How to stop comparing your body to others
Comparing ourselves to others is only natural, but making body comparisons can be a sure way to bust a positive body image. In fact, making appearance-based comparisons can strongly influence body dissatisfaction, particularly when comparing oneself to idealised body types and beauty standards via social media.
Here are our top tips for stopping body comparisons to protect your body image.
Detox your feed and unfollow triggering accounts
For young people using social media, there is a strong relationship between online social comparison and how someone may feel about their body.
Four out of five girls say they compare the way they look to other people on social media.*
Unfortunately, young people tend to compare in the negative. This is often termed upward comparisons (i.e., comparing ourselves with those who we believe are better than us, which might focus on the desire to improve the way we look, or our current status).
Typically speaking, it is easier for young people to compare to the perfect, flawless and idealised image presented on social media as they may not have the social media literacy to understand that what they are viewing is not a true representation of reality or how the person in the image is actually feeling. Additionally, the heavy use of digital manipulation, filters or selection of the perfect shot all help to present the version of reality that someone wants others to see; social media is a highlight reel and is never a true indication of every aspect of someone’s life.
Research suggests that body dissatisfaction is common after comparing one’s body shape to a subjective ideal body shape.
Girls take on average up to 14 selfies in an attempt to get the right ‘look’ before choosing one to post.*
Take some time and go through your social media accounts and unfollow anyone who doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, or if you find yourself comparing your body and appearance to their own. Instead, follow diverse people with different body shapes and sizes that don’t conform to the ‘thin ideal’, which is an unrealistic and unattainable body type. It is also beneficial to follow other accounts that aren’t related to bodies, looks and appearance.
“If you find yourself negatively comparing your body to someone else, unfollow them. Curate your feed to include diverse body types and people who don’t promote diet culture. “
Practice body gratitude and body kindness
No matter what your size, shape, weight, or gender is; the practice of body gratitude and body kindness can help to build positive thoughts and feelings about our bodies.
Consider all the ways your body helps you move throughout your day that having nothing to do with your looks. Focusing on what your body can do and finding ways to speak and be kind to your body can help to improve body image. It’s not always easy and is tougher for some people, but regular practice can make this easier.
Celebrate aspects of yourself that have nothing to do with appearance.
It can also be beneficial to highlight the qualities that you appreciate about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance. Maybe you’re a good listener, a hard worker, a good friend or colleague, honest, or intelligent? Find what makes you unique and focus on these positive aspects.
You could also include some brief affirmations or positive mantras you could repeat, such as “I am enough” or “My worth is not defined by my appearance”. Refer to this list when you find yourself making body comparisons and change the thought cycle by instead repeating your positive affirmations. The more we hear and focus on positive and good things, the better we feel.
The more frequently a young person compares their body (or their life) the more dissatisfied they are likely to feel.
When social media and the media constantly inundates us with diet culture messaging that says we need to change our bodies and appearance in order to be accepted, it can be difficult to embrace imperfection and stop comparing ourselves to the ideal. This has become even more apparent with the rise of photo manipulation and editing filters on social media, which has made it easier than ever before to airbrush away your blemishes and hide your flaws.
A quarter of girls think they don’t look good enough to post a photo without editing or applying a filter.*
Unfortunately, perfectionism has been identified as a potential risk factor for the development of an eating disorder, and perfectionism and body dissatisfaction often go hand-in-hand, particularly concern over mistakes, organisation and doubt about actions.
Be aware that perfection is a completely unattainable state that you will never reach. Even once you fulfill goals that you assumed would bring personal happiness, your inner perfectionist will urge you to improve more and do better, because the goal posts are forever moving.
Click here for more tips on overcoming unhealthy perfectionism.
Be your own best friend
We are often our own worst critics, and can be un-necessarily harsh on ourselves, particularly when it comes to appearance and living up to ideals. To combat this, it can be useful to talk to yourself like you would a close friend. When you feel yourself starting to compare yourself to others, consider the comments you are making about yourself and if you would say them to a close friend. If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, you shouldn’t say it to or critique yourself in the same way.
Get further support
If the comparison trap is impacting your mental health, talking about what you’re going through can help. Reach to Butterfly’s qualified and compassionate Helpline counsellors for advice. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) via webchat or email firstname.lastname@example.org
7 Days a week, 8am-midnight (AEST)
 Fardouly, J. 2015. https://jeatdisord.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2050-2974-3-S1-O20
[*] Statistics referenced in Dove’s Self Esteem Project, The Confidence Kit: https://butterfly.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/The-Confidence-Kit-Dove-Self-Esteem-Project.pdf