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Self-Love During the Age of Comparison Culture

By Melissa Lipari

Self-Love. It’s a term that has been used very frequently in the last few years. By definition, self-love is a, “regard for one's own well-being and happiness (chiefly considered as a desirable rather than narcissistic characteristic).” Self-love has been used to uplift people during times where identity, mental health, and relationships have probably been the most confusing. It sounds pretty easy to show yourself some self-love, right? Lighting a few candles and drawing yourself a bath can do wonders for your mental and emotional state. But, it’s not the cure for finding inner peace. Most of the time, self-love can only arise when you choose to love yourself externally, which is how you can learn to love yourself on the inside too. This can be difficult during the constant swirl of comparison culture, a dangerous regimen of self-doubt that has been implemented by society.

For those who might not know exactly what comparison culture is, it’s something that has been plaguing many of us since the dawn of time. It’s that small voice inside that allows you to be happy for others, but also makes you feel a pang of jealousy if you’re not doing as good as others. It is that feeling you get when you see someone land their dream job. You’re happy for them, but then you start over-thinking about your own career. It is that feeling you get when someone gets engaged and you don’t even want a partner right now, but you find yourself worrying that you’ll never get married. It is that feeling when you see someone wearing an outfit that you feel like you could never pull off, even though there are things that you wear that make you look just as perfect. Comparison culture makes us think about all of the things that we’re missing, instead of celebrating the amazing things that we have in our life. 

You might be wondering, how can I achieve self-love when the constant distraction of comparison culture is so omnipresent? The answer is much easier said than done. In blatant terms, you have to work on yourself - which is scary. It can be easy to fall into the habit of constantly comparing your life to others, especially when we have social media, a place that is full of competition. The first step though, is catching yourself before you spiral down the comparison-culture-rabbit-hole. If you stop forcing this narrative that you have to be the best at what you do, you’ll start to care much less about what others are doing. explains, “If we’re on top — the best student, best writer, best employee, or best spouse — then we believe we’re content because we’re the king. When we’re just starting out though, and compare ourselves to those who are on top, we can lose hope despite never having put in the hours or time necessary to improve.” Instead of being hyper-focused on what isn’t happening in your life, start making those things happen. We are the driver of our own lives, the destination is completely up to us.

Once you’ve gotten a hold on how to navigate comparison culture and how to stop setting yourself to standards that are detrimental to your mental health, you can work on loving yourself the way that you are. This is more than just looks, because as I mentioned, it all starts within. Some of us are not self-starters, some of us aren’t as charismatic as others, some of us are wallflowers. It doesn’t take an eccentric personality to love yourself. Once you identify that no matter how you operate, you’re still a wonderful human, you’ll love yourself a lot more. I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life, which I’ve been very transparent about in my writings. I used to  battle with comparison culture when I was at my lowest, because not only did I feel bad on the inside, but I was starting to reinforce those feelings with what I was seeing on the outside. Then, I started to realize that in order to love myself, I have to embrace the things that I don’t favor about myself. That meant embracing anxiety, my co-dependency issues, and anything else that I’ve faced mentally. If you’re able to identify the part of yourself that you are struggling to love, it becomes easier to love yourself as a whole.

Comparison is not an easy thing to deal with, there is a reason why there is an old saying called “comparison is the thief of joy” - it’s because it becomes hard to celebrate your personal victories when the wins of others are constantly shoved in your face. However, self-love is something that blossoms within us and is truly beautiful. We were all born with a purpose I believe and being able to identify that purpose is the key to living a happy life. Loving yourself for how you were made, flaws and all, shows growth and maturity - two things that self-love certainly requires. Life is not a competition but instead a journey, so embrace the journey that you are on, whatever that may look like, and show yourself some attention.


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