3 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Strangers on the Internet

The Look: similar skirt from boohoo ($40.00) // similar dress by Tadashi Shoji from Nordstrom ($268.00) // Carolee Necklace [n/a] – Similar one from BaubleBar ($68.00) // similar Shoes of Prey pumps from Nordstrom ($189.95) // similar Michael Kors crossbody from Macy’s ($148.00)

3 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Strangers on the Internet

The Lesson:

It was a Saturday night in March.

I was getting ready for my friend Christina’s birthday party (who, by the way, is hands down the best fashion/personal stylist I’ve ever met AND she took the pretty pictures for this post!).

Like a tornado spewing debris across the landscape, my closet was ending up on the floor at an impressive speed.

Nothing was fitting right. UGHHH!

After an eternity, I determined I’d be wearing the skirt pictured (thanks Claire <3). And so, the storm began again as I tried to figure out what to wear up top.

Unsatisfied with everything, I pulled out this black lace dress from the depths of my wardrobe.

Now, either I got a little taller or my legs got a little wider since the last time this dress saw the light of day (which was probably when I was in college?) because I definitely don’t remember there being this much underbutt (like underboob, only it’s the bottom of your ass cheeks playing peekaboo – it’s not a look I suggest).

This matters because behind this cute, ballerina inspirited outfit was a whole lot of stress, a very messy bedroom, and a skimpy, old dress that definitely should have existed my closet 5 or 6 years ago (yes, that very dress is literally what this darling skirt is on top of). But when you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see all those perfect photos – whether it be of an outfit, a flatlay, a family photo, a party, an accomplishment, or anything really – rarely does anyone take the time to write out the story behind it.

3 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Strangers on the Internet

3 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Strangers on the Internet

So, we stare googly-eyed at everyone else’s seemingly perfect life and day dream about what it would be like if we could do a parent-trap style swap to try on living in their always-on-trend shoes for a bit (or maybe forever because their life is perfect and who would ever want to switch back, right?).

Wrong. The problem is, leaving social media standards like this significantly decreases our ability to identify real life. But, you could swap with anyone and on the other side of the ‘Gram, you’d still find the same struggles every human wrestles with – self doubt, loss, pain, worry, disappointment, anger, frustration, failure… you get it.

So, what can we do about it?

I’ve heard people say to spend less time on social media or unfollow those you keep comparing yourself to and I think that approach is BS. Why? Because it’s treating the symptom, not the source. And by source, I don’t mean the person posting, I mean YOU. Let’s talk about how to stop the comparison game and take a stronger stance within ourselves when it comes to our social media scrolling sprees.

1.) Remember, there’s always a story behind it

When you see a perfectly aligned dinner flatlay, there’s a ticked off boyfriend who’s pissed that he couldn’t start eating when the food was hot out of the oven 10 minutes ago. You saw a perfect flatlay? Cool. That photographer probably spent 60 minutes rearranging items and took literally like 150 photos to get that one shot. And your favorite fashion blogger likely spent way longer than necessary to decide on that outfit, while throwing all of her other clothes on the floor just like you do. Catch yourself drooling over someone’s travel photos? There’s a high probability they had a flight delay to get there, or that their luggage was lost. The 2 month old entrepreneurs who’s bragging about the 6 figures she just made in 60 days is hiding lots of realness from us too.

Life doesn’t function as a highlight reel for anyone. A true story, a true life, is dynamic – ups, downs, highs, lows. Imperfect moments likely came before and after what you’re seeing online. And while perfect moments can be captured, it’s not easily to do so by any means. It’s been awhile since I gave up on being perfect on social media, but I certainly remember what that pressure on myself was like and let me tell you, it’s stressful as hell.

3 Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Strangers on the Internet

2.) Be OKAY with imperfections

Deciding to put on a perfect facade online does not rid anyone of their imperfections. While it can be helpful to remember everyone online is a human and they all experience flaws, it’s just as important (in fact, even more important) to accept your own. Just because it’s not the norm to unfold our imperfections on the internet doesn’t mean we don’t have them.

I’m always late. No matter how hard I tried to eat healthy, ice cream always wins. I probably get bruises all the time like the ones in these photos from my refusal to eat vegetables. I choose work over socializing way more often than I should. I have no less than 3425908234571 emails I need to respond to in my inbox (some are from like 6 months ago and every day I say, “Allyn, you need to answer that one today”). I try new ideas and then quit them too soon because I’m terrified they won’t work (or maybe I’m equally terrified they will work?). I hate “mid-laugh” photos because I have this double chin that comes out of no where. I wish the yoga teacher in me would have been a bit more present to say, “pull your navel in to your spine” during that first photo at the top of this post. And come on, where was my hair brush? Why do I have so many flyaways?!

But it’s okay. I work on the things that are within my power to improve. And the things that don’t have any kind of improvement potential? I work on emotionally detaching myself from them. I don’t ever have to fall in love with a picture of me laughing, but I can work on not criticizing myself and my body for the way that I look. I can forgive myself for the imperfect ways in which I act and think instead of carrying those self judging thoughts around with me (they can get pretty damn heavy, you know?).

3.) Take matters into your own hands

Oh, you’re frustrated by the fluffy feeds, smiling all the time, my life is so wonderful posts flooding your feed? That’s fantastic. Why? Because it means you’re craving realness. The realization that there needs to be more real life stuff being posted on social media is exactly what qualifies you to be the one who does it. I know, I know that’s really scary, but if not you, who?! Don’t you want to be a part of setting a new standard and a movement to showcase our real selves instead of our best selves?

I’m not saying you need to stop posting about the amazing things happening in your life or that your Instagram photos need to be of a crappier aesthetic, I’m just saying, let’s start balancing that fine tuned front with some real life stuff, okay? Tell us about your screw ups. Tell us about what didn’t work. Tell us about what you tried. Tell us about what happened before the perfect picture. Tell us the back end of why something is so important to you. Tell us the real stuff! TELL US YOUR STORY!

If you need some help figuring out how to work realness (anything from a stupid mistake to a difficult loss or a major failure) into your content in an inspiring way instead of making your sound like a debbie downer, this is exactly what you’re looking for!

I want you to make a commitment to yourself today. To get it out into the world that you’re going to make this shift, in a comment below, I want you to type, “I will stop comparing myself to strangers on the internet!”

… Feels good to make that vow, doesn’t it? 😉

Photo By: Christina Imberlina (Style by Christina)
  • Pam Avoledo

    I really liked hearing the story behind the photo shoot. It’s like travel stories — I like to hear the horror stories as well because nothing ever goes as planned, despite the pictures. Thanks for sharing. It was a really well-written post.

  • There’s ALWAYS a story behind something. SO TRUE.

    Coming Up Roses