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The Richard Nicholls Podcast

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Me again, Richard Nicholls here with another Friday self help episode. This goes out on my podcast feed, but I also video record these Friday ones and stick them on YouTube. Like and follow me on there if you fancy. It's always about the numbers, isn't it? We all like to see our followers go up, don't we?

And I'm as guilty as most authors in checking social media to see how many followers I might have gained this week, comparing myself to other podcasters and writers, that's relatively normal. It's part of the job, I guess. But I have to manage that with a narrative in my mind that says, But it doesn't actually matter.

When I look to see how many people have liked an Instagram post or something that day. If it's only a few, I have to reiterate But it doesn't actually matter, and I need to mean that, and I do. I want to be liked and I like seeing evidence that I might be, 'cos I'm human. But if there's not much evidence on social media that I'm likable, I need to remind myself that it doesn't actually matter.

But the thing is, what if it does? What if the only place we have validation that we're likeable is external to ourself. If our biggest hater is ourselves, then the outside world and even social media is probably less toxic than the hate we give ourselves. Less toxic. Still toxic, though, because with that comes the issue of comparison.

If all we've got is our ordinary life, yet all we compare it to is everybody else's showreel, then our unfiltered life of sweat stains and so on looks pretty rubbish in comparison, doesn't it? And that process applies offline as well. We even filter our awareness to only see the things that generate familiar emotions.

If you're struggling at the gym, and the fit and healthy character that doesn't look as if they would break a sweat even after 20 minutes of cardio makes you feel inferior, but you don't even notice the other 90 percent of gym goers who are struggling just as much as you are, then you need a healthier mindset.

That's why people say comparison is the thief of joy. We've got this daft habit of comparing our worst with everybody else's best when trying to evaluate ourselves. And this is despite the fact that actually, we tend to think of ourselves as above average in so many areas. Don't know if you've ever heard of the above average bias, but it's this weird quirk that we've got to our psychology that, when studied, consistently shows that we rate ourselves as above average in almost everything, which is just not how numbers work.

We can't all be above average, that makes no sense. But more people think of themselves as above average in Attractiveness, intelligence, driving skills, sense of humour, everything than is statistically possible. So why, when we see this phenomenon, do people also report feelings of inadequacy and insecurity?

Well it turns out, even if we think of ourselves as above average, we hold ourselves to standards that are even higher. There was a study once, and when the findings were published, the paper was called Why People Believe They Are Above Average But Are Not Especially Happy About It. I love these sorts of titles in academic journals, always makes me smile.

Sebastian Deri and Shai Davidi, two psychology academics, did about 12 studies, I think it was, and it kept on coming up with the same thing. Even if we start off thinking of ourselves as above average in things like fitness, cooking skills, whatever. If there are things about those areas that we wish were better, we begin comparing ourselves to the person in our mind who is the absolute best in the world, maybe, at these things, which of course lowers our perceptions of ourselves little by little until it becomes below average, and then creates feelings of resentment and envy which we know from other research, actually holds us back from achieving the things that we want to achieve, because it saps motivation.

The foundations of insecurity are definitely in the comparisons we make. And I'm pretty sure if you were the only person on the planet and you had nobody to compare yourself to, any insecurity would vanish. Insecurity would become meaningless. It'll have no base, no foundations to be built upon. So, if there's one bit of advice I'd give you, if you want to change the way you think and feel about yourself, it's to let go of the comparisons.

On that note, I'll love you and leave you. I'll be back on Patreon on Monday, link is in the show notes, with a full podcast episode all about Stress. So you know where I am if you need some help with that, and I will speak to you next time. Ta ra!