I know the social media comparison game all too well. Just this past week I sent a text to a friend that literally said “Ugh! I HATE my feed right now. Like, seriously HATE it.” I didn’t feel like my Instagram grid was looking “pretty enough.” It didn’t look clean and bright. I didn’t think anyone would see it and think… “I want to be like that girl.” UM WHAT. Hold the freaking phone. How toxic is that mindset!? I had been sitting there scrolling, looking mostly at pictures of people’s gorgeous kitchens and killer outfits, and I felt so LESS THAN.
I know a lot of you have been there. And I also know that for a lot of us, it comes from a places of wanting to make a difference on our social media. Truly wanting to spread a positive message, make friends and have great connections, provide meaningful and valuable services and products. I soooo get it. And it can be SO discouraging to constantly feel like you just don’t measure up. But girl, I am here to tell you, you are NEVER going to find your worth in your own Instagram feed or the feed of another person. Your worth is inherent. There are no qualifications or stipulations. You are worthy and enough just as you are. Period.
As I was grappling with this, I thought of my amazing friend Jess. She’s a licensed therapist, certified mental health coach, and a pretty badass entrepreneur. (Check out her website here.) I just knew she’d have some amazing insight about this topic and I had a feeling she’d probably covered it with her clients before, and man oh man, I was right! You guys are in for a SERIOUS treat today with all this knowledge and wisdom from one of my favorite people!
First of all, you’re seriously one of my favorite people ever and I’m so inspired by your journey. Can you share a little bit of it with us?
Aww you’re the best! Absolutely. The last 2 years of my life, in general, have been so transformational, but it all started with being in a really low, dark place. I was experiencing major effects of burnout from working a 9-5 job where I wasn’t valued or happy while simultaneously trying to build my businesses on the side. I completely stopped taking care of myself despite knowing the importance of this as a therapist, became depressed and anxious, and gained 30 pounds as a result. My confidence was at an all-time low and I felt completely stuck in the cycle of waking up, working 10-12 hours, eating takeout, going to bed and doing it all over again. Knowing something HAD to change, I started with my health & got connected with an online community that added accountability for me to workout, eat healthier & take better care of myself again (insert meeting YOU! YAY!) and I haven’t looked back since. Not only did I lose the 30 lbs I gained, but I made a ton of friends that I could stay connected to despite my crazy schedule, which eased the loneliness I was feeling, and I gained so much confidence that one year later, I had enough trust in myself & my abilities to walk away from my 9-5 job to pursue my businesses full-time. My only regret is that I let fear and ‘what other people might think’ hold me back for as long as I did. I stayed stuck in an environment that 1) wasn’t right for me and 2) wasn’t what I wanted because I thought it was what I was ‘supposed to be’ doing. Comparison is truly the thief of joy, so getting crystal clear about MY goals & honoring MY values, even though they were different from others’, has been the greatest gift.
Have you had experiences with clients putting pressure on themselves because of comparison on social media? Why do you think this happens?
All the time! I think 9 times out of 10, when a client is putting pressure on themselves, it’s because of this – even if they don’t necessarily realize it at first. Perfectionism, fear of judgment and suppressed emotions are some of the most common issues I see in my practice as a therapist. At the root of this is an expectation, sometimes even a subconscious one, of how they believe they ‘should’ think, act, feel, etc. based on the message they’re getting from society and social media. Clients often experience shame over things like making a mistake and view vulnerability as a weakness, therefore putting a ton of pressure on themselves to be ‘perfect’ or ‘keep it all together’. I think there’s shame around the hard, real and ugly stuff for many of us and even though we all experience it, it’s hard for some people to own it as a part of themselves without feeling less worthy/good enough as a result. We sometimes look to social media to inspire us or to give us insight as to what our lives should be like, particularly if we’re lacking confidence and security in how it does look, and use it as a barometer for how well we’re doing.
What is damaging about this kind of comparison?
Comparing ourselves to people on social media takes away from our authenticity and our ability to own where we’re at in our individual journeys. It can convince us that we ‘need to be’ or ‘should be’ somewhere other than where we are & sometimes where we don’t even actually WANT to be. This message to ourselves is extremely invalidating and only damages our self-worth. It can also cause us to do, post or say things that are misaligned with our values or are inauthentic to us, which doesn’t allow us to truly connect with ourselves or others in a meaningful way.
How can we, especially women who are using social media as a platform to build a business or spread a positive message, better manage the comparison game?
It’s so much easier said than done, but it’s important to stay connected to our own personal mission & goals instead of being distracted by others’. Get crystal clear about what YOU want YOUR life & business to look like, what your goals are, etc. and write that down/read it every day so that you are intentionally connected to it and less easily distracted by what you bump into along the way. Also, connect with other people who KEEP IT REAL on social media and share the imperfect parts of their story, too. Lastly, pay attention to what triggers you & become curious about WHY. If you have an intensely strong, negative reaction to someone on social media, this is crucial information that can help you better understand yourself & what part of your own life you might be feeling unhappy or dissatisfied with.