Housewife MacGyver: The Disease of Social Comparison by Keira

I'm so excited today to have Keira again! Give her a nice warm welcome back...

Hello again! I'm Keira, a frequent guest-poster at Just Lu. This is a copy of my original post: The Disease of Social Comparison. Although I never did enjoy hating my body for its tiny imperfections that I magnified my entire life, becoming a mother brought this depressing habit to the forefront of my mind for the past year. This is a modified post, intended to label for clarity what we do everyday, and hopefully we can all come up with ways to change it.

As a Psychology major, I am required to take Social Psychology, a class that has really opened my mind to a new, deliberate way of thinking. I absolutely love the insights I gain in college that I can now use throughout my whole life, things that are qualified as "the world's knowledge", but actually display vividly the truths of the Savior's teachings.

One of those psychological findings that has shown over and over again to actively depress people is just what my title states--social comparison. You are guaranteed to be a pessimist and are many times more likely to be depressed when you compare yourself to others. Not to mention the things we ALL know are true, research or not--you just feel like garbage whenever you do it, whether you compare up or down.

Whether it be someone in front of you in line at the checkout or a celebrity in a movie you'll never meet, we are always comparing, and we're obviously not any happier. Not only is it unfair, but in a comparison, someone wins, and someone loses. We are often the losers, since we know our faults and insecurities better than anyone else, and we compare to what others present in public. Comparing their best to your worst? You lose, every time.

Why do we compare, then?

Because it's addictive.

It becomes a compulsion with enough time.

Although you may only "win" one out of every five comparisons (or one out of every thousand!), the addictive part is that we win at all. Just as gamblers in a card game will win once or twice in a whole night, but end up badly in debt waiting for the next stroke of luck, so we compare ourselves endlessly, hoping for our stroke of luck. And do we have one? Of course!

There is always someone worse off than us--health issues, family dysfunction, lack of faith or joy in their lives, less education or experience, and someone is always not as well off and is wearing last year's styles. But just as there is always someone who we can look down on, there are a myriad of people who we can look up to in envy and quietly hate. Even if you lose the comparison, it feeds our pride to lose in one area (income) but gain in another (beauty), thus affording us a back-door "win".

But you know what's funny about winning and losing? It means that we are at war. When you compare yourself with another person, hoping to win (whether you do or not), you have committed an act of psychological violence on that person. Yes, even that completely oblivious woman standing in front of you in the grocery line. What is so significant about doing something to someone who is not affected and has no idea you are using psychological warfare?

It makes you a warrior.

With everyone you meet.

We women (and men) are targeted enough by the media and advertising. They strive to keep us unhappy so we will buy their products. They encourage this competition because it is profitable. And while it may take some effort and time to correct society as a whole, what we can do, right now, TODAY, is put down our weapons. Let's stop being warriors and start being comrades.

What I need help with is the how.

How do we cure this disease that permeates our (even casual!) relationships, and sickens our minds and hearts?

How do YOU suggest we become comrades? It is so easy to compare with blogs and Facebook, where every moment of life is documented--including how you looked one month after birth! It's easy to compare when we are told that perfection IS attainable--just buy _______. It's easy to compare when current instant communication keeps us distanced from people, where real change can occur. What do we do?

And by the way, this theory doesn't just apply to the interaction with one another. It also applies to how we treat ourselves. Every time you pass in front of that mirror and see your flaws and calculate them in a split second (I'm right with you all, I do it, too, unfortunately), you are at war on yourself.

Sometimes, I get so caught up in looking at myself or others that way, that I literally have to scream in my mind, "STOP!" I have to admit, it is a long-ingrained habit that I fight every time I pass a reflective surface! Isn't that just awful?

How can we all be kinder to ourselves and each other? How can we create meaningful relationships with other women that never surround a number on a scale or what we ate that day? I would love to hear your suggestions and examples! What do you do when the media insists on war?

And in case you need ideas or encouragement, I have a spiritual, emotional, AND cognitive-behavioral answer of my own here.

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here.


Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

Very interesting and thought-provoking post, Keira. I wish I had some sort of an answer, but I don't. I think people can spend their entire lives trying to learn to accept themselves. I'm hoping to get there one day :)

Nick and Keira said...

Thank you for the compliment, and I appreciate your honesty. I really think, for me at least, it WILL be a life-long lesson. There are better ways of thinking, yes, but just as we adjust as life changes, we will adjust our thinking and acceptance as our bodies change. Very good point!!

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