Self-help

Holiday Survival Guide: For the Person Who Can’t Stop Comparing Their Holidays to Other People’s

Although the holiday season is usually associated with joy, it can also be pretty toxic for some people – especially those who fall prey to the comparison trap. You’re setting yourself up for defeat when you compare yourself and your holiday to other people’s holidays. Whether it’s the pressure to have the “perfect” family party, […]

therapist william snyder By William Snyder, LPC

Updated on Jan 12, 2024

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Although the holiday season is usually associated with joy, it can also be pretty toxic for some people – especially those who fall prey to the comparison trap. You’re setting yourself up for defeat when you compare yourself and your holiday to other people’s holidays. Whether it’s the pressure to have the “perfect” family party, give the most elaborate gifts, or show off fun holiday photos on social media, constant comparisons can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. 

The huge emphasis on social media culture, creating picture-perfect post-worthy moments, and living up to societal expectations can intensify during the holidays when people seem to be showing off more than usual on social media platforms. Mix the constant comparison with the holiday season’s heightened stress, and you have a perfect storm that can lead to you beating yourself up.

Here are six tips to help you stay present this holiday:

1. Embrace what the holiday means to you

First things first, it’s important to note that even though the media likes to depict a very specific holiday vibe, the holidays mean something different to everyone. There are so many different ways to experience and celebrate the holiday season, and there isn’t one single way that’s “right.”

“Holidays don’t have just one singular meaning and can represent anything to anyone. Many families live so close to one another that everyone can meet for that season. Other families may be so geographically separated that they can only meet virtually, if at all,” says Sean Abraham, a licensed clinical social worker with Grow Therapy.

Additionally, just because the media packages the holiday season in a cheery red bow, the holidays are not guaranteed to be merry and bright. “Holidays can bring up painful memories of loss and grief. It’s important to define whatever holiday you choose to celebrate in a way that is meaningful to you and to embrace it on your terms,” Abraham says.

2. Have a reality check

This is a great time to remind yourself that not everything that glitters is gold, says Catherine Del Toro, a licensed mental health counselor with Grow Therapy.

If most of your comparison has been based on what you see on your Instagram or Facebook feeds, it’s time to take a step back. Del Toro says people will almost always show their ‘highlight reel’ on social media, so ask yourself, what are you really comparing your holidays to?

The photos and videos people post are highly curated and rarely reflect the full story. People are going to post about their wins, not their losses. Remember that behind every seemingly perfect photo are real-life challenges and imperfections. You never know what’s going on behind closed doors. 

3. Limit your screen time 

On the topic of social media, if you find yourself getting sucked in and obsessively scrolling, or if you notice that every time you use social media, you feel bad about yourself, this is an indication that you should probably be using it less. Del Toro suggests limiting your screen time if this becomes an issue for you. 

You can choose to limit your screen time in various ways. For example, you can set up screen time limits for certain apps in your phone’s settings. This will help you keep track of how much time you’re actually spending on social media and let you know when it’s time to close out. Or, you can do a social media “cleanse” and delete the problem apps for at least a few days.

Taking intentional breaks from the digital world allows you to refocus on your own reality, lowering your chances of falling deeper into the comparison trap of unrealistic expectations.  

4. Practice mindfulness

Use this as a chance to practice mindfulness and learn how to truly be present in the moment, Del Toro says. You can practice mindfulness whether you’re alone or with other people. It involves being aware of your thoughts and feelings in the present moment and gently accepting them without judgment. You can mindfully meditate, sitting down and noticing your breath, body sensations, and thoughts or emotions. 

Or, if you’re with other people, such as at a holiday gathering, you can engage in mindful listening. “Become engaged in conversations and in the company of those around you and enjoy this moment,” Del Toro says. 

5. Focus on the good 

When you compare yourself to others, you are likely focusing on what you don’t have rather than what you do have. You can counteract this by taking time to actively count your blessings. “Practice gratitude by taking a moment to focus on the good things that make you happy about your holidays,” Del Toro suggests.

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can boost your mood and mental health. Plus, the more you practice gratitude, your mind may become more likely to keep noticing the good rather than the not-so-good. Consider setting aside some time every night to do some gratitude journaling, writing down several things you’re grateful for. 

6. Get support through therapy

If you’re struggling this time of year, or any time, with constantly comparing yourself to others, you might consider seeking support from a therapist. Therapy can help teach you coping techniques to be more present in your own life. With Grow Therapy, you can find a therapist in your area who accepts your insurance and specializes in your needs.

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About the author
therapist william snyder William Snyder, LPC

William Snyder is a licensed professional counselor with over 20 years of experience. He specializes in anxiety, trauma, PTSD, depression, and self-esteem.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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