Last week we focused on Christopher Robin’s advice to Winnie the Pooh that he is ‘more than’: “remember that you’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” How does it come to be that we don’t know this about ourselves or that we forget this? How does it come to be that we identify ourselves as ‘less than’?
One of the major causes of believing that we are ‘less than’ results from the very common human practice of comparison. The cartoon below shows how this can happen in the blink of an eye.
In her article The Comparison Trap, Rebecca Webber refers to social media “as a turbo-charged, precision instrument for social comparison unlike anything in human history. Social media presents what psychologist Mai-Ly Nguyen Steers calls “everyone else’s highlight real”. People are most likely to share peak experiences and flattering news about themselves that makes viewers feel deficient and discouraged.
Here’s what a young mother is likely to post on social media. Comparing herself to this idyllic scene, another young mother is likely to feel envious, stir up feelings of inadequacy, and judge herself as being ‘less than’ what she should be.
However, the reality for the first mother is better revealed by the following picture.
“Inevitably, we relate information about others to ourselves,” says Thomas Mussweiler, a professor of organizational behavior at London Business School. “It’s one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not so good at. It happens not only in a strategic manner, but also spontaneously and automatically whenever we are confronted with others.”
If prone to negative comparison, our mental health can be seriously compromised as a result. “When we’re reliant on others for our sense of self, only feeling good if we get positive feedback or markers of status, we’re at risk for depression,” says Mitch Prinstein, psychologist and author of Popular: The Power of Likeability in a Status-Obsessed World.
- How has comparison impacted your sense of self?
- As you go through the week, pay attention to any ways comparison may activate a sense of ‘less than’.
From Willow, Kevin, and Tom…who provide healthy comparison for our team.
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