• Comparison Is The Thief of Joy: Thoughts On Social Media

    April 10, 2012

    Hi CNC readers! I’m so excited to guest post here today. I found Tina’s blog about 6 months ago and instantly fell in love with her style and balanced, practical approach to healthy living.

    My name is Robin, and I blog at www.thebalancedlifeonline.com. I’m a full-time Pilates trainer with a passion for helping women keep a healthy perspective as they pursue a healthy lifestyle. Like so many women, I’ve struggled with my body image on and off for most of my life. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out the latest fitness trends or fad diets that would help me lose those last 10 lbs and get the “perfect body.” Nothing ever worked, but I did manage to feel guilty and bad about myself in the process. Since then, I’ve made some big changes and have made it my mission to project a positive message in the fitness industry; a message of balance and grace rather than guilt and shame.

    Girl

    I often write about the messages women receive from the media: magazines, TV, movies, celebrities, etc. Messages that lead us to believe we need to look a certain way or have a certain body to be worthy, beautiful, “healthy,” the list goes on…

    Magazines

    But over the past few months I’ve noticed a shift. While magazines, movies and celebrities still play a role, there’s another form of media that tends to hit closer to home.

    You know that feeling when you get when browsing photos on Facebook? You know, the feeling you get after clicking through the album of the perfectly tan, fit, stylish girl who seems to have a dream career with the dream boyfriend? Ever felt lame for sitting at home alone on a Saturday night while your friends post status updates about dining at an exclusive restaurant with their AMAZING friends? Perhaps you’ve felt guilty for lying on the couch while other girls are posting about running marathons and drinking green smoothies followed by chia shooters with a side of spinach. Any of these examples sound familiar?

    Now don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I’m all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it. I love it. But social media has created a whole new world of media messaging that is more subtle, but equally as potent. On Facebook and blogs people can project their lives in any way they want. Most people post pictures of the fun, exciting, glamorous things they do and leave out the boring, mundane or messy parts of life. How often do you see someone posting about their Friday night alone doing laundry or the workout they skipped to sit on the couch and eat chips?

    I do this too. We all do. In fact, just as I sat down to write this post, I posted this picture on Facebook:

    photo-1 (500x750)

    Then, I began writing and thought, “what a perfect example.” Seeing that post you might think I go away on fancy, expensive golf retreats like it ‘ain’t no thang’. But that’s not the truth. So in an effort to keep it real and stay true to my word, I updated it with this caption….

    photo (500x750)

    See the difference?

    How many times have you found yourself sitting at your computer wishing you had something that someone else had?

    It’s so easy to compare and feel second rate. The comparison can subtly seep in day after day, status update after status update.

    I think those of us who love health and fitness have to be especially aware of this temptation to compare. There will always be someone who has lost more weight, run more races or cooked better meals. Trying to keep up is a slippery slope that leads to unhappiness.

    It’s not a bad thing to post about the things you love and the things you’re proud of, but it’s important to become aware of how much you let others’ online images affect you. Beyond the screen we’re all real people with real lives, boring days, missed workouts and messy closets.

    “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

    This is one of my favorite quotes. The truth is, it’s natural to compare ourselves to others. We gather information about ourselves and our lives by using comparison.

    So, what can we do?

    I’m not going to sit here and tell you to give up social media. That would be crazy talk. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are not the enemy.

    But I do want to encourage us all to be smart when it comes recognizing the effects of the messages we receive each day because comparison is a sneaky thing.

    Avoiding the trap of comparison starts with building and maintaining a positive self-image.

    If comparison is the thief of joy, then a positive self-image can be the source of contentment.

    Rather than comparing yourself to others (reactive), focus on things that make you feel better about yourself and your life (proactive).

    A few ideas:

    • Recognize what your “hot button” comparison items are (looks, bodies, houses, careers, families, money, etc.).
    • Stop reading the messages that don’t build you up. Remove them from your daily life. Unfriend, unfollow, do what you need to do to avoid the temptation to obsessively compare.
    • Find people to follow, things to watch and blogs to read that inspire you, leave you feeling good and help you become a better version of YOU (Tina’s blog is a perfect example of a positive healthy living site. She keeps it REAL and shares her triumphs along with her trials. I think that’s why we all love her so much).
    • Become more aware of your thought life. Every time you find yourself wishing you could be more like (fill in the blank), recognize it and decide to let it go. If you’re not afraid of feeling cheesy, develop a positive mantra for when those negative thoughts arise. i.e.: “It’s better to be a first rate version of myself than a second rate version of someone else.”
    • Be an example. Keep it real in your own life. Don’t worry so much about the image you project and just BE YOU and be proud of the unique individual you are and the beautifully unique life that you live.
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    { 90 comments… read them below or add one }

    Annette@FitnessPerks April 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    GREAT post!!!!

    Reply

    Krista April 10, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    This is such a great post! I just wrote one about how I am not happy with my body/weight/self-image, and I know it has a lot to do with comparing myself to others. If only I could have her hips/thighs/abs, have her boyfriend/spouse/life, etc, life would be awesome! While some days I feel completely content, others I struggle when I should learn to accept the awesome machine my body is and all it does for me! And I DO have a great life! Thank you for this post- it was just what I needed today!

    Reply

    Aysha April 10, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Loved this post. I completely agree with your thoughts on social media. Thanks for sharing!

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    kristle April 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    i have really been enjoying, and proud of, the positive healthy living changes i’ve made in my life the past few months, so i’ve been posting about them. my friends have probably all unfollowed me! one recently commented that she wished she had time like me to spend in the kitchen making healthy foods. now i feel guilty for making anyone else feel bad! learning to cook and finding that i like healthful new foods is exciting to me though, and i wanted to share it with everyone else. the more i learn about health and fitness, the more i want to share it with others :/

    Reply

    Robin @ The Balanced Life April 10, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    @kristle: Hi Kristle! I don’t think you need to feel bad AT ALL about posting your healthy changes. I think that can be helpful and inspiring (I do it too!). And most of us here are healthy living bloggers so we totally get it. When I wrote this post I was thinking more about how YOU compare yourself to others. We can’t control how others respond to what we do, we can only control ourselves. So don’t worry and don’t feel bad. I would continue to share healthy, new foods, recipes, etc. Also, some people struggle with comparison and some don’t so we just have to do what’s best for us :)

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    40 something in Paris April 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Love this post ! Very inspiring and so down to earth. Thank you.

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    jobo April 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    WOW! I LOVE this post and everything it stands for. It is SO true. It is so easy to compare ourselves to those we read, watch and know on Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc. I have fallen into this trap so many times but think I have FINALLY kicked the habit. It is so self-destructive and not worth it. Thanks for the post!

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    Robin @ The Balanced Life April 11, 2012 at 12:18 am

    @jobo: Good for you! Glad you could resonate with these thoughts and even more glad that you’ve kicked the habit :)

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    Lexi @ Cura Personalis Foodie April 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Wow, very interesting. This is definitely true, but I never thought about it that way

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    Jenn April 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Another great post Robin, and I love the title quote. My energy has significantly shifted since I put myself on a social media time-out, and I highly recommend everyone give it a try!

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    Steph April 10, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Great post! I never really thought about social media like this before.

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    Laura Z April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Wonderful and so true!

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    Shana April 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    This could not have come at a better time. I was feeling very defeated about my 5k run time after I talked with someone who runs incredibly fast. When I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I realized that all I can do is have fun and do the best I can. Its so hard to get out of the negative cycle of comparisons sometimes. Thanks for this great message!

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    Ashley April 10, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    Great post! I actually wrote just the other day after reading in my psych textbook that people actually define happiness based on comparison with others (seriously I just paraphrased what was printed on the page) and it made me so sad. There is no one that can change this for us though, we just have to be conscious and change it for ourselves!

    Reply

    Kay Bee April 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    thank you! so, so true. i’m glad i’m not the only one who feels this way.

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    Greer April 10, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    This is such a thoughtful, and thought provoking guest post! Thank you!

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    Dudette April 10, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    What a great and insightful post! It is certainly difficult not to fall into the trap of comparison. We all do. Often I do it too much. I travel a lot, and when I do I rarely check facebook and such, and when I do it is for ‘necessary’ things rather than gossip and ‘my life is awesome’-pictures. I treasure those times, being able to connect with the ‘real world’ and my ‘real self’ without comparing and measuring myself to others (or their perfect little facebook lives).

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    J @ ... semplicemente j ... April 10, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Love this post … I am very careful of what I post and rarely post anything about my workouts … I use subtle posts where my miles run are stated in numbers, equations or something funny. I must admit I sometimes feel bad when I am at the couch thinking about running but not doing it and reading other who actually have done it … and I really do not like those who share their wealth or too much info on social media … thank you for the post … I agree.

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    Jenn April 10, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you so much for a great post. I actually have recently deactivated my facebook page because it was getting me down too much! I know I’ll eventually get back on, but I needed to step away and remember just what you’ve said. Thank you for the excellent reminder!!!

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    Stellina @ My Yogurt Addiction April 10, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    Great post! I always compare myself to everything and everyone! It’s a bad habit and I think a lot of women fall into the same boat! Very enlightening, thanks! :)

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    island girl April 11, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I cannot even tell you how much I needed to read this right now. Thank you so much…on my way to your blog now :D Have a wonderful week!

    Reply

    Beka April 11, 2012 at 8:56 am

    EXCELLENT post! Really puts things into perspective. :-)

    Reply

    Mandi @ Miles and Mascara April 11, 2012 at 9:34 am

    Um, where’s like “Like” button?! :) Great post, thank you! I think we are all guilty of this and we all need this reminder..

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    Robin @ The Balanced Life April 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    @Mandi @ Miles and Mascara: Thanks Mandi! I agree – we all need it – myself included :)

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    Katy @ HaveYouHurd April 11, 2012 at 10:08 am

    This post is AMAZING. Seriously, amazing. It is so true too. How many times do you look at people’s FB pics and statuses and think “omg my life is so boring compared to these people”

    I find myself comparing my achievements to others often and it’s a horrible habit. Sometimes I even feel as if something I’ve done is not a “real” achievement unless it’s comparable to someone I admire. That sounds horrible, but it’s the truth. I know I do it, and I’m trying to stop.

    This post has given me great perspective and I greatly appreciate. Even though you know things liket his occur and that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, it’s always nice to hear it from someone else.

    Reply

    Kelly April 11, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Awesome!! I need to be reminded of this OFTEN! Thank you!

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    ashley April 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    EXCELLENT post! 100% true in so many ways. Thank you.

    Reply

    MelanieF April 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    What a fantastic post! I “unfriended” so many people on my Facebook page, now I only have friends that I really talk to and family. You would be surprised to learn that this comes down to not many Facebook friends. But, I’m ok with that. I learned a while ago that having 300 “friends” that I never see or talk to is not important to me. I prefer to have people that I really care about on my Facebook page. Those are the ones I want to know about, and share my life with.

    Reply

    Nicole April 11, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    Wonderful post, great reminder to us all!!

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    Shauna @ Balancing Bites April 13, 2012 at 12:15 am

    This was a great post. Thanks for sharing.

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    Adrianna April 13, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    loved this!

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    Samantha September 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

    I googled the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” , and your blog post was the first to come up and I am so glad I read it. Thanks for being real.

    Reply

    Brian August 27, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    I think amending our posts to spare the thin-skinned discomfort is a dumb idea. If my victories cause someone else pain, that’s that person’s problem and not mine.

    Whatever happened to aspiring to greater things, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves that we don’t have those things?

    And why would anyone post anything about their boring, lonely Saturday night? Or their junker car? Or all that weight they have to lose? We’re *supposed* to share in our victories, not wallow collectively out in the swamps. We are meant to shine brightly, not to feel bad when someone else is doing just that. Your belief that you cannot shine brightly is the first thing you need to kick to the curb.

    When seeing someone’s post about their awesome vacation with their awesome boy/girlfriend, try saying, “good for them,” and mean it, instead of, “my life sucks.” If your life sucks, then for God’s sake, un-suck it already. Find a way. Helping someone with something is an outstanding place to begin.

    Your pain isn’t for avoiding. It’s a symptom of a problem that needs solving, and that problem isn’t someone else’s great life.

    Reply

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