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Sex, Love, And Psych
Sex, Love, And Psych

Episode · 1 year ago

Episode 8: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

A look at social comparison theory, some insight to my own journey and some advice on how to utilize comparison in a way that is more helpful than harmful to your progress.

Hello and welcome back to sex, love and psych. Today is episode eight, titled Comparison is the thief of joy, which I did some googling because I've heard that phrase a lot of times throughout my life and after a quick Google I actually learned that it is a Theodore Roosevelt quote quote, so that's kind of cool. So, just to get right into things, I wanted to first start out with noting that there are different kinds of comparison and different kind of examples that we tend to compare ourselves to you and now, would be like to others, friends, family, influencers, celebrities, to our idealized self or where we think we should be, and even to others expectations of us. Now, to dip into some of my psychology knowledge, education, whatever you want to call it, I took a social psych class a couple years ago and I had to pull up my notes and lectures because I remembered a theory that I wanted to speak on for this episode and I was able to track it down. It's the social comparison theory and that just basically states that we learn about ourselves by comparing ourselves with other people in situations when there is no objective standard for the situation and when we are unsure of ourselves. So this is a totally regular thing. Comparison isn't always a bad thing. It's kind of how we learn about ourselves and how we track our progress. If there's no set progress for specific task or a specific area of our life, or if we're unsure of ourselves, we kind of look outward and see where other people are level are at and compare ourselves to that. So...

...when our self esteem isn't threatened, we tend come to compare to those that are similar to us and meaningful ways in the context of the situation, and when we need a little boost to our self esteem, we tend to use downward social comparison, where where we will look at those who maybe aren't doing it better as well as us or are in the dumps, or if we're looking at life progress, if they're homeless, if they don't have a job, we tend to compare downward in those situations if we are content that we won't turn out like them. gives us a little ego boost to look at people who have it worse than us and kind of compare our progress upward comparison to, so comparing to those who are may be more advanced in our fields or are just more successful financially or have a house or have a family, or whatever it is that the is the context of the situation that we're comparing to. This upward comparison can be motivating if we feel like we can achieve it, but it can also be pretty damning if it seems out of reach. It can actually be an obstacle or block in our way of success. It can be helpful to motivate us to be the best you can be and to set goals, but if we do put too much important importance on these upwards social comparisons, it can rob us of the joy of the present and acknowledging how much work we've already put in and how much we've already accomplished and the goals that we have that are more manageable more realistic. This can happen a lot with social media influor influencers, celebrities, etc. Because we see...

...the highlights or just the crowning achievements of another person and that means we can easily forget about how much work they've done behind the scenes, the areas that they're struggling in that we may be more advanced in, and even just how different their situation maybe from ours and and how we may have faced more or even just different, obstacles than they have on the path that they are on to success in whatever area we're talking about. We can also one big thing that I have noticed as we get out of school, like high school, when we reach our tent S, we contend to compare ourselves to where we think we should be at the age where at. So, like I see, that's a lot with people in their s like, Oh, I thought I needed to be, I needed to check this list off by the time I reached this age, and I've only done two of these things, so I feel like a failure. And look at that person. They have way more checks off this list than I do, and that can be really, really damaging to mental health. This is definitely a personal experience for me. When I was a teenager growing up, maybe preteen, I thought I would be married, be studying to have kids, have a house, possibly a career by the time I was twenty five. And not only is that a shit ton of stuff to have sorted but twenty five is also still so young in the grand scheme of things and when I was setting these goals I thought was thought twenty five was super old. Now, but I'm twenty six I'm like, wow, I'm still I'm an adult, but like not, not like an adult adult sometimes. You know, when I was a teenager and...

...had these grand ideas and was basing it off of what I thought society expected of me or what I thought success looked like, I also had no idea what the level of obstacles I would have to overcome with my mental health or how many big decisions it would take or how long it would take me to make these big decisions. In my early S I had some big struggles with my mental health. If you've known me for a while, you probably know that I speak pretty candidly about my mental health struggles, raising awareness, all that fun stuff, and I'm just pretty much an open book to anybody who asks. But I did have these big, big struggles with my mental health. For like I was in a pretty major depressive face for couples who a few years or I just was depressed more days than I wasn't. I was having panic attacks. I didn't want to make any big decisions with my life. I didn't think there was value in making these decisions in my life because I didn't know how much longer I would be sticking around necessarily, or how much value I could bring to society with the Shitty mental health state I was in, and I was constantly comparing where I was at, at my most at my most oppressive phases, to my most successful friends, and this definitely made that struggle last longer than it needed to and definitely impaired my progress a lot more than it should have if I would have had a healthier view of what success looked like and what my own path looked like. Constantly comparing my depressive reality to where I thought I should be also kept me stuck in a really negative cycle because I was only engaging in that upwards social comparison and I...

...did not think that any of those things were within reach. So the more I would upwards socially compare, the more I would think that I couldn't reach my goals and that I was too far gone to make this progress, so I would make even less progress. I still occasionally will catch myself doing this. Sometimes I have friends who are a lot more advanced in their careers than I am. I so we'd part time and I'm a student and I'm twenty six and I never thought I would be at this point when I was younger, when I was twenty six, and I'm also single my children. So I still do catch myself doing this sometimes, but I've also come to acknowledge how much I've overcome and how inflated my perception was of what other people expected of me. So I would just really internalize this idea that because I did so well and like school and Sports and everything growing up, that I had to constantly meet this high degree of academic success, life success, having all these friends, making all this progress. kind of I just thought everybody else expected these things of me, and it did kind of sink me deeper into this whole of I'm not meeting my own expectations, I'm not meeting anybody else's, I must be disappointing everyone. Again, internalized very negative cycle. This obviously is not true. My family, especially like my mom and my older brother, constantly tell me how proud they are of me and that they are consistently surprised by my resilience and persistence and my dedication to doing what I love...

...like and advancing my education, and I am honestly out of myself for all of these reasons too, and that has made the biggest difference for me. I still do look up to a lot of people and use their success as my motivation, but I do now keep in mind my personal progress and how much I have overcome and how much I continue to overcome when I am engaging in that upward social comparison, and it gives me more motivation than internalized negative self thought. In a mentally healthy individual, comparison can be a great motivator, but if you struggle with your mental health and are comparing to those who don't, it can be super detrimental to your progress because you're already discounting the experience of just consistently overcoming whatever mental health struggles you have and you're discounting that to not be as big of a deal as it really is. If you're struggling with your mental health, you're battling your mind every day, so to compare your progress to someone who doesn't have that same experience just isn't realistic and you're just totally missing a bunch of accomplishments that you've already completed. This can also apply to physical health and working out. I'm not as big into fitness, so this isn't what jumped into mind my mind first, but I see it all on social media all the time. You can have goals and you can use other people as motivators to reach that goal, but also be aware that everyone has different genetics, metabolisms, body types and they're all on their own journey, even if they had all the same obstacles and overcame them faster than you like. If they lost ten pounds, you only lost five, whatever it is, or they are bench pressing higher than you, whatever your...

...goal is, just try to not try to remind yourself that everyone's on their own path. You still have so much life left to accomplish these things and not everyone's journey is going to be the same linear progress. Progress in itself isn't a linear thing. You can advance, you can have experience a couple setbacks, but all that matters is that you're pushing beyond those setbacks and remembering that the people you're comparing yourself to also have setbacks. They might just not be as vocal about them. You just might not be seeing them, but I guarantee you they have their tough days to you just aren't as aware of them and you're harder on yourself. So, in the process of tracking progress, make sure to find joy and what you've already accomplished, the excitement in the steps you still have to intend, have to take, and enjoying where you're at right now. A lot of people, in the process of comparison, tend to only see the end goal without enjoying all the steps that it takes to get there. If I was socially comparing myself to those that have a family, that have their career already, I would be totally missing out on the fact that I have my own apartment that I love, that I've decorated with my own paintings. It's my own space that I get to enjoy without having to worry about anybody else's influence or anything like that. I would miss out on the fact that I am learning so much in my schooling and just receiving all this really valuable information. If I was only focused on the...

...end goal of having my career, I would miss out on all of these fun steps along the way. I know that for myself, I was not ready for marriage kids all that shit at twenty five and that I am excelling in the way that I do now because, because I took so much extra time to get here, I'm more focused, I'm more determined, more self sufficient than I ever was in my early S, and it's made me so much more effective in my schooling, in my work, in my personal relationships, friendships, my self esteem, my view of myself. If I hadn't done all of this work that maybe not everybody else needs to do all the time, if I hadn't done all this work, I would not be who I am or where I am today, and I wouldn't be taking as much of this joy in as I would have if I would have just ticked all those boxes as quickly as possible. So I am keeping this episode a little bit shorter today because I feel like that's all I really wanted to expand on. But just to reiterate, comparison can be a super motivating factor, and I'm not saying that we shouldn't be comparing ourselves to others, seeing where we've come, seeing what our future could look like in the context of other people's lives, but we also need to realize that we can't put all our eggs into someone else's basket. We can't constantly compare our own journey to somebody else's when we don't know all of the steps they had to take there. They don't know all of the steps we are currently taking and we may be facing different a different roadblocks. We may have been raised differently, we may have had different socioeconomic status, we may have had different family views, different mental...

...health struggles, different genetics. There's so many factors that we need to keep in the back of our mind when we are doing this upward or downward social comparison to really make sure that we are comparing in the healthiest way and the way that it's going to be the most most good, do the most good for us and our self esteem and our progress. So thank you so much for tuning in today. Do you keep an eye out on social media or if you don't have me on social media, send me some messages. I have episode nine planned already, so that's next week's but episode ten will be hopefully a question and answer period. So if you have any questions for me on topics I've already covered, questions about future topics, anything like that, just send them to me, comment on my social media posts that I'll be making, and just let me know what else you want to know. Thank you so much for tuning in. I hope you have a great weekend. By.

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