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Brighter Outlook: comparing ourselves to others

By West Briton  |  Posted: May 15, 2014

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NO ONE is surprised to hear that modern living seems to be increasing our rate of stress and depression.

Many people point to the relentless pace of life and the constant bombardment of information.

We also stress ourselves by comparing ourselves with one another.

For hundreds of thousands of years, as mankind evolved, a major concern would have been that of being isolated or 'cast out' of one's social group.

This would have meant almost certain death for early man – without the protection of his tribe, he would have soon fallen prey to some predator or other marauding group. So, the need to 'fit in' and 'belong' would have been really important for survival.

How does this work in modern times? Like early man, we also feel a need to belong and we are constantly checking to see how we compare. 'Am I fitting in?', or 'Am I as good as others?' become key questions.

For early man, these questions would only apply to his local small community or tribe.

However, nowadays, we have the whole world or 'global community' to compare ourselves to.

And on a superficial level, we constantly see other people, especially on the media, who appear to be far richer, more successful, more attractive, and thinner, than we will ever be.

However, we have a tendency to view other people by what we see of their life on 'the outside'.

Actually, looking at people's life 'on the outside' isn't a good way of judging.

It is a sad fact many of us wear a mask to hide our inner struggles, or we have other private demons or coping strategies.

As the Austrian psychoanalyst, Alfred Adler said: "The only normal people are the ones you don't know very well."

■ For NHS-funded therapy for stress, anxiety or depression, phone 01208 871905 or contact help@outlooksw.co.uk

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