Ever since I can remember, I have compared myself to other people. I would see my friends in elementary school and envy their cute outfits with cartoon logos and their pencil cases that were lined with feathers and sparkles. As an adult, I still compare myself to others — I see other people’s successes and growing statuses and instantly feel the hot bubbles of inadequacy brewing in my gut.
However, this is as far as I allow it to go, because at the end of the day, my self-worth cannot be determined by the success of another.
In this day and age, it is exceedingly tempting to compare oneself to others. People see the perfect lives of social media influencers who seem to have it all and immediately start to size up their own deficiencies to the edited and airbrushed perfection in front of them.
While social media is not the inherent enemy to self-confidence, nor is it the origin of self-comparisons, it is a major factor in people’s perceptions of their own self-worth. This being said, social media cannot be an excuse — we as humans have to be able to adapt to our surroundings and realize the personal and social problems that can ensue with the wrong perception of ourselves and those around us.
In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger hypothesized that when humans make a comparison, it is actually a way for us to analyze ourselves. The need to make comparisons to others stems from our brain’s drive to evaluate our own weaknesses in conjunction with possible social and physical threats.
While this impulse was once beneficial to humans in our early hunter-gatherer stages, with social media and current societal pressures, it now only serves as a means to self-loathing. This is essentially the first time in human history in which every person can post highly refined versions of their life story. As individuals see these stories, and these seemingly perfect lives, self-doubt can begin to creep in and the fear of inadequacy can corrode our very fragile self-confidence.
For awhile, I too fell victim to this way of thinking, and in some ways I still struggle with it. When I first started writing for The Daily Nebraskan, I felt like my inexperience with writing and journalism would lead to my inevitable undoing. Even as I started writing this column and becoming more involved, I would see the success of my colleagues and their seamless transitions into talented journalists as proof of my impending failure.
There wasn’t an exact moment that it all clicked into place for me, but with time and taking a moment to really look at the inner workings of my mind, I realized that I shouldn’t have to compare myself to validate or justify my own self-worth.
I’ve realized that gratitude is the only real solution for envy and overly critical self-comparisons. I am grateful for what I am able to do and happy for my peers and colleagues who are accomplishing more and advancing on to bigger and broader endeavors.
Being happy for others’ successes while still commending your own is the only real way to combat self-doubt brought up by self-criticism and comparison.
Self-worth is not something that another person can give to you through their failure, and success is not a kryptonite to insecurity. At the end of the day, you need to recognize the difference between reality and a flawed perception of reality.