My teens are probably sick of hearing this, but I often say, “Stay in your own lane, kid. Your car was built for that. Let the other cars drive in their lanes, and you stick to yours. You’ve got a long, wonderful, and exciting road ahead.”
I say it so often because I want them to take these words to heart and carry them with them. It’s my way of sending them out into the world with an invisible shield.
Because I see how hard the world today can be on our tweens and teens. The pressures are fierce and unrelenting.
Not only are there the typical things that adolescents face like peer pressure, drug and alcohol abuse, social complexities, academic stresses, and parental expectations, but they also live in a complex and chaotic world that looks much different than the one we lived in.
Add to it all the technology, social media and the shows that are popular among teens, it’s so much easier for our young adults to get caught up in the comparison trap game.
As our teens move into the teen years, their peers become a far greater influence on how they view themselves. Unfortunately, the natural effect on their self-worth is rarely positive.
The comparison trap is a major problem for today’s teenagers
Comparison can be at the root of our teens’ low self-esteem.
You don’t have to look far to see how much our teens are struggling right now. Many bright and accomplished high school students are facing unprecedented levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. There is also a tragic increase in suicide rates at highly competitive colleges.
These kids often come from loving homes with supportive parents, but when surrounded by other driven adolescents who all want to be “the best,” they are cracking under the pressure.
While comparing two things is meant to provide us with information so we can make better decisions, when it is about ourselves, it often is discouraging and depressing. Comparison means something is always falling short or coming out on the bottom, which can have a negative impact on our psyche.
Parents need to be aware of the dangers of comparison talk
If you listen closely to how your kids talk about themselves and everything else going on in their world, you will notice they are often comparing themselves to others.
This affects how they feel about themselves, as it is often used to measure their appearance, their performance, and even their potential.
Comparison is the base of our kids’ opinions about pretty much everything.
“I can’t believe Lilly got an A when she didn’t study as much as I did, and I got a B!”
“Luke runs so much faster than me every time we have practice. He’s always in the top five, and I’m always in the second group.”
“I wish I was thin like Ellie. It’s not fair. She eats junk all the time!”
“How could I have scored just above the state average! I should have been in the advanced group.”
“I probably won’t make the team because there are so many other athletes that are better than me.”
“Kate is so popular. She has so many more friends than me.”
Comparison oozes into every little detail of our kids’ lives and defines and directs their steps.
So how do we help our kids understand the ill-effects comparison can have on their mental health and well-being?
How can we change their way of thinking so they are less likely to get caught up in the comparison trap?
It isn’t easy, that’s for sure. I know even as an adult, I see how I can be guilty of it myself. But the earlier we teach our tweens and teens how to identify the triggers and employ coping mechanisms, the more resilient they will become.
How to help your tween or teen avoid the comparison trap.
Every time your child compares themselves to others, point it out to them. Comparison is an automatic lens our kids use for pretty much everything, so we need to help them realize comparison is a misleading filter that often warps their view.
Your teen may not be aware of how much they do this. Teach your teens how to tune into their thinking and catch it when they start comparing themselves to others so they can be vigilant in noticing this habit.
The first step is tracking how often they fall into the trap. You may want to log it so you can share with them how often they are going down the comparison rabbit hole. Journaling can also help.
Understanding The Impact on Self-Esteem
When your big kid compares themself to someone else, help them recognize the negative feelings this brings up. Discuss how focusing on others can damage our own view of ourselves because comparison often results in disappointment.
If we are constantly using comparison to gauge our own success, then we will struggle to find our true worth and potential because we expect to be like someone else. Comparison looks at others to evaluate our worth instead of the more useful view: Looking directly at ourselves.
You may want to redirect your child when they use someone else to benchmark their worth. For example, A better way to figure out might be to compare ourselves today to where we were in the past, or to where we want to be in the future.
Strengthen Their Sense Of Self-Worth
As adolescents are figuring out their identity, discovering their desires, and developing their dreams for their life, we can remind them that they were born with a unique design that solely belongs to them. Discuss how each of us was born with specific gifts, strengths, weaknesses, and potential.
Empower your kids with this truth and help them realize how special they are apart from anyone else. When they compare themselves to others, it’s a futile pursuit. It’s irrelevant. A waste of time. Because every one of us was created differently, and each one of us will build our own path and purpose.
Identify What Makes Them Special
It’s essential our kids discover their specific strengths so they can be reminded of these assets often. What are they naturally good at doing? What are they passionate about? What physical features stand out?
Encourage your child to develop and embrace those gifts and support their efforts in pursuing interests and skills in those areas. The more our kids can cultivate their own intrinsic abilities and develop their own appreciation for who they are, the less they will fall into the comparison trap.
Also, it’s great for them to have passions and hobbies they do for fun that are not centered around achievement.
Set Healthy Limits On Social Media
It’s a reality; the more time our tweens and teens spend on social media, the more likely they are to compare themselves to the constant flow of images on their screens. This is why our kids struggle so much with low self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
We can’t fight the fact that technology is crucial to this generation’s life and friendships. It’s often how they connect and communicate.
But we can give them the education and tools to manage it in healthier ways.
One in particular is limiting the amount of time they spend scrolling on their phones and other devices. This can include:
- Signing a cell phone contract
- Having a family charging station for bedtime
- Establishing boundaries like no phones at meal time
- Evaluating their weekly screen time
- Turning social media notifications off
Not sure where to start? Check out this article: Tired of Yelling at Your Teen to Get Off Their Phone? Try This Trick Instead
Are you interested in learning more about how to help your teen manage the comparison trap and how it impacts their self esteem? Check out the book Comparisonitis: A Guide to Finding Happiness in a Social Media World
Raising teens and tweens is hard but you don’t have to do it alone. Here are some other posts may help:
This post may contain affiliate links where we earn a small commission for purchases made on our site.