Comparing Yourself to Others Can Be Harmful to Your Mental Health

Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

When we post details from our lives on social media, we typically share only what is working for us and leave out the things that aren’t. And even while we’re doing this, we tend to assume that what we’re seeing from other people is their full picture. We may find ourselves comparing our lives to theirs and experiencing feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. It would be wonderful if we felt free to be completely authentic with one another. In fact, there is a very inspiring movement called #HalfTheStory on Instagram that encourages people to share all of the ups and downs of their lives, not just the “picture perfect” parts.

True authenticity on social media may not be possible, but one thing we CAN address is our tendency to compare our own lives to the lives of people we see shared in our social media networks.

When we compare ourselves to others, we are almost always left feeling a deficit about ourselves. Instead of seeing ourselves as whole, we may truly believe that there is something wrong with us. Negative comparisons undermine our sense of self-worth and value.

I recall a 21-year-old woman who had suffered in silence for months with anxiety and depression because she felt that she was not good enough and did not measure up in many areas of her life compared to others. She was ashamed to share how her comparisons had made her feel about herself, and her depression worsened to the point of crisis. It was only after surviving a crisis that nearly ended her life that she began to talk about her painful feelings. Speaking about it enabled her to begin the journey of healing and working toward a state of emotional well-being. Had she found a way to share her feelings earlier, her story may have been a different one.

I want to encourage everyone to be aware that what you see of other people’s lives on social media is only part of the picture. Don’t be afraid to talk about the complex emotions that come up for you when you look at social media. You are not alone, and talking about these feelings is a critical first step to a fuller, healthier life.

Disclaimer: This blog is not meant as professional advice or counseling. If you are in emotional distress or experiencing thoughts of harm to yourself or others, help is available 24/7:

  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1–800–273–8255 (TALK) Spanish & English; Deaf & Hard of Hearing TTY 800–799–4889
  • Text HELLO to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Text Line counselor
  • Call 911
  • If you need mental health treatment but cannot afford it, contact Rise Above The Disorder, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to making mental health care accessible to everyone: YouAreRAD.org

A former licensed psychiatric social worker for 12 years, she is currently developing a multi-platform content series about mental health. ShiftTheShow.com