How to Deal with Social Comparison & Imposter Syndrome

Quick Tips: Things to Remember

  1. You’re biologically predisposed to compare yourself. It gets out of hand in the modern world. Remember that it’s normal, and it’s valuable to keep it in check.
  2. Social myths are pervasive. Ideology may just be the most powerful force that humans wield. Unfortunately, it rears its head far too often when we compare ourselves to others. Remember: that one thing is better than another (like how you look vs someone else) is a value judgment. It’s not ‘true’.
  3. We’re all different. And we’re socially wired to want to fit in. Remember that you don’t need to be like everyone else. Comparison can be especially futile in this sense. We’re apples and oranges.

Use these 4 tips to shift away from the Imposter mindset:

  1. Own your achievements – if you put a lot of effort into a task, it is highly unlikely any kind of achievement you receive related to that effort is a fluke. Accept that the things you are competent in are a skill that you have achieved. Focus on your success, and view it as what it is…a personal and positive achievement.
  2. Focus on the value you provide – everyone holds value; you are in the position you are in for a reason. You offer something unique, and you are important for that reason. When participating in anything in a large group it can be easy to lose this thought, and it is an important factor to continually revisit.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others – [see Social Comparison] now this is much harder than it sounds. Essentially, if we can avoid looking at the values and achievements of others against our own, we can focus on our personal achievements and strengths.
  4. Keep a record of the nice things people say about you – this can be a great strategy when feeling Imposter Syndrome in a heavy way. It can be easy to focus on the negative comments rather than the positive, so having a place to remember the positive moments can help quiet the negatives.

Prevention and Mindset

Practice Mindfulness

Understanding yourself better, especially in the present moment, without attachment will help tremendously against self-judgment, comparison, and imposter syndrome.

We have a detailed section on the subject of Mindfulness, and it’s full of writing, exercises, and resources to get you acquainted.

Practice Gratitude

Gratitude shifts one’s perspective away from wanting something more and different. It opens us to more options.

It’s an uncanny ability of ours to grow accustomed to almost anything quickly. We get acquainted with the goods in our life and stop seeing them. Practicing gratitude is like learning to see the things around us that fade from sight.

Optimism / Hope / Mindset

It’s been shown that children who are encouraged to compare to only themselves achieve higher levels of happiness and success.

You do not exist in a bubble, but your motivation does belong to you.

Bonus Points

Watch out for these common daily Social Comparisons.

 

With friends/family…
“Everyone likes them so much better than me”
“I don’t get treated the same as them”
*when speaking in a group* “I won’t say anything because people won’t care about what I have to say”
At work/school…

“They got their work in before me”
“They are smarter than me”
“Of course they’re gonna get the promotion over me”
“No one ever asks me to help them, I mustn’t be very smart”

During a sport/hobby…
“They are so much more skilled than I am”
“Everyone always passes the ball to them instead of me”
“I wish I could be as good as them” (often while putting in less effort)
While using social networks

“Look at all the nice things they can afford”
“They have a lot more followers than I do”
“Their life seems so much better than mine”
“Their posts always get more likes/reposts/etc. than mine does”

…what else can you think of?

More Tips

From the Psychology Today article “The Comparison Trap“:

  • Seek Connection, Not Comparison
    • Instead of passive scrolling, send private messages, talk about shared experiences, seek genuine emotional connection, and use social media in general to “foster the kind of relationships known to be valuable offline.
  • Look Up, Just a Little
    • Decades of research suggest that upward comparison can provoke motivation and effort; children who compare themselves to peers who slightly outperform them have produced higher grades, for instance.
    • Seeing that the path to improvement is attainable is key—you’re better off comparing yourself to someone a rung or two above you than to someone at the very top of the ladder.
  • Count Your Blessings
    • If you focus on the good things in your life, you’re less likely to obsess about what you lack.
    • “Conscious downward comparison.” For instance, compare yourself to your ancestors. 
    • “You don’t have to drink water full of microbes. You don’t have to tolerate violence on a daily basis. It’ll remind you that despite some frustrations, you have a fabulous life.”
    • Start a gratitude journal
  • Compare Yourself to…Yourself
    • There is a tendency amongst older people to measure themselves against their own past
    • “People who are happy use themselves for internal evaluation.” It’s not that they don’t notice upward comparisons, but they don’t let that affect their self-esteem, and they stay focused on their own improvement. 
    • “A happy runner compares himself to his last run, not to others who are faster.”
  • Pursue Upward-Joy
    • Use the Social Comparison impulse as a springboard for true self-growth.
    • “Instead of generating envy, which is a form of hostility, explore what you admire and appreciate about other people and cultivate joy for their success,” Chandra says. “It can be a catalyst for personal growth.”

Cleanly Communicate

When the need arises, communicating with others can be a direct antidote to harboring ill-will toward others, especially in the case of social comparison.

To put it simply, Clean Communication is direct technique against passive aggression in its several forms. Check it out!

Learn NVC

Compassionate Communication (also called Nonviolent Communication, NVC) is a way of speaking and hearing others with a deeper degree of empathy.

But more importantly, NVC is a way of being, in which the practitioner understands people motivations and emotions according to universal human needs.

Play!

Play is an often unmet need for adults around the world.
Along with that, it can be a magic diffusion device for social tension. Relax your world, learn to take yourself less seriously, and let go, when it’s wise to do so.