by Janine Maral, Storyteller at RU Student Life
From a young age, I found myself comparing myself to super skinny Disney channel stars, wondering, “Why don’t look like them?” or comparing my music project to another student in class. Whatever it was, I always found myself, and still find myself, drawing negative parallels with nearly anything in my life. It seems like it’s almost in our blood that we naturally compare ourselves to others, and growing up in the digital age it’s nearly impossible to avoid it. To a certain extent, I believe healthy competition can be just that — healthy; but after a certain point, it can and will be damaging for our mental health.
My Instagram feed is a hobby I find value in. It’s a positive space where I can share my view of the world through a camera lens. The interaction between those who view my photos and the photo itself is what drives me to keep posting. It’s also about getting inspiration by the photos posted by others as well that makes me enjoy waking up, and seeing whats new on ‘the gram.’ On Instagram, while people do get caught up in the number of likes, comments or followers they have, when I started, I never cared about that. It was about the joy of posting a photo. Until at one point, I found myself so focused on the gaining of followers, getting more likes, that I noticed the quality of my shots started decreasing. The joy of posting on Instagram was disappearing. The main cause of this was comparing myself to other Instagram accounts.
Let me tell you a little bit about how this all starts and builds up.
I open the Instagram app, I post a photo, and I’m happy with it. It gets likes, some comments, and I’m overall content with the appearance of my feed. For more ‘inspiration’, I start to search up other Instagram feeds that have millions of followers and receive thousands of likes per photo. Their feeds and photos are “perfect.” Suddenly, the joy I feel with my photos is replaced with something negative, and I feel like I’m in a much darker area.
These small instances that don’t seem like a big deal are the ones that build up overtime and have shaped the way I think and feel about myself. And it sucks.
One quote I always think of that I find incredibly true, word for word, is “Comparison is the thief of all joy.” I think of this quote when I find myself in a cycle of thoughts that leave me in a negative and an unhealthy state of mind.
In a society like ours, where everyone documents their daily lives on social media or shares their really cool new job on Linkedin, it’s really hard not to compare yourself to other people. And sometimes when I think I’m doing great, when I’m not comparing myself to anyone else andI am happy with what I am pursuing in my daily life, there’s something inside me that always makes me want to be just as good as that person who has a beefed up resume. It’s kind of like the devil versus the angel on each of my shoulders.
Often, when I compare myself to others, I make myself think that it’s just for motivation, “someone that I look up to.” But, there’s a fine line between someone you are inspired and motivated by and someone you feel like you need to be just as good as.
What I found with comparing yourself to others is you begin to shift your focus on yourself and growing positively as a human being to thinking, “What are they doing next?! What’s their next Instagram photo? How many people are going to like their Facebook post?” And it’s not always with social media, it happens with anything you pursue in your lifetime: weight loss, your GPA, financial needs, school projects, etc.
Once you get sucked into this black hole, you reach a negative state of mind where you think everything sucks, leaving you with a lack of motivation to continue learning, growing, and pursuing your own goals. Your thoughts can shift to “Why even bother?!” and this negative mindset can take over both your mind and body, draining yourself of the energy and will to keep working to achieve your goals.
In September, I went to a blogging class in New York and it was hosted by one of my favourite bloggers and Instagrammers named Sazan Barzani. Out of everything that she said, the one thing that I remembered and that I always keep in mind when I find myself diving into the state of comparing myself is that it’s YOU VS. YOU.
If you are feeling inspired and motivated by someone and you push yourself to attain your goals, rather than feeling negative, that’s when you know the difference. And the feeling can be exhilarating.