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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Waterloo chapter.

We are all guilty of looking at someone and wanting what they have without taking the time to appreciate what we have already been blessed with. The concept of self-comparison has been around as long as humans. In this current age, with access to social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok, the issue of self-comparison has been exacerbated. 

I have noticed myself struggling with self-comparison, particularly now that I have been at home for a year due to the pandemic. With increased time on my hands, I noticed myself spending more time on social media. I would aimlessly scroll through my Instagram explore page to see what’s trending, or what the latest celebrity gossip was. It wasn’t long before I began comparing myself to what I was seeing on Instagram and started feeling inadequate. After identifying the same feeling on a consistent basis, I recently made the decision to take a break from Instagram for however long I need to. I went as far as deleting the app off my phone because I knew it would be too tempting if the app remained on my phone.

woman sitting alone looking out window
Photo by Anthony Tran from Unsplash

As I said earlier, the concept of self-comparison is not new. Even without social media, people would still compare themselves to others, but likely to a lesser extent. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — they are all simply a vessel for people to compete against others and promote themselves. Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great way to connect with others, build a brand, or even promote a business. It has also been helpful in the social justice arena. But on the other hand, too much of it can take a toll on your self-esteem and possibly your mental health. Much of the content we see on social media is strategically released to paint a specific image that is often inaccurate. Sometimes taking a break from social media is necessary to reset your mind and prevent self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy from kicking in. Here are 3 reasons why comparing yourself to others can be unhealthy:  

It negatively affects your mental health

When scrolling through an Instagram timeline, we often forget that much of what we see is everyone’s highlight reel. We only see the good times, but we all know no one is exempt from the ups and downs of life. Due to the fact that on social media people are seldom open about their bad days or difficult times, it can make us feel quite isolated when we go through those times ourselves because everyone appears to be happy all the time. 

It makes you overlook your growth and accomplishments

Many people promote themselves and their accomplishments on social media. A prime example of this would be LinkedIn. Celebrating your wins is a good thing, and we should all do so. However, if we spend too much time focusing on the accomplishments of others, we forget to give ourselves credit for our own accomplishments and overlook or undermine the progress we’ve already made (even though it may look different than someone else).

It can lead to unhealthy competition

Our society can be quite competitive at times. Constantly comparing yourself to others can foster unhealthy competition as we constantly try to outperform the next person. This will quickly leave you mentally exhausted and unable to be present and content with your current stage in life. The only person you should be competing against or comparing yourself to is a previous version of yourself.

Even though taking a break from social media can be necessary sometimes, it is not going anywhere. As our world becomes increasingly digitized, social media will only continue to grow. With this in mind, it is important to recognize that social media is simply a vessel and not the root of the problem. We first have to change our mindset, which will influence the way we perceive content. We should all remember two things when we catch ourselves feeling less than others:

  1. You are in control of your social media timeline

Even with algorithms at play, everyone still has control over what appears on their timeline. If you see content that causes you to doubt yourself or feel inadequate, there is nothing wrong with unfollowing the account or blocking certain content from appearing on your timeline. Follow accounts that inspire, educate, and positively challenge you. You can also follow people that you relate to and share experiences with. This way, your timeline becomes a daily dose of inspirational and educational content rather than a place to gradually chip at your self-esteem.

  1. Everyone has a different story and purpose

When we see people’s celebratory moments on social media, we must remember that we have no knowledge of what it took to get to that moment. We do not know what other people’s struggles are or what takes place behind closed doors. You may see someone doing something that you wish to accomplish but have not gotten around to just yet. In those moments, you must remember that the fact someone achieved something before you does not mean you cannot still fulfill your goals. Life is not a race, but a journey that we each take at our own pace. The success of one person does not have to be in the absence of that of another individual. 

My main takeaway here is that social media in and of itself is not the problem. We as humans have to take it upon ourselves to utilize the powerful tool that is social media in a constructive manner. This starts with adjusting our mindset and becoming more mindful of our usage, which will then affect how we interact with and on social media platforms. 

Hi there! My name is Adanna and I'm currently a student at the University of Waterloo studying Business and Political Science. Aside from academics I have many interests. This includes writing, reading, social justice and fashion to name a few. When I'm not studying, I'm usually reading a good book or watching a good tv show.
Hey - I'm Vanessa Geitz, a fourth-year Public Health student at the University of Waterloo. I am currently the President and Campus Correspondent for HC Waterloo and love writing articles! Also a big fan of the Bachelor, BBT, and books.