How vulnerable are you to an overload of envy about the success of others, especially people you know well?
An article in the December issue of Psychology Today delves into this subject, with a subtext of measuring how happy and successful we feel about our own lives. The ease with which this can become a personal issue has been dramatically escalated by the rise in access to and influence of social media.
For example, there’s the story of a woman leading a seemingly ‘charmed’ life: travel in Europe, a happy family life and home in NYC, and opportunity to indulge in cultural interests. Yet, an inner gnawing persists, thanks in part to social media exposure, when considering peers from the past who have gone on to flashier lifestyles thanks to their life choices.
“Measuring the self against others is a modus operandi of the human mind…” The effect can be positive, such as being inspired by someone else’s efforts, or a self-esteem boost about one’s capabilities. But one might instead react to bouts of comparisons with bigger feelings of inferiority or depression.
Social media adds the catalyst, due to its tendency to provide a “skewed picture of one’s social universe”. Such outlets’ distorted view of reality “is almost perfectly constructed to make viewers feel deficient and discouraged”; the impact is intensified by “a tsunami of excess information at warp speed”.
Since human impulse to making comparisons seems endemic, finding effective strategies helps. Several approaches are profiled, identifying responses which allow the ‘better you’ to emerge.
- Use social media as an avenue to encourage, when on-line, building relationships that would be valuable in the off-line world
- Use not overly ambitious comparisons, and see other’s efforts in a positive, motivating manner, so one can feel “that the path to improvement is attainable…”
- Consider the reflective view of ‘downward comparison’, most obviously how much better off in core respects we are in our daily life than ancestors
- Become someone happy and self-assured enough to rely on oneself for internal evaluation, making comparing based on personal building blocks
- Consider using the ‘social comparison impulse’ to enhance self-growth by focusing on being happy rather than envious for others’ success
- “Can you be proud of the person you are who isn’t publicly posted?”