on Instagram give us and how dependent we are on having our cellphones on 24/7 'just in case' someone really needs to get hold of us. I don't always get it right, but I have been trying my best to switch off from my phone and social media platforms between at least 7pm-7am each day, as well as for one full day on the weekend. Deleting Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter apps from your phone does wonders for productivity and your ability to enjoy real life outside of the 'fake' world of social media.

There are so many other useful things that I try to do to take a bit of a break from social media, blogging, and even my studies (once in a while):

  • Get outside and go for a gentle walk, taking in the smells, sights, sounds of your surroundings

  • Switch your phone off for an hour or two and read a book that you haven't had the time to read

  • Get in the kitchen and bake/cook something that requires a bit more time than normal - bake bread, prepare a nourishing stew or soup, get fermenting and try to make my easy sauerkraut

You can click on the button below to download a free printable workbook that I've put together to help you work through some of these points. I would love to hear what you think about this topic, how these points have helped you, and other ways that you take control when comparison strikes. Have a wonderful week dear friends!

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