How To Challenge Comparison Culture
Updated: May 22
If you've gone through your recent "mindless scroll" of social media this morning, I am willing to bet you've seen several people on a beautiful tropical vacation, celebrating an engagement with a #ringselfie, making an Alix Earle reference (hey, she lives a pretty cool life!), or starting a new position at a promising company. I am also willing to bet that the familiar feeling of comparison came creeping in simultaneously.
Comparison culture is the pervasive phenomenon in which individuals compare themselves to others and often feel inadequate or inferior. The immense pressure to meet these often unrealistic standards leads to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. So how do we fight off that nagging feeling of not being good enough? See how DBT and mindfulness techniques can help challenge comparison culture and improve overall well-being.
DBT is a form of therapy that teaches individuals skills to manage their emotions and thoughts effectively. One of the main skills that DBT teaches is "opposite action." Opposite action involves doing the opposite of what one's initial emotional response might be. For example, if you're feeling anxious and want to isolate yourself, opposite action would encourage you to reach out to a friend or family member instead.
In the context of comparison culture, opposite action can be used to challenge negative thoughts and feelings that arise when comparing oneself to others. For example, if you see someone traveling to an exotic location, you might be inclined to screenshot and send to the group chat with a snarky remark or question, "how can they afford this and I can't?" An opposite action approach would involve putting the phone down, taking a big belly breath, and focusing on your own positive experiences and accomplishments rather than feeling inferior or tearing someone down.
Another useful skill taught in DBT is "radical acceptance." Radical acceptance involves fully accepting a situation or circumstance, even if it is not ideal. In the context of comparison culture, radical acceptance can be used to accept that everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. No one person is perfect, and comparing oneself to others is a recipe for disappointment. By practicing radical acceptance, individuals can learn to be more compassionate towards themselves and others, and focus on their own growth rather than comparing themselves to others.
Mindfulness techniques are also effective in challenging comparison culture. Mindfulness involves being fully present and aware of one's thoughts and feelings without judgment. In the context of comparison culture, mindfulness can be used to become more aware of negative thoughts and feelings that arise when comparing oneself to others. By becoming more aware of these thoughts and feelings, individuals can learn to let them go rather than dwelling on them. Mindfulness can also be used to focus on the present moment rather than worrying about the past or future. By focusing on the present moment, individuals can learn to appreciate the good things in their lives and avoid getting caught up in comparing themselves to others.
One specific mindfulness technique that is particularly useful in challenging comparison culture is gratitude practice. Gratitude practice involves focusing on the positive things in one's life and expressing gratitude for them. This practice can be as simple as writing down three things one is grateful for each day. By focusing on the positive things in one's life, individuals can learn to appreciate what they have rather than focusing on what they lack. This can help to reduce feelings of jealousy and inadequacy that often arise in comparison culture.
I created this mantra as a grounding statement for when the feeling of comparison can become overwhelming. Give it a try the next time you feel the same!
"I am unique and worthy just as I am. My journey is my own and cannot be compared to others. I choose to focus on my own growth and progress, rather than comparing myself to others. "
It might not be as simple as saying, "just stop comparing yourself," when feelings of inadequacy and inferiority knock at your door. However, DBT and mindfulness techniques can effectively challenge negative thoughts and feelings that arise when comparing oneself to others. By practicing opposite action, radical acceptance, and gratitude practice, individuals can learn to be more compassionate towards themselves and others, and focus on their own growth rather than comparing themselves to others. These skills take time and practice to master, but persistence can be incredibly helpful in improving one's overall well-being.
About the author
Brianna Paruolo, MSED, CMHC-LP, works as a women's perfectionist and self-esteem therapist, offering guidance and support to women who want freedom from the pressures they so often place on themselves. She is passionate that everyone can welcome a new normal where they love themselves and face the future with hope. Send her an email at Brianna@goldtherapynyc.com to connect today!
Legal Notice: The content presented in this blog post/Instagram post is for educational purposes only and is not intended to provide mental health treatment. It is crucial to consult with a qualified mental health professional for personalized advice or treatment regarding your specific circumstances. Reading or engaging with this content does not establish a client-counselor relationship, and the author is not liable for any actions taken based on the information provided. It is recommended to seek up-to-date information and consult professionals for the latest advancements in mental health research and practice. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, please contact your local emergency services or helpline immediately.