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Comparing Yourself To Others: Why It’s The Furthest Thing From Reality

by jenny sansouci on August 18, 2013

Lately I keep hearing friends tell me how depressed they get scrolling through their Facebook feeds. It’s pretty impossible not to compare your life to the lives of other people as you glance at smiling vacation photos, people who look blissfully in love, people portraying the most gorgeous, happy and fun parts of their lives. People say things to me sometimes based on what I post on instagram. “Your life seems soooo perfect!” One of my friends even said to me the other day, “In my next life, I want to come back as you.” I don’t disagree – I have been blessed with, and have worked hard to build, an incredible life (and you have too). But everyone has pain and suffering. Family members have emailed me about how lucky I am to live the life I do, and are often surprised to find out I struggle. Someone even tweeted at me once, after I posted “this song is an instant mood lifter,” — “How could you ever be in a bad mood? Look at your life!” As if you can get a completely adequate portrayal of someone’s entire life through the internet.

No matter how “perfect” someone’s life looks on social media, or when you see someone walking down the street, you never know what someone is going through.

Sometimes seeing what other people are up to in their lives can be really inspiring. It can often really propel you to make change. There are a number of people who I feel extremely inspired and motivated by, just because I see they are out there rocking it. I try to do the same with my work, to inspire people to make positive change and live their best life. Looking at other people’s lives and work and being inspired by it is a very beautiful and incredible thing.

Sometimes, though, when the moon is right, playing the “compare and despair” game can make us feel really bad about ourselves. The challenge arises when we start comparing ourselves to others in a way that takes us back, rather than forward. When we start looking at it from a scarcity mentality, as if someone else’s success takes away from our own chances of success, or potential for love, or the health/body we want, etc – we get taken back. Our self worth can plummet, thinking this person has it all and we’re so far behind, so what’s the point? This mindset can keep us from taking action to live more inspired and creative lives, it can keep us from helping other people, it can keep us from believing in ourselves, it can keep us from taking radically good care of ourselves.

The thing is — what you’re actually comparing yourself to is NOT REALITY, it’s a reality you’re making up about someone. It’s a story you’ve created, largely based on your own internal experience.

I’m writing this blog from a visceral place right now, because it took something tragic to happen for me to really wake up again to this concept. Last night I found out that someone I admired, someone I had looked at as being “perfect” –  had taken her own life. I didn’t even know her personally, I knew her from a TV show and from her social media profiles. I thought she was one of the luckiest and most beautiful women I had ever seen. She always looked gorgeous, happy, in love, successful, surrounded by laughing friends. The knowledge of her suicide shocked me and affected me hard – on one hand, because I can’t imagine the excruciating depth of pain someone must be in to do that. I felt such a deep, aching sadness and compassion for her. But another reason it hit me so hard is because it made me realize how little I actually knew about her, and how unfair it was – to her and to myself – for me to compare my life to hers and make such blanket assumptions about how happy and perfect she must feel all the time.

It jarred me awake. I realized that any pity party I might have for myself when I compare myself to other people’s lives is just not fair and it’s JUST NOT REAL. It’s tragic. Truth is – nobody is happy all the time. Some of my “happiest” “healthiest” and “most successful” friends are also the ones who have the darkest feelings. That’s why we’re all in this together. I’m not in this business because I’m perfect and I want to show everyone else how to be perfect too. I’m in this because I struggle too and I have dedicated my life to finding solutions and sharing them.

I remember people saying this a lot in 12-step rooms – “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” It’s a recipe for failure. When you’re sitting there looking at someone’s social media and feeling badly about your own life, you’re comparing your internal feelings to someone’s EXTERNAL life in photos and status updates. It’s just not a valid comparison.

I have a very close friend who is in the same industry as me, she exudes positivity and is always inspiring others. I remember one day I was having a particularly shitty day and I thought of her. She must be out doing something awesome and fun, I thought. Ugh. I texted her and said “I just have to check in and say I’m having a really rough day. Currently buying chocolate.” She wrote back and said “WOW – I needed to hear this. I’ve been sitting in my bathtub crying for the last hour.”

We all go through shit. No matter how perfect things seem, I have days where I cry, do nothing productive, get my heart broken, feel depressed, eat less-than-high-vibe food and generally feel awful. Everyone does, and you have no idea what someone is feeling unless they tell you. Life is beautiful, but life is difficult too. You should see the life talks I have with my roommate at night. The amount of difficult life stuff there is to work through, even in what may seem to be the “coolest” of lives, is enough to sit on the couch and talk about for days on end (and go through numerous jars of almond butter in the process).

Bottom line – we’re all going through life stuff and we need each other. In my experience the best things I can recommend are:

  • Admit to people when you’re having a tough time. (A friend mentioned the concept of “radical honesty” to me yesterday – I think it is life changing).

  • Don’t assume everyone else in your life is doing just great. Ask people how they are and actually listen to them.

  • Reach out to people you love just to let them know you’re thinking of them, and that you support them and have their back.

  • Don’t ever assume that someone’s public portrayal of their life is the ENTIRE picture. Be inspired by what inspires you, and know that everyone’s life is radically deep and tumultuous and full of tremendous ups and downs.

  • Turn envy into inspiration. When you see someone who has something you want for yourself, know that it’s just a signpost showing you what you want for your own life. Let that inspire you to create it for yourself.

  • When you see other people’s happiness, try to practice compersion (another concept a friend told me about this weekend). Simply put, compersion is an empathetic state of happiness and joy experienced when another individual experiences happiness and joy. When you see someone happy and in love with life, it means there’s more love in the world because of this person’s state of love. There’s no limit on love and abundance. Let that lift you.
  • LOVE MORE. As much as your little heart can stand.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I think it’s important.

Love you guys. xx
J




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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Wilson Pollock August 18, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Fantastic post. Couldn’t agree more. Heard Jen Groover speak this weekend in Salt Lake City and the over-arching theme was to be authentic and honest. Life does suck sometimes, so let’s be more real about that!

🙂

Kim Wilson Pollock

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:41 am

Kim! Thanks – and I totally agree – being honest is AWESOME!

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Polly Noble August 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Thanks Jenny. An important topic and something i am super aware about for my own sanity! xxx

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:39 am

Thanks Polly!

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Nathalie August 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Thanks Jenny. I needed to read this today. I have been stuck in feeling that other people succeeded better in creating a great life than I; while I just having been suck into this comparison game. From outside my life too looks amazing, and of course I don’t post my struggles on social media either. Thanks for writing this. It helps to refocus on the positive and look fresh at my life and others’.

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thanks for the comment Nathalie. Agree – focusing on the positive in our own lives rather than comparing is super helpful.

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Amy August 18, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Well said…. Thanks!

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

Thanks Amy!

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Mia August 18, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Hi Jenny,

I just wanted to thank you for writing this post. I love reading all of your posts but this one really hit home for me in so many ways. Thank you for sharing your truth, and for the recommendations, Sister.

Mia

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:41 am

Mia, thank you for saying that. I’m glad it helped.

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Nicole August 20, 2013 at 11:29 am

Fantastic post! People need to hear this more, and talk about it more, especially in this day and age of social media. Thanks for sharing!

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:42 am

Thanks Nicole! Yes…social media is amazing for many things, but we need to put it into perspective, too.

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Lea August 20, 2013 at 1:42 pm

I really enjoy all your posts but I just admire your honesty and authenticity in this one! “LOVE MORE. As much as your little heart can stand.” – great motto to live by 🙂

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

Thanks Lea. 🙂 Yeah, that last recommendation felt really strong. It’s kinda beautiful when you just try focusing on giving more love.

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Brian Gardner August 21, 2013 at 9:37 am

Outstanding post, Jenny — well said.

I came here from a link that Heather at the Mogul Mom sent me, since she saw a very similar post I wrote about hating Instagram for the same reasons you mention.

Keep speaking truths like this!

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jenny sansouci August 21, 2013 at 9:45 am

Thank you, Brian!! I really appreciate your support. I’m checking out your Instagram post now. 🙂

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Jaclyn August 22, 2013 at 8:59 am

Currently reading “May Cause Miracles” and this week is all about witnessing your ego’s false perceptions of others – learning that what you witness is not reality – and that these false perceptions are destructive. Today I realized I hadn’t checked out your site in awhile and then I came on and read this post! Powerful and so dead on with what I’m learning this week. Thank you for sharing- I needed to read this today!

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Monica August 30, 2013 at 6:39 pm

spot on J~ love it. 🙂

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Trilby September 27, 2013 at 9:48 pm

What a fantastic post and one that definitely had to be written. I can so relate to those feelings and have often wondered how come others have so many likes/FB friends and not me. And felt like crap. But then I started to notice that people would respond to my posts by saying, wow you and I are so alike. I realized that they were seeing themselves in what I was posting. But the real me, well that only a few people get to really know. Having also contemplated ending my life on occasion I can so understand that space this lady found herself in. Social media can create the illusion of being social whilst one eats at a table on one’s own for example. It certainly is a challenge to be oneself in a world that is full of competition and that sets so many stereotypes of success. As you say, the key is to find situations that inspires one and to choose to be inspired. Change from lack to I’d like that for me too! Thank you for sharing this important insight. In Light

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