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#MentalHealthMatters – “Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

January 15, 2020

(Editor’s note: Every month, the team at Ravenwood Health posts about a mental-health topic. This month, Megan Mackura, Performance Improvement Director at Ravenwood, writes about…)

Theodore Roosevelt asserted that ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. Each year, in preparation for the coming year, we set New Year’s resolutions for ourselves, with the hope that this will hold us accountable to help us achieve our goals. Often these resolutions orient themselves towards physical appearance, time management, and finances. While for some, setting a resolution for the New Year can be an opportunity to set themselves up for success in the coming year, and to help themselves stay accountable toward their goals, for others, New Year’s resolutions can trigger feelings of pressure and comparison.

In the age of social media, it is easier than ever to stay on the pulse of what is happening with those around you. While this provides an opportunity to build and maintain connections, and keep in touch with friends and family, social media and navigating its waters can be challenging for those individuals who are susceptible to external pressure. We see all too often many teens and adults alike, comparing themselves to those they see on social media, and the feelings of inadequacy that stem from these comparisons. When we see our friend posting on Facebook or Instagram about their New Year’s resolution to lose weight, the weight they’ve lost, and images of their body before and after, for those individuals who struggle with self-confidence, and are susceptible to the comparison pressure, this may trigger emotions such as anxiety, shame, self-doubt, and sadness.

While efforts to take better physical care of ourselves are healthy and appropriate, it is important to be aware and sensitive to those around us, this time of year. The ‘January Gym Spike’ phenomenon represents the increase in individuals dieting and exercising in January, in an effort to fulfill their New Year’s resolutions. Imagine yourself as young female with a trauma history, who struggles with self-esteem and body image issues, and you’re scrolling through social media…every other post you see is about dieting, exercise, weight loss, and side by side images of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures…how would that impact you? Would it make you feel more self-assured or less confident?

As we progress into this New Year, it is important that we are mindful of what we post on social media, and how our posts might affect those around us. It would also be important to think about those in your life who you know struggle this time of year, and to reach out as a friend to those in need, and to ask for help if you need it. Finally, it is most important to remember that comparison can be the thief of joy – we all possess our own unique set of skills and qualities, which make us who we are – if we focus our energy on what we do not have, we will lose sight of what we do.

To continue the conversation surrounding embracing individuality and letting go of expectations, read “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown.

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