The Toxicity of Comparison

“Soon, very soon,” I’d tell myself every time I’d scroll through Instagram.  Friends studying abroad posted glamorous photos of their travels in places all over the world from England to Greece.  My cluttered desk with a plastic bag of dirt underneath (don’t ask) along with stray Cheerios that hadn’t made it to the trash can reminded me that my life is far from Insta-perfect.  But I knew I’d be leaving for France soon, and adventures were just waiting for me across the Pond.

And it’s true; I’ve experienced many adventures.  But many have been more like riding a rollercoaster without a safety strap instead of a leisurely, nonchalant carousel ride.  No one could have ever prepared me for my summer in France.  And I’m going to let you in on a little secret: that toxic comparison monster hasn’t disappeared.Carnon Plage Mediterranean Sea Montpellier France

Scrolling through social media, I see my friends also traveling abroad with giant smiles on their faces framed by a beautiful backdrop.  I see my French apartment (still messy) with no air-conditioning and a fly problem (ew ew EW).  Even posts from my friends working back in America in a less-than-exciting small city make me crave home intensely.

I am living in the south of France and want nothing more than a burrito bowl from Chipotle, an elliptical workout and some darn A/C.  Can someone please explain this to me?!  It’s honestly so tempting to count down the days till I leave for Europe, which makes me so ashamed.  I’m a travel blogger and am also pursuing fluency in French, but I’m missing my town in the good ole Midwest.Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

Homesickness is a normal, healthy response, but I’ve found many of my woes stem from comparison.  I see my friends living in Japan for the summer who, despite not knowing the language, still report being inspired; they love the city and are so excited for the summer.  I think about my journal fat with hard days and prayers for strength to simply get through the day.

I see exotic weekend trips from friends studying abroad with cute captions and perfect lighting.  I’ve all but abandoned Snapchat stories because the Wifi is rough here.  Plus, Snapchat stories don’t play much of a part in French culture.  And to be honest, many parts of my day aren’t very photogenic.  A vacation may average 300+ photos a day, but I’m living abroad—emphasis on the living.  Nobody cares about the madeleines I bought last week; their banal plastic packaging is less than thrilling.  Nobody is losing sleep over the fact that I didn’t post a photo from the time I spent in the office last week; it would be me in my headphones on my laptop.  My pulp-free orange juice is the generic brand, and heaps of clothes sit on my closet shelves.  So exciting, I know.Peyrou Montpellier France French

Tweet: “I’m going to let you in on a little secret: that toxic comparison monster hasn’t disappeared abroad in France.” #realtalk #travel #abroad

Adjusting to a new culture is hard stuff, friends—especially if you’re doing it alone.  And even more so, if you’re constantly looking at everyone else’s lives.  I’m not quitting social media, but I chose to step back for those first few weeks.

But I’m going to miss out on life!!  Get over it.  First off, it’s not true.  Is it truly essential that you’re aware your sort-of friend from anthropology last semester went on a weekend hike?  Second, keep in touch with the people you’re closest to, and you won’t miss out.  I call my best friend and family on a weekly basis, so I’m updated on their lives and they’re updated on mine.  Plus, social media often doesn’t tell the whole story, so I think you’ll survive.

The first several weeks in France were hard, and comparison made it harder.  My friends in Japan may be adjusting well, and that’s awesome!  But they’re in a different country with a different group and a different schedule.  One is neither better nor worse, easier nor harder; simply different.  Taking a step back from social media can help, but avoiding all contact is difficult and probably not the best way to deal with it.  Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

When those toxic thoughts of comparison begin to plague your thoughts, stop.  Because there’s always something to complain or be sad about.  (If you don’t have anything, I’m happy to send you some of mine!)  Journal about what’s hard, and remember that you and, more importantly, your experiences are unique.  Comparison isn’t helping anyone; it’s only making your life more burdensome.  When you focus on trying to portray yourself in an unrealistic light, you’re missing reality and the experiences in those moments.  It’s in the times of pain and difficulty that we discover more about ourselves, people and places around us.  Say goodbye to toxic comparison so you can truly indulge in the adventures awaiting you even if they’re some bumps along the way.

Bises,

Kristin

{How do you handle toxic thoughts of comparison?}

5 comments

    • Thank you so much for the read and for sharing your heart! Comparison sucks the life out of us and makes life harder. But even just knowing this can help us ready ourselves to fight this feeling. Thanks a bunch and happy traveling!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m definitely guilty of comparing my life to others’, but I try to keep in mind that social media only tells part of the story – the part we want others to know about. When I was living in France, exciting things fell by the wayside a little during term time, and I’m pretty sure the incessant building work from my neighbours, frustrating emails and banking dilemmas weren’t what my friends had in mind when they thought of life in France! Life goes on, wherever you are in the world – and it’s up to us to make the most of our lot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ugh yes Rosie yes! There’s so many daily things like grocery shopping and banking and phone contracts that are much more difficult than we ever anticipated. Eyes up because we are getting stronger each and every day 🙂 Happy travels!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Grocery shopping in France was a recipe for confusion at times! I was often left wondering why supermarkets a) often sold mouldy fruit and/ or veg, and b) displayed prices different to those that showed up at the till. The menial, everyday tasks are lessons in endurance 🙂

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