Comparison Is The Thief of Joy: Thoughts On Social Media

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”¦.

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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.

107 Comments

  1. LOVED this post. This is exactly what I need. I’ve been feeling like crappy lately and just am going through a lot of guilt for eating too much and too many sweets this weekend. All these blogs I read the girls are thin, have time to run and workout and eat well with little other outside stresses thrown it. It’s good to have a refreshing take. You try your best and that’s all.

  2. This is SUCH a great message. I don’t know how many times ex-stalking, or even friend-stalking on facebook hs sent me into a shame spiral for some of the stupidest things. “Her smile is bigger than yours”. “She was a professional cheerleader – how could your boyfriend want to be with you when that’s what his ex looked like?” “Of course she’s dating your college crush, that body is amazing!” Ugh – I feel so stupid for even getting sucked into that…but Facebook makes it so easy! The sad thing is, it’s just a snapshot of somebody’s life, edited the way they want it to be – it speaks nothing of their character or personality!

  3. This is a great post, I’ll be checking out your website.

    Comparison is definitely the thief of joy and unfortunately it’s too easy to do. I could feel really great about myself, my body, my fitness abilities–and then see a very fit and toned woman lifting more weight than me at the gym and suddenly I’m defeated. Why? My journey is different than hers. My story is different, so of course our abilities would be different. And that doesn’t mean that my abilities are somehow less. It’s a good thing to remind ourselves of once in awhile.

  4. great post! so many people either dont realize or forget that blogging is edited however the writer wants its to be. it isnt always the whole story. and its so important to not compare that glamorized version of what you see with real life.

  5. Love this post! Thanks for sharing! You’re very right in that social media and blogs can project an unreal image that can lead to a negative thought spiral. We need to be aware of it and let those thoughts go.

      1. Sorry for the confusion. I double-checked it and still managed to mess it up! I switched the pics around, so they should make sense now!

  6. This was so inspirational. I’ve been having some serious career envy and this message was really refreshing.

  7. This by far is one of my favorite posts ever! I often feel this way, even if its only for a short period of time. I have a list of all these healthy living blogs in my google reader and I love all the fitness tips, healthy recipies and other general info, but sometimes i read post after post and these people literally come across like they are not human. Constantly doing fun things, going out, buying things, perfect spouses. I understand that not everyone wants to air their dirty laundry on the internet for the whole world to read, its nice to know i’m not the only one that feels that way. In all honesty people want to know about your heartship and your struggles it makes you so much more personable!

  8. This was a fantastic post! This is EXACTLY what I am striving to do for myself and how I am trying to raise my kids… with positive self image and confidence in their ability to be kind, happy people. I think when people truly feel good about themselves they tend to make better choices in all areas of life. Raising/teaching kids in this way is soooo important!

  9. This is a perfect subject and so well written. I won’t lie, I was that girl last year that started to get bitter by the downward spiral that I was going down. I had to step back and really think about me and the great things I had. When I stopped focusing on the negative in my life, I found that I could actually enjoy the positive in my life and in others’ lives. I think there is a fine line between sharing your joy and bragging, but I’ve learned to understand why people write what they write and how they say it. It has made me a lot more mindful of how I write things too!

  10. Awesome guest post! It’s funny because I never really thought about it that way. I read ‘healthy living blogs’ and when I start to feel bad about myself I see that as a GOOD thing. I tell myself it’s motivation to get out the door and do something. I think it is a good thing sometimes, but I shouldn’t feel bad about myself…I’ll think about your post next time I do 🙂

  11. This is precisely why I deleted my facebook account. I felt worse about myself in every way whenever I spent time scrolling through other people’s lives. It’s been 6 months and I don’t miss it at all.

  12. I LOVE this post, and FULLY relate. I am a “morbidly obese” woman trying to break into the health industry and let me just tell you it takes cahonas I don’t always know if I posess. I am not only battling my own beliefs about how everyone else is thinner, healthier, more capable… I am battling everyone else’s beliefs that you should look a certain way. This I know; 1) I have the knowledge 2) I am needed 3) I will change the world by sharing my experience. Thank YOU for sharing – to your website I come!! 🙂

  13. Super awesome post! The comparison trap has been weighing on my mind heavily lately. I experienced a new type of comparison after graduating from college and seeing friends get jobs, get engaged, and start families. I try to remind myself how blessed I am and to focus on me, I can’t change others. Another thing that has helped me is blocking status updates on Facebook from those who post things that trigger me. And also reminding myself that their life is probably not as awesome as they would like it to appear on facebook.

  14. AWESOME post! Definitely thought-provoking … and so true! I’m definitely guilty of this behavior, as I would guess most people are.

    Thanks for bringing this up! 🙂

  15. Such a great post! I get the “wanties” as I call them. It always seems the grass is greener on the other side. That’s not always the case when you realize everyone has their own issues. Live your own life. Be happy with what you have. Great message for all!

  16. This is a really great post. I’m recovering from an eating disorder and social media addiction really didn’t help things and in fact, pushed my further and got me sicker. One of the wisest choices I made was deleting my facebook account a few years ago. At that point I was the sickest I had been and wasting hours comparing myself and my body to others was making me feel worse and taking it out on my body. I’m not suggesting everyone do that, but for me it made a big difference. I do find it hard to be a blogger in the healthy living domain because it’s really difficult to not compare to others (for me this comes out mostly when I read about exercising). I think it’s important to be aware of the impact that social media has on our image of ourselves. Great post.

  17. Wonderful blog post. I, too, have often been caught in this trap of feeling inadequate when looking at Facebook. Nice to know that I’m not the only one who felt this way. Thank you for the great tips on keeping sane!

  18. Wow great post!! I often find myself comparing what I have with others that are my age or younger and then feeling bummed out that my life/goals aren’t on par. Everyone is different and achieves goals at a different pace. I guess this is the virtual version of keeping up with the Johnson’s or whatever…. 🙂

  19. Such a great post!! While I think the healthy living blogs are great for being a source of information on health and what not (not to mention it’s fun to read about people’s lives!) they can lead to the healthy-living-guilt. Sometimes if I skip my workout I do find myself thinking, well so-and-so wouldn’t do this or something similar. It’s important to step back sometimes and realize that your life should be influenced by what you like and find important, not what everyone else is doing.

  20. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this hit home for me. Every example you used of feeling when reading other people’s Facebook status updates is exactly how I always feel! And the comparison quote is spot on!! Thanks for letting me know that others obviously feel the same way-and some tips on how to avoid 😉 Absolutely fantastic post. Thank you!!

  21. This really hit home for me today. I have been struggling with the big life questions and comparing my life to others. I will be reading your blog, as I love pilates and can always use a positive boost!

  22. I agree with everyone else; this is a wonderful and incredibly timely post. I also agree with Robin that Tina is a great example of a blogger who doesn’t try to “show off” or appear super-human. She’s a relatable, down-to-earth person who is candid about her struggles — which I think is very inspiring. Kudos to you both!

  23. This is very honest and very, very true. I try to keep it as “real” as I can on FB—not only posting the good stuff, but also coming clean once in a while that I’m grading papers on a Friday night (yup. It happens. A lot)!

  24. Love this post! After having a friend comment to me (seriously) that I have “the perfect life” I really started to pay more attention and watch what I say and do on Facebook! I too try to follow and read those who inspire me not those who I find make myself feel bad! Thanks for the guest post 🙂
    Love the Quote too!

  25. Oh wow! I can definitely relate to this post. I think Facebook can be more tempting when I want to do some critical comparisions of my life. I recently “Hid” a few people that either weren’t positive or were a little too positive. I love the quote you used, and I am going to post it on my bathroom mirror. 🙂

  26. Great post – I love this message. You are so right – comparing ourselves to each other does no one any good, but I think we all do it sometimes. I’m working on this constantly and also working to set MY goals and not follow someone elses. Hard to do when you see what everyone else is up to constantly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  27. Wow Robin! This is such a great post, and so real too! I’m sure everyone reading this can relate in one way or another. 🙂 Comparison DOES rob us of joy, and I love the practical examples you put up there. Also, prayer works too 😉 Being content with whom God made me to be, hehe.

  28. What an amazing post! I know I’m guilty of beating myself up over the missed workouts, extra bite of cheese, etc. But life isn’t perfect. Thanks for reminding me to keep it real!! Totally agree that Tina’s down-to-earth nature is what makes her and her blog so appealing. Thanks, Robin!!

  29. This is a fantastic post.

    I just had a miscarriage and I find myself staring at the myriad friends of mine of facebook who are having babies left and right. It’s hard, HARD to see this after such a long battle with infertility and then to lose my babies (twins), but I remind myself that EVERYone had something they’re going through or will go through. Comparing my loss to their (observed) abundance is an equation for misery.

    I just recently posted a derivative of your quote on my work computer screen:

    “Comparison is the death of happiness.”

    So it is.

  30. I really appreciate this post. Love the quote and totally love that you are discussing this issue as a blogger.

  31. wow. this post was amazing. i am in recovery from an eating disorder and like every other aspect of life, the ED world is totally about comparing. If you arent comparing who could eat the least, exercise the most, have their sickeness the longest without dying, then you are attempting to guide your own recovery by someone else who is also on their journey, but get bummed when things dont go as well, or better for you. it is such a trap and results in never being happy. thank you so much for reminding me to focus more on myself, be happy with my triumphs, and slip ups, and celebrate me rather than dwell on what i do not have but someoene else does.
    what an inspiration!

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