How not to compare yourself with others? How do I raise my self-esteem?

A 14-year-old, let’s call him A, came to me with the concern that some of his friends had a far better social media presence with increasing likeability and a huge followership. So he was constantly feeling the pressure of not being liked by people due to the lack of those skills and abilities. In contrast, I came across B, a young working adult harbouring self-doubt as some of his peers at the workplace talk a lot better and are admired more by people. Even though B has the knowledge, he feels he is not good enough as compared to the others.

In another instance, I came across C, who felt inferior as hesitation in social situations would come in the way of being oneself, pushing C to imitate the behaviour, choices and mannerisms of the so-called likeable people. Then there was D, a very young student from grade VII or grade VIII, who constantly wished to be like seniors as being cool because of their popularity.

At some level, we will be able to identify ourselves with A, B, C, and D because at different moments and junctures in our lives, we all feel the pressure of trying to do what we perceive may be cool, trendy and likeable. You are who you are. The reality is whether we accept it or not, we are all individuals, we are all different, we are all unique, and no matter what skill set we have, we will always have our uniqueness. But we like to conform to what we perceive is the best way. It could be a trend on social media, something that may be outside our comfort zone. But we follow it only because we think others would like it.

The moment we start getting into this cycle when our behaviour, our thoughts and our actions are about whether these are liked by others or not, when we seek approval, it starts affecting our sense of self. This difference between what you portray, project and what you are in actuality becomes a constant struggle that may affect your social life, your mental health and your overall well-being. That is why rather than feeling the pressure of being liked by someone or doing things that others like, we need to focus on just one thing and remember we all are individuals with our own skill sets. If you want to express yourself, do well in your life, feel confident about being who you are, please recognise your strengths and weaknesses.

1) Optimise your strengths and keep upgrading them. Look back at what you have accomplished rather than what you have not. Also map your self-improvement over time. At the same time, keep learning to reduce your limitations but never try to be someone else than who you are. So be yourself and express yourself.

2) Stay as far away from triggers. You cannot be reacting to externalities that make you sad, insecure and cynical. The golden rule of staying sane is to ignore braggers and keep away from people and situations that make you feel bad. Also do not engage in conversations that deal with comparisons of others.

3) Use social media to access popular information and to connect with people in your circle. Limit scroll time and do not pay heed to “body beautiful” issues there. Turn off apps instead of letting that notification alert make you anxious. Use the spare time outdoors.

4) Avoid getting swayed by what people do or say because they, too, are projecting. You won’t know if they are having a really hard time themselves and hiding it under the covers.

5) Also, consider yourself happy if you are healthy rather than affording that fancy lifestyle. Be thankful for what you have.

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