“social comparison theory”…are you a victim?…

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04/03/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

Did you get swept up in the Oscars buzz this week? Did you sit – glued to your TV set – watching the beautiful people, what they wore, who they arrived with, what they said? Beware…you may be a victim of the “social comparison theory“!

A theory was proposed – in 1954 by social psychologist Leon Festinger – that explains “how individuals evaluate their own opinions and desires by comparing themselves to others“. In other words, whether you are aware or not, you may be subconsciously comparing yourself to the rich, the famous and the beautiful (or really, anybody else for that matter), and then suffering consequences as a result. That’s not difficult to believe when we see how immersed in Hollywood, materialism and “self” that our Western world has become.

How deceptive and dangerous it is to compare one’s life to that of the rich and famous. Only one year ago, at the last Academy Awards ceremony, Sandra Bullock was receiving her Best Actress Oscar, dressed in finery, looking perfect and glowing with the world at her feet…then, within one week her private life crumbled before her. Pity the people who were striving to compare their “average” life to hers.

The Christchurch earthquake should be enough to sober any Kiwi trying to compare the lot of their life to others. Anyone not caught up in the devastation of this past week should be grateful for the roof over their head (even if it is dirty), the food on their table (even if it is meager) and the clothes on their back (even if no-one knows the brand)…it’s more than thousands of Cantabrians have right now.

I really didn’t know how much we have in New Zealand until I traveled overseas. Anyone suffering from the effects of “social comparison theory” should take a short trip to India, or Africa, or the Middle East…or Christchurch. Syndrome solved!

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