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The Comparison Game

We are subjected to comparison from the time we were born: percentiles, size, grades, rankings, scores, below average, above average, and many other measuring sticks used. In essence, we become wired to compare ourselves to others for the rest of our lives. In the time of social media, this becomes even LOUDER to be in constant comparison of others: they just bought a house, they got this job, they got married, they had a baby, what am I even doing with my life?! No wonder so many individuals are depressed and anxious - we have been conditioned to believe we need to stay at least one foot in the ballpark of comparison!

Let’s talk about this. While comparison and “measuring sticks” CAN be helpful in terms of diagnoses, treatments, and motivators to make improvements or appropriate changes - it can also turn into negative self-talk and punishment leaving people with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame. Enter in - depression, anxiety, addiction, and any self-defeating behaviors. One thing I end up talking to many of my clients with is whether their internal voice is motivating or punishing. Often, it is the latter and don’t be mistaken - I’m definitely part of the negative self-talk crew.

So, what is negative self-talk? While negative self-talk can take many forms since there may be a “sliver” of truth to some of the things we say to ourselves, we convince ourselves that the statement is true. For example: “I failed the math test, therefore I am a failure.” While there was a “failure” that doesn’t equate a person to being a “failure.” Most negative self-talk can be categorized as a cognitive distortion or an irrational thought.

Negative self-talk can increase the risk of mental health problems, unnecessary stress, procrastination, perfectionism, and relationship challenges. One way to combat these thoughts and inner dialogue is to remember that thoughts and feelings are not facts and challenge yourself to reconstruct the thoughts to be more realistic or positive. It is important to catch your negative self-talk and thoughts and ask yourself how true it is - “where’s the evidence that supports this thought. How true is this thought?” Sometimes it simply takes a shift in your perspective to change the way you feel and how you interact with others. Ask yourself, is this going to matter long-term? In the grand scheme of life, how important is this?

Negative self-talk and other irrational thoughts limit your ability to enjoy daily life and reach your potential. Remember, if you admire another persons success, ask yourself what steps they took to get there rather than only focusing on their results. Once you find a more positive way of thinking or speaking to yourself, repeat it to yourself over and over as a reminder and get into the practice of restructuring thoughts. If that does not help, reach out to someone, and process the thoughts aloud. You will start to feel better, I promise!

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