The holidays are often a joyous time of the year, however, they can also come with many social and holiday comparisons, such as neighbors talking about who has the best holiday decorations or friends mentioning the lavish gifts they have received or plan to give.
By Jennifer Wilmoth, LMFT, Thrive Forward Therapy
Depending on how you feel about yourself and how you measure up this could make you either feel really good or bad about yourself. It is actually a human tendency to make social comparisons whenever people gather together such as on social media or during the holidays. There are two common social comparisons people make: upward comparisons and downward comparisons.
An upward comparison is when we look at people we feel are better off than we are in an attempt to become inspired or hopeful. While downward comparison is when we look at people who we feel are worse off than we are in an attempt to feel better about ourselves or situation. Sometimes comparisons can be helpful to figure out how to reach a goal or improve ourselves such as parents comparing ways to keep kids off devices and interacting with the family during winter break. However, comparisons can also be a trap for sadness, stress, and conflict in relationships if we have recently experienced a setback or low self-esteem.
Take a moment to explore these tips for ways to keep comparisons from stealing your happiness this holiday season:
Know Your Triggers
Think about situations where you are most likely to make comparisons that lead to stress and sadness for you such as being around a competitive friend or cousin, shopping at certain stores, or driving through certain neighborhoods. Once you know your triggers, decide if these people or places are important for you to be around or if you could change your holiday plans to focus more on supportive people or different experiences that are more helpful and meaningful to you and your family.
Oftentimes, comparisons are made with limited information or context such as comparing our beginning to someone’s middle or end goal. The more we connect and get to know supportive family and friends the more likely we are to genuinely share setbacks and successes toward goals, therefore giving us more of the positive benefits of comparison such as inspiration and motivation instead of the disadvantages such as stress and sadness.
Everyone has different priorities for their family and life so decide on your main holiday priorities and put effort into the areas that are most important to you. So if your top priority is traditions or quality time with family then it is not worth your time and energy to try to make the most delicious holiday dish, take the most expensive vacation, or have the biggest tree.
If you look hard enough you will always be able to find someone who has more or less than you. Even though it is not likely you will be able to completely avoid comparisons this holiday season, I hope you find ways to focus on what matters the most and brings you and your family happiness. Happy holidays!
JENNIFER WILMOTH, LMFT
Jennifer Wilmoth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and founder of Thrive Forward Therapy in the Suwanee area with over a decade of experience. She received her Masters of Family Therapy from Mercer University School of Medicine. She works with families and individuals dealing with a variety of concerns. She specializes in working with couples who want to improve their relationship, teens experiencing difficulties at home or school, children experiencing behavioral or relational concerns, anxiety, and depression. Learn more at ThriveForwardTherapy.com.