Dr Maryhan Baker on comparing yourself to others – why we do it and how to stop.

Dr Maryhan Baker on comparing yourself to others - why we do it and how to stop

Our editor Amber Sunner had the pleasure of talking to psychologist Dr. Maryhan Baker about comparing yourself to other people. Read this summary of their conversation to see what she found out!

Trigger warning: This interview talks about eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

dO WE ALL COMPARE OURSELVES IN THE SAME WAY

Dr. Baker: No so men and women tend to experience comparison differently. Let’s break it into two parts.

Women: If we strip it right back to its absolute core women are that sort of tendon best friend. It’s about a collective and being accepted for who we are. As a result of that, I think women are much more susceptible to this idea of comparison. From an evolutionary and an adaptive perspective, it would have kept us in the herd of the tribe. So as women we’re likely looking at how other women are behaving in order to modify and adapt our behavior so that we can fit in. That’s a big part of the issue. It’s also being aware of that internal dialogue that we have, where we find ourselves constantly judging ourselves against others. In order to combat this feeling, people should recognize that that’s not helpful.  

Men: I think, as men are, and with social media, it puts pressure on men to attain this idea of how strong a man should be and having a particular physique. While most eating disorders are prevalent in women, we’re definitely seeing an increase in young boys and men having issues with eating, having eating disorders, and also struggling with anxiety and depression.

On how to stop comparing yourself to others

Dr. Baker: It’s just a question of getting into a regular habit of asking yourself questions about what you’ve just seen. So really trying to send check some of that internal chatter. When you get into that internal chatter of: ‘I’m not good enough’, it’s more catching yourself and taking a step back. Be aware that when you get sucked into that comparisonitis (a term Dr Baker uses to describe comparing yourself to others). I’d also recommend thinking: ‘What do I need to do right now to take care of me?’ Sometimes that may be going on a bit of a digital detox.

ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS TO COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS?

Dr. Baker: I think it has its benefits. In terms of looking at women, women generally are much better at creating a network of other women to help support them. I think that it can help us create communities. Where it’s then not helpful is where we then get sucked into this vortex of comparison. The way that men and women tend to use digital devices and social media in slightly different ways also impact these effects. Women tend to use social media more and particularly platforms in which there are visuals such as Instagram, where that internal chatter is at its loudest. Let’s face it, people don’t typically post pictures of them with no makeup on looking an absolute mess or being overwhelmed. So we begin that narrative with the comparison of assuming that other people are organized or have got their life sorted. That’s not true at all. So yes, it can be advantageous to us when we form those communities and collectives of friends that can be there. But it also has the flip side of creating this competition.

DO YOU THINK A NEED TO COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS CAN BE OF DETRIMENT TO YOUR MENTAL HEALTH?

Dr. Baker: It’s that pursuit of perfectionism – that pursuit of being perfect. That’s a trigger for anxiety and depression – which could mean feeling that you can’t manage things and feeling you can’t be as good as other people. So absolutely, I think has a huge impact on mental health, which is why we need to be talking about it. From really young ages we should be having conversations with children at school, making them aware of the internal chatter, making them aware that we have a tendency to compare and it’s not helpful and it’s not healthy.