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Shattered Reflections: How Social Comparison Undermines Happiness for Black Women

social comparison Feb 07, 2024
Social comparison encourages individuals to gauge their worth in relation to others for everyone. Social comparison, rooted in societal and cultural context, poses unique challenges for Black women.
Societal Pressures and Stereotypes:
Societal expectations and stereotypes wield significant influence in shaping the experiences of Black women, particularly in the context of social comparison. The perpetuation of narrow standards and expectations contributes to a landscape where Black women may find themselves constantly measured against unrealistic ideals. Davis and Brown's (2017) research delves into the impact of stereotypes on self-esteem, highlighting the adverse effects of societal expectations on the mental well-being of Black women.
The expectations placed on Black women can range from assumptions about our strength and resilience to harmful stereotypes about our appearance and behavior. The burden of disproving or conforming to these stereotypes creates a breeding ground for social comparison. When confronted with societal pressures, Black women may internalize these expectations, leading to feelings of inadequacy and an ongoing comparison with others who seemingly embody societal ideals.
Intersectionality and Social Comparison:
The concept of intersectionality, introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, provides a crucial framework for understanding the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, gender, and class. For Black women, this intersectionality magnifies the complexity of our experiences. In the context of social comparison, the interplay of race and gender becomes a unique challenge.
Research on the intersection of race, gender, and social comparison underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of how these factors converge. Black women may face distinct challenges as they navigate not only gendered expectations but also racialized stereotypes. The intersectionality of their identities contributes to a multifaceted experience that requires careful consideration in addressing the impact of social comparison.
Media Representation and Beauty Standards:
The media plays a pivotal role in shaping societal beauty standards, often perpetuating Eurocentric ideals that can be particularly alienating for Black women. Roberts and Thomas (2021) explore the influence of media representation on self-perception, shedding light on how the portrayal of beauty in mainstream media can impact the social comparison tendencies of Black women.
Representation matters, and the limited diversity in media often results in the underrepresentation of Black women in spaces that define and perpetuate beauty standards. When the prevailing images of beauty exclude the diverse spectrum of Black women's appearances, it exacerbates social comparison. Black women may find ourselves measuring our self-worth against a narrow and unattainable standard, further intensifying the challenges we face in navigating the comparison trap.
Returning to Happiness:
Although some aspects of social media and media representation are out of our control, there are things we can do to reduce social comparison and increase happiness. 
Connect with Supportive Communities:
  • Build a Support Network: Surround yourself with individuals who uplift and support you. Share your experiences and challenges with trusted friends, family, or community groups.
  • Empower Others: Actively contribute to building a positive and supportive community. By empowering others, you create a reciprocal environment that fosters collective well-being.
Consider joining The Sista Peace Tribe and The Sista Peace Spiritual Family, both supportive communities dedicated to uplifting ourselves and each other. Therefore increasing both happiness and inner peace. 
In conclusion, the social comparison landscape for Black women is uniquely influenced by societal pressures, intersectionality, and media representation. The perpetuation of stereotypes and expectations, the intersection of race and gender, and the limited portrayal of diverse beauty standards contribute to a complex web of challenges. Forming our own uplifting and supportive communities is one meaningful way to reclaim our happiness by reducing social comparison. 
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 139-167.
Davis, J. A., & Brown, R. (2017). Stereotype threat and Black women: An examination of the performance and experience of stereotype threat. Journal of Black Psychology, 43(8), 787-802.
Roberts, T. A., & Thomas, A. S. (2021). Intersectional internalization: How exposure to idealized media beauty standards influences perceived physical inadequacies for women of different ethnicities. Body Image, 37, 159-169.