Is Comparison Killing Your Recovery? Learn How to Break Free Now

2 min read · 2 sections

It is human nature to compare yourself to others, especially people you respect, who you feel have some form of control over their lives, and who seem to have it all. For some, this comparison process is healthy. It encourages self-assessment, inspires new ideas and options, and encourages healthy competition that motivates persistence and progress.

Hopelessness via social media comparison.

For others, comparing their life to others is a buzz kill at best and a trigger for overwhelming depression and feelings of hopelessness at worst. People in early recovery, especially, often struggle with feelings of unworthiness or hopelessness. Often, they are not at the same stage in life as the people their same age who did not go through addiction. It can be disheartening to work a counter job and live with your parents when people you went to high school with are posting cute pictures of their babies, vacations around the world, or stunning accomplishments in their careers on social media—and that’s without the added factor of trying to stay sober through it all.

If you find that you are putting yourself down over what you perceive to be a lack of accomplishment and great things in your life compared to others, it’s time to put a stop to the cycle of comparison and start living your life on your own terms.

The Cycle of Comparison

It’s an easy cycle to fall into. You had a long, hard day, or you’re bored and need a distraction, so you open up Facebook or Instagram and start scrolling through your feed. You see post after post of someone’s amazing meal, their hilarious dog, how much they love their boyfriend, their new haircut or weight loss or promotion, and you slowly begin to feel lonely, fat, miserable, and broke by comparison.

A person using social media on their mobile device.

Now, feeling worse than you did before, you begin to look up old friends you shouldn’t and purposefully make yourself feel bad, or you begin to feel so depressed that you just want to go to bed, do nothing but binge watch TV or play video games for days, and sabotage your healthy goals by eating junk food. You might even feel like relapsing.

Indulge yourself in these recovery-killing behaviors for a while, and you’ll soon feel isolated and disconnected. Then, you’ll eventually end up back on social media sites to see what everyone is doing.

Stop the Cycle!

Does this sound familiar? Do you often drop in and out of your commitment to your recovery based on tough emotions triggered by feeling like you just aren’t where everyone else is in their lives?

Here are a few ways to break through the cycle and start making choices that keep all that you have to gain with sobriety in sharp focus.

  • Notice when you are tearing yourself down. When you see that your cousin got a great promotion at work, you say to yourself, “And I’m a loser wearing a visor with a cupcake on it for $7 an hour.” You look at yourself in the mirror and think, “You are a fat slob,” or “I hate my skin.” Notice when your self-talk is negative, and purposefully choose to notice something you like about yourself or you are great at. Remember a time when someone said something to you that made you feel amazing. Make this your daily, intentional practice.
  • Limit your time on social media. If social media is causing you to feel bad about yourself, don’t use it. You will not be the only one who doesn’t spend half the day posting selfies and ghosting on other people’s profiles. If you can’t tear yourself away completely, give yourself a finite time (like 20 or 30 minutes a day total) and set a timer to help you respect your own boundaries.
  • Compete with yourself. Where were you in that goal you want to accomplish for yourself last year? Last month? Last week? Look for old pictures, journal entries, and even social media posts that document where you were. Notice where you are now and how far you have come. Give yourself incremental goals, track your progress, and try to continually do a little bit better than you did before until you reach your personal goals.
  • Stay positive. Surround yourself with people who are encouraging and who are also working to accomplish positive goals. Focus on what you have gained in sobriety and all that you have in front of you rather than what you have lost and past events you can’t change. Choosing to focus on the good things in your life will keep you on a steadily progressing trajectory as you stabilize in recovery.

Infographic on the Domino Effect of Positivity

Is comparison to others killing your recovery? How are you working to make changes that help you stay positive and focused?
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