Is social comparison normal? Jonathan Alpert answers
Is it normal that I constantly compare myself to others? I’m 30 years old and feel like I haven’t accomplished enough in my life. I have a decent job, an awesome boyfriend and a pretty good life all around, but I look at others and see people my age who have published books, started companies, made millions of dollars and more.
Not only is this social comparison not normal, but it’s also unhealthy. Standards and trends are set, expectations created and hence, there’s the perpetual, exhausting quest to be like someone else. It’s all because that’s what we think we’re supposed to do. Our expectations are in part based on what we see around us. For instance, we might look toward celebrities to form a standard of how we think we should look, or the style of clothes we should wear. In your case, you see highly accomplished people and feel inferior and as though you should be doing what they do. Expectations are also formed by pressure from family. For example, Mom and Dad might pressure you to get married and have a child.
Though it is impressive to have published a book or amassed a fortune by age 30, these people don’t represent the norm and are truly outliers, and therefore do not make for a good comparison. Motives that are internally driven are far more powerful than those that come from external forces.
Set goals based on your standards and expectations, not those of others. Focus on your own accomplishments and the “pretty good life all around” that you have. Trust me: There are countless 30-somethings who would be thrilled to have “a decent job” and “an awesome boyfriend.”
– Jonathan Alpert is a licensed psychotherapist. His book, “Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days,” is available now. E-mail him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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