how to stop thinking my ex friend is better than me
July 15, 2022 12:16 PM   Subscribe

We were friends in early college, I was always very envious of her, I was a bad friend and destroyed our friendship, we have not spoken in over a year. She may be moving to the city that I’m living in now this fall with her partner to start law school and I’m consumed by so much jealousy that I would actually consider moving out of this city ASAP to get as far from her as I can.

I’ve written about this person before (she’s Friend C in this post) and I’ve written about my issues with self-comparison before in multiple questions before. I’ve even been talking to my therapist about this issue, as recently as literally yesterday.

A mutual Facebook friend tagged this person in a post for an apartment that’s actually not too far away from my apartment. And the moment that I saw this person’s name, I felt my heartbeat increase rapidly. I feel so panicked at the thought of running into her, because when I am around her and apparently even when I think of her, I am absorbed in self-hatred. (Though I’m realizing that the self-hatred may be more of a persistent issue in my life, and it only increases around people who I have deemed are better than me).

I can’t figure out a way to stop thinking that she’s better than me. She has so many things that I don’t have. Her relationship with her partner is so loving and healthy and also her first relationship; my first relationship, on the other hand, fell apart and was never really that healthy to begin. It’s hard for me to not feel like I failed. She used to stir up shit in our friend group, but I was the one who got kicked out for being a bad friend — while she’s only grown closer to those friends, and made many other close friends, and I am so alone. It’s hard for me to not feel like I also failed the friendship too. She’s possibly going to a very prestigious law school and I am seething with jealousy at the thought — I don’t think I would even like law school, and I am headed in a different academic direction that is no less prestigious, but her success still drives me insane. She has a healthy relationship with her dad, and I have an incredibly traumatic relationship with my father (which I know is not my fault but it feels like further evidence of my fucked-up-ness in comparison to her).

Beyond that, she just seems better than me. I’ve always thought she was much prettier than me (she has lighter skin, really pretty face structure, gorgeous hair). She was better at make-up than I was when we were friends, and has always had a better sense of style. When she was in high school, she spent two years internationally in another country at a prestigious boarding school (like, princes and children of diplomats go here), and also grew immersed in her cultural heritage. She is also a POC, and is just so connected to her culture. Meanwhile, I can’t even make my own cultural food and I struggle with so much internalized racism. She’s much more well-off than I am.

She can cook and bake really well. Meanwhile, I’m still learning how to do those things. Once, when I was a freshman in college, I asked for her a recipe to bake cookies because I wanted to bake cookies for my roommate. She sent me the “easiest cookie recipe in the world”, and I still managed to mess up so badly — I asked her for help and she chastised me, wondering how someone could possibly mess up the “easiest cookie recipe in the world”. Meanwhile, she’s been saying since she was 18 that she’s ready to have her own apartment (I think a consequence of going to boarding school by herself when she was 16).

She’s also always been more outspoken with me, more educated on politics, had stronger political opinions. I’ve spent a lot of time learning about politics and have developed my own political understanding that feels good to me, and they are just as sophisticated if not more than her political understanding. But she still just seems like she’s more confident in expressing her political opinions than me. She used to tell me that she’d express her opinions to her uncles and other men at her family gatherings. At my family gatherings, I would be forced to go off into the corner to look over the children. No one would ever ask me about my opinions or trust my opinions as something worth listening to. And she has more hobbies, better taste in music, is just generally more interesting, etc. she also started therapy earlier than I did, which makes me feel like she started out more mature than I did and is only growing more mature — she’s just such an adult, and meanwhile, I’m a fucking child who doesn’t know anything about the world.

She’s not perfect, by any means. I recognize that. But I still struggle so much with comparing myself to her, when she embodies so many things that I want to be so badly. And it doesn’t help that since our friendship ended due to me being a disappointing friend, she’s probably decided that I am just a “low quality” person. She always used to think like that - that some people were bad and some were good. For example, she once made fun of people at our school for wearing pajamas to the dining hall. I can’t help but think that she’s thinking things like that about me - “wow, she couldn’t even figure out how to reach out to me to hang out when we were literally in a pandemic pod. And then she went and dated her best friend’s ex without running it by her best friend. cruel summer is just a BAD person”.

I don’t even know if she’s thinking these things about me, or thinking about me at all. And the version of her I have in my mind is from over a year ago, with a few pieces added in from what I can see from afar. I know that this vision is inherently incomplete, that I don’t see things that she’s struggling with. But just the thought that she is makes me feel so terrible about myself. Truly, I felt such a strong instinct to flee when I realized that she’s probably moving to the same city and the same area of the city as me. I want to stop giving her so much power over me but I just can’t figure out how to do that.

Basically, I feel like I’m still idolizing her as this perfect person, which was what she appeared to me as when I was 18 and had never had friends before and didn’t have anything together in my life and met this person, who seemed to have everything together. How do I stop without focusing on her faults, because that also doesn’t feel good?
posted by cruel summer to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I used to struggle with these thoughts. The only thing that's brought me peace is realizing that it's true, she does have a lot going for her that I don't seem to have. And yet, life goes on. That doesn't excuse me from doing the best I can with what I do have. And I seem to have enough. So what am I doing right now to make the best of it? Sitting around idolizing other people isn't going to help, unless im thinking about how to take what they're doing as an example for what I should be doing. Either way the only way to compete with people like that is to focus on what you're doing for yourself. Cause I guarantee that's what they're at home doing right now.
posted by bleep at 12:22 PM on July 15, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Are you in therapy for this? You've written versions of the exact same scenario several times now in this forum. It doesn't sound like it's helping; you need real help.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:22 PM on July 15, 2022 [67 favorites]

I can’t figure out a way to stop thinking that she’s better than me.

Seems to me that your first step would need to be taking your obsessive focus off her, and putting it back on you and your own internal processes.

What you actually need to do is work on convincing yourself of the truth of the proposition that nobody is better, in any kind of absolute or objective sense, than you are. And of course unless we're also considering those as monstrous as Tr*mp, which only a tiny percentage of people are, nobody is worse in any kind of absolute or objective sense than you are either.

If you can train yourself to accept these propositions as incontrovertible truths - for which endless repetition of them is one reasonably reliable method, the human capacity for suggestibility being what it is - then your difficulties with your ex friend will just naturally fade into unimportance.
posted by flabdablet at 12:24 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know if this is helpful for you or not, but I was just thinking again this morning that there is no sum of money that would make me want to go relive my early 20s.

You will get past this period of your life.
posted by phunniemee at 12:34 PM on July 15, 2022 [37 favorites]

Best answer: It's great that you're self-aware about struggling with internalized racism. By being self-aware of this at a young age, you're already ahead of most people. If you work on improving your internalized racism and sexism (which we all have), these feelings will lighten.

For example, you wrote "she just seems better than me. I’ve always thought she was much prettier than me (she has lighter skin". If you combat your internalized racism, you won't feel so much that lighter skin makes her prettier and better. Ditto for hair (for example, society tells us that long straight hair is better than short super-curly hair, due to racism). Ditto for facial features.

One method that sometimes helps is to look at photos and videos of people with different skin tones, hairstyles, facial features. Cultivate your own sense of beauty instead of relying on what the media bombards all of us with.
I asked her for help and she chastised me ... She always used to think like that - that some people were bad and some were good. .... I’m still idolizing her as this perfect person
If someone asked you for a cookie recipe and then asked for help, would you chastise them? Would you ask how they could possibly mess up such an easy cookie recipe? If you did chastise them (let's say you had a bad day), how would you feel about yourself afterwards? Probably guilt, dismay, disappointment in yourself. But when she does the same thing, you idolize her.

Do you have long-term people in your life who treat you in this mean, judgmental, chastising way? Perhaps the male relatives who force you to go off to the corner and never listen to your opinion. It's worth exploring in therapy why your response to being chastised is to double-down on adoring the bully.
Truly, I felt such a strong instinct to flee
This is a good instinct. After reading about her harsh judgmental tone, I also would want to flee from her.
posted by cheesecake at 12:38 PM on July 15, 2022 [7 favorites]

You poor kid. Sometimes being young really sucks.

I don’t even know if she’s thinking these things about me, or thinking about me at all.

I guarantee she is not. Please think about therapy - you are worth more than this brain torture!!!
posted by tristeza at 12:49 PM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds like the underlying issue in a lot of your questions isn't the specific people you're talking about, or even self-comparison per se. If you get 100 comments here about how she's a rich, terrible snob, you will just find someone else to move on to who will make you feel bad about yourself.

The common denominator here is your set of negative core beliefs [edit: this article begins with a weird anecdote about the author's friend that you should please ignore--I linked it for the accessible summary of the concept]. You should ask your therapist about this concept and try to work through it with them. Also, please try daily loving-kindness meditation for a few weeks, which generally begins with self-compassion and self-acceptance.
posted by derrinyet at 12:57 PM on July 15, 2022 [14 favorites]

Look. Look. Once, when I was home for the summer just after finishing school, someone who made me feel terrible about myself (an old crush) tried to talk to me in the street. I had an internal moment where I realized it was UP TO ME whether I talked to them ever again. I blanked them, just walked on by. They called after me, oh, that's how it is? AND I LOOKED AT THEM AND KEPT WALKING.

The cut direct is your friend. This person moves to your neighborhood? It's your neighborhood, you get to decide who lives in it, as far as you are concerned.

Ice cold. You are doing the work, this person is not in your life, you don't have to have them in your life even a little bit.

Also, getting off Facebook is an incredible mental health hack. Just, delete it. Do it for yourself, do it for life.

I understand that you are feeling all these emotions very strongly. I am just saying, this is an available position. You can feel all the oozing feelings of inadequacy and keep working on them in therapy, but for god's sake detach them from this person. They don't exist.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 1:02 PM on July 15, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, there are a few ways to tackle this:

No one is "better" than anyone else.


So what if she's "better" than you? So what? What does that even mean and why does it matter? There will always be people who are more and less of whatever characteristic we think of -- lighter, darker, taller, shorter, smarter, less smart, etc. This is the human mosaic.

And, as I said in your last question about your ex-boyfriend: confident people do not need to talk down about other people. People who feel good about themselves and confident in themselves don't need to talk shit about people wearing pajamas. Confident people will be like, "Rock on with your pajama self, friend!" Because who cares if people wear pajamas? It's not wrong, just different. People who like themselves and their friends don't need to uphold their own silly rules and standards for other people.

A bigger question: by focusing your time and attention on other people, what are you avoiding about yourself?
posted by bluedaisy at 1:07 PM on July 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

I don't know if it helps, but having friends who are better than you is pretty awesome. Even ex-friends who you don't actually iinteract with. That it doesn't feel that way right now is sad and frustrating but isn't a necessary feeling. That isn't to say it isn't a real feeling.

In even a small city, quickly waving, "hi" to someone you used to know when you happen to meet on the sidewalk isn't weird. You don't have to talk to them. Don't move, unless you want to move for other reasons. Sympathy and best wishes.
posted by eotvos at 1:08 PM on July 15, 2022

Best answer: Note to answerers: OP says in their question that they are in therapy for this and spoke to their therapist about this just yesterday, so no need to recommend that they get therapy.

Which leads me to a question for OP - what does your therapist have to say about it? Because, as you know, you've asked different versions of this question here several times already and you're not feeling any better, which suggests that AskMe doesn't have the power to give you an answer that will really make you feel better. Which sucks, but here we are.

I mean, we could pick out individual elements of your question (eg. who cares whether you can bake cookies? Literally nobody, unless you've omitted to mention that you're applying for jobs as a cookie baker. That's not a signifier of anybody's worth and the way she responded in that situation shows she's clearly got a mean streak, which suggests she is not a better person than you; She used to express her opinions to her uncles? She's lucky enough to come from a family and/or culture where that's appropriate and allowed, and you don't - why is that any commentary on you as an individual? It's not, it's only a commentary on the circumstances you were born into etc.) But the individual circumstances aren't the problem - your obsessive thoughts are, and that probably needs one-to-one help from your therapist, and perhaps some mental health medication too.

I agree with everyone saying that this is partly your age and will get better. I can only repeat what I've said here before - that, by the time most people reach adulthood, everyone is missing something significant in their life. It's different for everyone - could be physical health never obtained, or mental health, or a parent or sibling who died too young, a loving relationship with a parent never experienced, financial security never obtained, a significant other never met, or longed-for children never had - so many different things. Everyone sooner or later picks up one of them, and most of us more than one as we move through life.

If you're comparing yourself to others and feeling like you come off worst, then either you're not old enough to have reached that point yet where everyone's accumulated their first 'missing thing', or you just don't know what the other person's missing.

But the real problem isn't who's got what, it's the obsessive comparison. I'm not sure that's really sunk in for you yet - you list so many things here that you think prove she's a better person than you, as if you can prove it to us as well by describing them all in as much detail as possible. I really think you need your therapist's help to work on the obsession with comparing yourself to others, it seems to be beyond the capabilities of AskMe to help you with that, based on our (lack of) success so far.
posted by penguin pie at 1:09 PM on July 15, 2022 [25 favorites]

getting off Facebook is an incredible mental health hack. Just, delete it. Do it for yourself, do it for life.

O preach it!

Every frequent Facebook user I know personally suffers worse and more frequent anxiety than anybody I know who doesn't use it. It's completely fucking toxic.

Figure out what Facebook is doing for you that you value and seek other ways to address those needs because it's pretty well guaranteed that any alternative that isn't designed to optimize user engagement above all else will be healthier.
posted by flabdablet at 1:11 PM on July 15, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: But the real problem isn't who's got what, it's the obsessive comparison.

Yeah. I wish you would just straight up ask the mods to close this question or at least step away from your devices and spend the rest of the weekend, idk, walking the streets of your city or binge-watching Star Trek TNG or baking or kayaking or volunteering at a soup kitchen. In order to stop thinking your friend is better than you, you're going to have to stop thinking about her, period, or at least dial it way back. And I don't think you can do that if you're posting essays about her on AskMeFi and reading everyone's responses to them.
posted by mskyle at 1:16 PM on July 15, 2022 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I want to offer a perspective that might not feel good, but that I hope might be freeing.

I have never actually *stopped* thinking any of the self-negating, damaging things that I wish I could stop thinking. What I *have* been able to do is hear them as parts of myself that are terribly afraid, and trying desperately to protect me. When my brain says, “Look at those friends who have a house and a retirement account and who have everything figured out, which YOU do not!!!!!!!”, I can say, “Come here, let me hug you. The future *is* uncertain, and I want us to be safe, too. We will make it through, together.”

When we think these thoughts, we can refuse to hear it as the voice of a single, permanent, essential SELF, and that can make it easier to have self-compassion for our fears and frustrations.

I also recommend reframing what you want to do. There aren’t permanent, essential solutions to challenging human emotions - there isn’t a way that we can *stop* feeling fear or anger or resentment, just like there isn’t a way to stop stubbing our toes or banging our heads. What we *can* do is rearrange our lives so that we spend less time in places where we tend to feel resentment or stub our toes, and learn how better to take care of ourselves and others when those things *do* happen.

If you block this ex-friend (and everyone else you compare yourself to) on social media - or straight-up just take a break from it until you’ve established your own healthy offline post-grad life - you won’t be able to be inadvertently triggered by seeing what’s going on in their life. You have a choice.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 1:18 PM on July 15, 2022 [34 favorites]

I cannot speak to the OCD-aspects of this in a way that is going to be more help than your therapist, but: You gotta block this person on Facebook immediately. You do not need to see her on there at all. (She won't even notice this and it will help you.)
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:20 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This isn't about her. Stop making it about her. Look at how much you've written just about this person on this website, to an audience that does not care about her and has repeatedly voiced their concern about YOU.

Every time you find yourself freaking out OMG Karen's gonna-

STOP. Break this pattern.

And finish that sentence with "live her life like a grown ass adult, and so am I, end of discussion."

Stop telling yourself soap operas about her, stop casting her as the villain in your daydreams. People get to dislike you, for rational or irrational reasons. Stop giving your idea of her so much oxygen. Let it go. You need nothing from her to work on your own self-esteem and obsessive tendencies. Block wherever you may get information about her, as a means of harm reduction.

She's a symptom. This is like you walking around all day dragging a broken leg behind you, telling everyone you meet how you just don't understand why the sidewalk keeps making you fall down all the time.

I do agree that you should make a deal with yourself that you're going to stop writing about her on the internet. I don't really think you should journal privately about her either, only about what you are doing: "I am having a lot of paranoid thoughts about a person I used to know. I am struggling with comparing myself to other people, and when I do that it has XYZ effect on my life and wellbeing. I am harming myself again with perseveration on a person who is not involved in my life in any way. I am reacting to some generic information as if my safety is threatened, why is this triggering my flight response? It may be because I react X way to Y stimulus" etc etc. Do not use her name, do not use your own processing to tell stories about her. Start telling more stories about you, a person you actually like who is doing the best they can in the world and trying to make improvements where they think it's important.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:27 PM on July 15, 2022 [27 favorites]

“Friend C has such nice hair. So what? Does this thought serve me and what I want from life? What do I gotta do to make my things happen?” You need to train your mind to not have an emotional reaction every time you think about this person. Your therapist should be able to help you with this. These thoughts you’re having are not about her at all. Your mind is just using her as an excuse to fill up with bad feelings because that is what your mind knows how to do. You gotta train it to do something different, to be able to redirect your attention and move on without having the emotional spiral. I am not a therapist, but a therapist helped me learn to do this. You can too!

And yeah, get off Facebook.
posted by sk932 at 1:32 PM on July 15, 2022

Best answer: If you're comparing yourself to others and feeling like you come off worst, then either you're not old enough to have reached that point yet where everyone's accumulated their first 'missing thing', or you just don't know what the other person's missing.

Quoted for truth. I know I've gotten older because a lot of axioms that I once dismissed as corny and/or cliche now strike me as also wise. As has been said in various iterations, in whatever you're measuring, there will always been people better and worse than you. You can drive your self into deep despair (and clearly are, from your Ask history) by getting caught in the comparison game. Focus on your own improvement - how well other people can bake, or how healthy their romantic relationship is, has zero baring on your own ability to bake or enter into a relationship. Very little in life is a zero-sum game. In fact the opposite - for example, my own baking abilities have improved immensely thanks to strangers who have shared useful tips on YouTube.

Anyway, as to your fear of running into her because she might rent an apartment near you: you live in a major city. When I lived in a major city, with a friend who lived a handful of blocks away, I literally only saw him when we made plans to meet up. It's really not hard to avoid people in major cities.

And yes, delete all social media for at least a month. Not just Facebook, but Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and whatever else you're on.
posted by coffeecat at 1:42 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

My close family member suffers from this kind of obsessive thinking. She's in her 50s, has never gotten a handle on it, and her entire life has been basically ruined by it. It's ruined every job, every friendship, every romantic relationship. I urge you to double down on this with your therapist and/or find a new therapist. Healing yourself now will change your entire life.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:47 PM on July 15, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Some rhetorical questions: Why does it even matter if you are better or worse than anybody else? How do you treat people you think aren’t as good as you? If you can’t think of people worse than you, why are you worse than everybody else?

I ask these questions to get you thinking less about her and more about you and how you think of yourself. Because she does not matter. If she hadn’t ever been in your life I’m willing to bet someone else would take her place. She isn’t anybody special. Instead, what’s unique is you. You’re the only you you’ve got.

I’m glad you’re in therapy but it sounds like the style of therapy or your therapist in specific isn’t the most productive fit. Have you talked to a psychiatrist about medications that might fill out your therapeutic toolbox and make it more effective? Is your therapist a POC you feel comfortable deconstructing some internalized racism with? Do you have access to other kinds of mental healthcare you might not be taking advantage of, like group sessions, access to nature-filled spaces, religious guidance you align with, support of a found or chosen family, outlets for creative self expression? When the mere thought of someone being in your city exposes so much fragility in your well-being you need to take stock of your mental wellness inventory and use these things to shore up your self confidence and coping methods.
posted by Mizu at 2:06 PM on July 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: What I *have* been able to do is hear them as parts of myself that are terribly afraid, and trying desperately to protect me

Everything that rrrrrt said.

Being severely depressed and anxious has taught me two valuable lessons. 1) seeking reassurance from other people doesn't work. It's never enough. 2) I have the capacity to reassure myself.

Notice when you need reassurance. It's OK to feel that way, it's perfectly rational and human. But instead of letting your need for reassurance drive you to look for it on AskMe, or from your friends or family, give that reassurance to yourself.
Tell yourself that you understand why you're feeling so crap. Remind yourself that this awful feeling won't last forever. Cry if that will help, or do something that will bring you back into your body. Have a hot bath, breathe deeply and slowly, listen to music you love, whatever.
Don't try to solve the problem. It's OK if things are broken right now. Remind yourself that you have the capacity to heal. Even if you can't imagine how to solve your problems, that's OK. You'll figure it out with time.

Notice the negative self talk that's trying to keep you safe. Believing that you're sure to fail can feel safer than taking a chance and maybe succeeding.

Try to be kind to yourself.
posted by Zumbador at 2:09 PM on July 15, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I would suggest the problem is less what you're thinking, and more how much you're thinking it. Trying to fight, dig into, justify, argue with these kinds of mental distortions just digs you in deeper to the pattern of thought. You need to find something else to care about and somewhere else to spend your energy.

(If it were me, I'd be laughing at myself to take some of the serious, urgent intensity out of the thought: What does it matter who's better than who? Do you think if you just identify the best person you can decide to take over their body and be them instead? Lolol. Gotta find a way to muddle through with the me I've got.)
posted by Lady Li at 2:12 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Sometimes medication is what is needed rather than talk therapy. Have you considered seeing a psychiatrist? Seeing one doesn't mean there is something horribly wrong with you, it is just that they can prescribe medications for things such as irrational and obsessive thoughts, whereas a therapist cannot.
posted by SageTrail at 3:30 PM on July 15, 2022 [8 favorites]

I am a therapist but I'm not your therapist and this is not psychological advice.

Imo, blocking this person or moving to a different town will give you the kind of temporary relief that an agoraphobic might feel if they were to blockade the door on their house to prevent themselves from going outside. It might feel safe for a bit, but what they've done effectively makes the outside even more scary. It's temporary relief that brings about long-term problems.

From your description, I'd guess that the problem is not actually the other person, it's all the stuff that you're projecting on to them. This is why moving probably wouldn't change much, because you're bringing yourself with you!

If you and your therapist agree, I would consider trying to work on taking back and owning all of those projections as parts of yourself that really need a hug, or at lease that need a friend, because it's a big scary world out there.
posted by jasper411 at 5:51 PM on July 15, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: +1 to talking to a psychiatrist. From the repetitive nature of your posts here it sounds to me like you are trying hard, that you know these spirals are wrong and untrue, but that your problem is beyond what discussion is going to help. Therapy may offer you additional tools but there literally are meds to help your brain not do what it's doing, and they may offer you genuine relief.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:06 PM on July 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

It has only recently dawned on me, after decades of perfectionism, that people don't really like someone who is perfect/best/better. People might pay attention, be impressed, or give compliments. But a genuine connection and real affection comes from being seen and known as who you are, with your specific set of quirks and flaws.

"People might like me...because...of my flaws? What's wrong with these people, that they like bad things and not good things? Do they just want me to be flawed and stay flawed so they can feel superior?"-me, not as long ago as I'd like to think

Here's a test to see if self-compassion might help:
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 7:28 PM on July 15, 2022 [6 favorites]

Little secret. Your friends relationship has the same flaws as any other. I assure you they fight and resent each other etc,
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:40 PM on July 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

You need to make peace with the emotion of shame and become comfortable being seen exactly as you are. You are shadow boxing with your own projections.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:48 PM on July 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

The nature of your thoughts is more relevant here than the content of your thoughts and these sound like obsessive thoughts. You could be ruminating obsessively about anyone or anything else in your life, the problem is not the target of your obsession, but the fact you're obsessing so much it's causing such distress. As others already pointed out above, maybe taking to a psychiatrist or doctor who can prescribe meds could be helpful. There are meds that can help a lot with this kind of obsessive thinking, along with therapy. Consider exploring this option.
posted by bitteschoen at 11:59 PM on July 15, 2022 [3 favorites]

Hey so, you know that you need to do something about this, but it looks from a previous question that you might already be in therapy for a while? If you feel like you could handle a change, I have two suggestions of therapeutic approaches that might be good for tackling this particular issue, if you want to look for a therapist who specialises. They are:

Gestalt Therapy: this is a branch of humanistic therapy, like standard talk therapy, but it focuses a lot on your experience in the present moment. I think that this could be really useful for you to unpick how your feelings are controlling you. What you're experiencing here is not about your friend. It is about you, and how you percieve yourself. This could help you examine that and learn what's really going on for you.

Existentialist Therapy: so this can take many forms, but to give you a v short intro, the idea is to explore meaning and meaninglessness, and what the point of life is OR more excitingly, if there isn't one, what it could be? The reason I think you might get something out of this is because it feels like your brain has wrapped so much of your personal narrative and meaning around this other person. Gestalt, above, might help you to extricate it. Existentialism might help you pull yourself so far back from that current picture that you can't help but start to leave it behind. After all, who wants to get to the end of their life thinking, did I win, in the race between me and that other person? Did I measure up? The only person who gets to set the rules for your life is you my friend.

If you want more info on these do hit me up, I'm only a baby therapist still in training, but I've learned about so many new approaches, and I feel like most folk don't have anywhere near the full picture of all the different flavours of help that are out there for you when you need it.

Good luck!
posted by greenish at 12:33 PM on July 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all of the answers, to this question and to my previous very similar ones. I’m so grateful that internet strangers are willing to spend their time and energy helping me; I can understand how it might feel frustrating to see the same question from the same person over and over again, and wish you could help, and try your hardest to help, and then rinse and repeat. You all respond so compassionately to my questions, and I appreciate it very much.

I recently switched therapists to a new one who is a POC and more emotion-focused. My old therapist used CBT-like methods that I think might be helpful for someone else but for me, might have exacerbated my tendency to overthink and overanalyze. They also taught me mindfulness methods, so I’m going to be leaning on those more and talking to my therapist about medication.

Thank you, again.
posted by cruel summer at 4:44 AM on July 18, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Something that helped me personally when I was dealing with obsessive comparisons was this saying : "Don't compare your insides to other people's outsides." You never really know what someone else is going through, and you can either choose to look at them as an enemy, or someone who could help you. However, this friend has been pretty judgmental, so that does trigger extremely low self esteem, so probably not the best.

The other thing I read that helped change my life was Tara Brach's "The Trance of Unworthiness" which I found after digging through archives of AskMeFi in my early 20s. I'm on mobile so I can't link now, but it's in my bio profile if you want to read it, it's how much that has helped me that it is a permanent link in my profile.

The main thing I've done for myself over the years is go to a POC therapist who practices DBT methods, CBT almost straight up killed me because it doesn't address the core self worth and self esteem issues and the maladaptive thinking that comes from dealing with such stressors. You will get through this!

Also I'm a QTPOC -- I recommend going to decolonial and social justice healing circles where we talk about intergenerational trauma and colonialism as attacking our senses of self worth and shame, there should be local justice oriented orgs or events or in your area that work, as well as online. If you don't know where to start, feel free to DM me and I could try to find some specific resources for you. You will get through this!
posted by yueliang at 8:45 AM on July 18, 2022 [3 favorites]

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