A few weeks ago, my beautiful friend Katie wrote a post in which she highlighted all the reasons that comparing yourself to others is toxic. All her posts are incredibly insightful, but this one in particular stuck with me and I've found myself thinking about it ever since.
One of the modules I've taken this semester is 'The Art of Emotion' and it seeks to explore the way we think, read and write about feeling. In my research into happiness, I learnt how more often than not it is a comparative emotion. Not only in the sense of 'I didn't have this but now I do and that makes me happy' or 'I used to have this but now I don't and that makes me sad' but also 'I have more than them, that makes me happy'.
When we evaluate our own happiness, then, we are not just comparing our present situation to a past situation (or vise-versa) but we are also directly comparing our social standing to our peers (and it is most often our peers and rarely someone with a considerably higher or lesser social/economic position).
This saddens me, but it also highlights just how toxic comparisons can be.
The thing is, everyone has their own problems to deal with, whether they choose to share them or not. If there's one thing university has taught me is that more people than you realise have a disorder or mental illness. I can't count how many people I know who have a combination of depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, the list goes on. Even with those people who you're super close with, I'd estimate that 80% of the time you don't know exactly what their going through. What we project out may not necessarily be the truth (although there is a whole school of thought that we are only our projections, but that's a discussion for another post entirely). Facebook exacerbates this problem. Who posts pictures of them looking down, or sad, or just plain bored? No-one! We post pictures of ourselves having a great time, smiling, looking like we're having fun (even if we weren't really having fun at the time the photo was taken).
Comparing yourself to others is a pointless exercise. It creates stress and a really bad atmosphere. All you can do is focus on you, and let other people focus on them. Thanks to Friends, we all know the story that lobsters mate for life. I say: be your own lobster.