Common Misconceptions That Create Stress In Your Life

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“Everyone Else Is Doing Better Than I Am.” 

It’s human nature to engage in social comparison, and that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes, when we notice that our friends are doing great things, we’re inspired to do better things ourselves. (Research shows that positive peer pressure is something that even adults experience, and it can be beneficial for all of us.)

Most of the time, however, social comparison is something that causes stress.

When we see someone doing better than we are, our own accomplishments can feel a little less special. Worse, when we see other people doing better, achieving more, coping more effectively, or exhibiting strengths we don’t feel we ourselves have, we can feel stressed and minimized. And we can even take those feelings out on others in the form of competitiveness (rather than supportiveness) in our friendships, with creates even more stress for all involved.

The kind of social comparison we experience on social media is even more insidious. We all tend to post our best moments on social media, but seeing a constant parade of other people’s best moments can feel stressful when we are comparing their “bests” to our best, mediocre, and worst moments. This can lead to an unrealistic feeling of inferiority, even if we’re not consciously aware of it. It is important to be consciously aware that what we see on social media is often just a snapshot of others’ lives, and a somewhat distorted one.

If you start feeling that you’re not doing as well as you’d like to be, it’s time to shift your focus. Pay particular attention to your own strengths and achievements, savor the positive in your life, and surround yourself with supportive friends. If you’re doing your best, you’re doing enough. You are enough.

“I Can’t Handle This Stress.” 

It’s healthy to be aware of your limits, but when you feel overwhelmed by stress, you need to remind yourself that you can handle it, and that it will pass. To say that you can handle it is not the same as saying that it’ll be easy, or that you can handle it without adjusting a few things. You may need more tools and support to handle the stress, however, and it’s important to find a way to get what you need. You may need more coping options, you may need to make changes in your life, or you may need more support, including, if necessary, professional support. Whatever you need, however, you can get it, and you can handle this stress.

“I Can’t Change.”

We all have one or two things about ourselves that may not be optimal. A quick temper, a sedentary lifestyle, a penchant for procrastination—these are common things that can create stress, and they’re things that people sometimes want to change about themselves. If you try to change something and find that it’s harder than you thought, it’s tempting to give up and decide it’s not possible.

It’s true that we are all born with certain personality traits that express themselves in unique ways.  Some of us may be more introverted or extroverted, more open to new experiences or closed to them, or more prone to stress, for example. However, there is quite a bit of “wiggle room” where we can develop skills and habits to become more how we’d like to be if there are changes we want to make. Some studies have suggested that, although we are born with a certain “happiness set-point,” for example, studies in positive psychology suggest that we can change our happiness levels by up to 40%. We can change other aspects of ourselves as well. If you are a generally sedentary person, you can adopt exercise habits that get you moving more. If you are generally pessimistic, you can change your self-talk. If you look are easily frustrated, or get into conflicts with people a little too much, you can increase your patience or learn conflict resolution skills. If you want to change something in your life or in yourself, you can do it!

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