Comparison: the habit that fuels self doubt

“The reason we feel insecure: we compare our behind the scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”. Now, before you disregard this quote as just downright pretentious and go back to procrastinating from that pile of reading, bear with me for a minute or two.

We’ve all had rubbish days; we’ve had a break-up, an argument or a struggle with illness, and then we log onto Instagram or Facebook and have our hearts sink even further. You see friends posting about their latest achievements, or holiday details, or changing their profile to an even more beautiful photo. Not that we’re envious of their tanned beach blonde aesthetic. Not at all. Nope.

This sinking feeling happens to most people on a daily basis, either with drunken photos of a party you weren’t invited to, or yet another green leaf salad post from that fitness fanatic in your class. As much as I praise a healthy lifestyle, sometimes you just make me feel bad. Chocolate is good for the soul, right?

Think of any time you’ve noticed that someone looks slimmer, or has a new haircut, or even just nice clothes. That observation becomes a little stab of jealousy – she looks way smaller than me. It seems the more we look at others, the longer these internal thoughts become: why can’t I look like that? Why do people always wear things better than me? This is the point at which we have a problem.

With statistics linking the increase of social media with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, maybe comparison has got something to do with it. We not only analyse our looks and food, but we also share our social life, line up potential dates on Tinder and even show off our working skills with studyblrs – types of revision blogs, for those of you who don’t waste days of your life on tumblr. We’re becoming obsessed with the people around us to the point of hating our own lifestyle.

And, to top it all off, the media thrives on self-hatred. Every lipstick advert, dietary pills poster and bikini catalogue relies on the fact that we are taught to always better ourselves. Essentially, society is manipulating our money into its own hands by targeting our need for ‘perfection’, which is of course unreachable.

To go back to that potentially pretentious quote I started with, everybody creates this “highlight reel” to show off on social media. We’re all guilty of creating a fake image of ourselves – the confident, popular, strong exterior – when really beneath the surface we all suffer. These sufferings are hidden from reach of the public eye, as if we are covering our faces with masks at a masquerade ball.

So, if you ever find yourself struggling with envy for your best friend’s figure or the organisation of a fellow coursemate, just remember that we are all pretending. Secretly, nobody knows what they’re doing. Or at least, as a nervous first year, that’s what I’d like to believe.

Charlie Collett

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