So there’s something I’ve been struggling with lately….
At times, this particular feeling ruled my decisions and then there were times where I really had a handle on it and felt free. Lately, I’m just noticing those women that have more than me – more success, more money, more fun, more interesting lives, they seem to have it more together. And when I focus on these things, I end up feeling inadequate in that area.
Psychologists have researched the causes of feeling this way and coined it The Comparison Trap, and it’s rooted in the way we make comparisons to evaluate ourselves.
And how is it always in my space lately? With social media! I saw photos posted by my friend from grade school who travels all over Europe as a professional basketball player. A girlfriend just got back from South America for Doctors Without Borders. And I know a mom of 3 with never-ending energy, who grows her own food and has six pack abs… no really. So for me, this sense of being inadequate flares up when I compare myself to their social media story lines.
What about you?
I mean of course every now and then you don’t feel “good enough.” That’s normal, but if these feelings stick around for too long they wreak havoc – and seriously interfere with your life. Doubting your abilities paralyzes you at work, with your health, and in relationships. When you catch yourself saying,
“Who am I to (fill in the blank)”
BEWARE. When you have an attitude like that you assume other people view you in the same negative way. Here’s the truth I learned – comparison can’t be avoided, but feeling inadequate can! You just have to compare the right things!
Here’s an example – Sammy was a weight-loss coach that I thought led a charmed life, or at least that’s how her Facebook page made it look. She was absolutely gorgeous! She seemed perfect – she was always running or biking or swimming, all of her healthy meals were photo worthy, she only shopped at farmers markets, she posted bikini photos of her amazing body and was taking trips to places like Bali and Tahiti- it literally seemed like she had it all together. So each time I saw a post from her, I’d take stock of my own life. “My life isn’t as interesting, my body isn’t as rock solid and I felt a little less than.”
A couple weeks ago, Sammy made an incredibly shocking post. Turns out, she had been battling an eating disorder! Yep, she shared that so much effort had gone into appearing perfect and healthy and “having it all together” and that was precisely what was taking her deeper and deeper into an eating-disorder-fueled-depression. Keeping up this facade was using all of her energy, and so she had to let her clients go and shut down her practice while she sought treatment. This was the 3rd time in her life it had gotten this bad and she didn’t have a handle on it yet. Her social media painted a really skewed picture of her life, one that was exhausting even her. I’ve come to find out that’s the norm for a lot of people. Our newsfeed can be like a highlight reel on repeat!
Shocked doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt. I had spent so much time and had so many conversations in my head about why she had more than me.
I was a pro at negative comparisons and the fact is comparing can work both ways. It can make you feel bad or it can show you how lucky you are. That last post from Sammy made me realize how grateful I am for my good health, my happy marriage, my stable finances, and the deep passion I have for my career!
Comparing is a human impulse, and there’s no way to shut it down completely (nor would you want to). Reducing the negative comparisons that leave you feeling depressed and inadequate and instead focusing on the positive comparisons is key to fixing your feelings.
3 Fixes for Feeling Inadequate:
1) CONNECT Use social media for connection, not comparison. This often involves a social media purge of sorts – identify the people or posts that send you down a comparison trap rabbit hole and opt-out. Unfollow, unfriend, unsubscribe, whatever it takes. Focus on using this amazing technology to stay connected to the people who inspire you!
2) ACKNOWLEDGE the good. I know, I know we’ve all been told to have a gratitude practice…but how many of us actually do it? My client started simply writing down 3 things per day that she’s grateful for, and immediately focused less on negatively comparing herself to her co-workers. This is a game-changer!
3a) EVALUATE (Part 1) Know this is a highlight reel, not real life. Now I’m not saying look for what someone is hiding, but people tend to highlight the best of their lives on social media. SO understand that, and remember that. Everyone has tough days, and the veil of perfection is not what it seems.
3b) EVALUATE (Part 2) Compare yourself to yourself. The most successful runners aim to beat their personal records (not someone else’s record). Want to be happier and more successful? Evaluate yourself in a way that motivates – use yourself for internal evaluation, compare past performance to current performance (and don’t forget to take into account lifestyle changes)!
I did myself a BIG favor and started connecting, acknowledging and evaluating to motivate myself. If you’re pulled down by feeling inadequate, try these fixes and sidestep the comparison trap. Let me know if the comments which one are you are most excited to try!