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Social Comparison, Silent Killer Of Black Men ‒Developing Healthy Narrative Of The High Value Man

Written by: Yannae, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. And it is. Especially in the social media age. It is becoming a silent killer. Humanity as a whole has one big insecurity and is suffering from comparison. This article will discuss some of the effects of social comparison orientation, and then explore how it specifically affects black men.

Social comparison orientation refers to individual differences in the inclination to compare oneself with others; particularly one’s accomplishments, one’s situation, and one’s experiences with those of others. Social comparison is a process through which people evaluate themselves and increase self-understanding by comparing themselves with others. This “behavior” can have severe implications on mental and physical health. Overemphasis on materialistic values can make the social comparison orientation more salient, which negatively affects self-esteem.

In a peer-reviewed study by Jin Kyun Lee, titled The effects of social comparison orientation on psychological well-being in social networking sites: Serial mediation of perceived social support and self-esteem, the author shares some valuable information about how social comparison orientation is most relevant in social network use. The article states, In 2020, adult social network users in the United States are expected to spend 82 min per day on SNSs (Social Media Networks). Studies have shown that while self-disclosure and active interaction with others might be related to better well-being and positive mental states (meaning support during Covid and social distancing), it’s the excessive SNS engagement that is leading to poor well-being, loneliness, anxiety, and depression (Hunt et al. 2018; Liu et al. 2019; Reer et al. 2019; Vahedi and Zannella 2019).”

We can pretty much guarantee that most adults are using social networks way more than 82 minutes a day. Additionally, research has found that “SNSs can decrease psychological well-being due to unfavorable social comparison or envy. Specifically, Facebook use predicts upward social comparison, which negatively influences individuals’ self-esteem and well-being over time, whereas Instagram use has a direct negative effect on psychological well-being. SNS use is a strong predictor of social comparison, which is related to the fear of missing out and depressive symptoms through rumination and negatively related to self-perceived physical appearance, global self-worth, and self-perceived social acceptance.”

The study went on to state that “individuals with greater social comparison orientation derived from low self-esteem have worse mental health, as they are more likely to hurt themselves psychologically. Given the nature of SNSs, where upward social comparison is dominant (Vogel et al. 2014),” this applies to everyone and demands our consideration.

Not only is it important to be aware of social media network use, “excessive social media network news, are directly linked to social comparison orientation, but we should also recognize that such exposure has been proven to cause severe negative effects to our bodies, our mind, our emotions, and our Mental Health. Moreover, multiple studies demonstrate the unusual uptick in mental health issues created by excessive social network use.

Familiarizing oneself with the negative effects of social network use can be rather illuminating, and I encourage my readers to engage their own research; specifically regarding how various groups of people are affected. I’ve personally discovered a bounty of articles and studies that investigate how social media network use affects black women, teens, the LBGT community, and even the elderly. However, of even greater discovery, and concern to me, was that I could not find anything that specifically pertained to black men and social media. It seems to be a wholly different universe. A metaverse, if you will.

As a black man who is a transformational coach, and works with many black males of all ages, I make a concerted effort to remain aware of how my brothers suffer. More often than not, the emotional trauma—and sometimes even the physical trauma—goes unnoticed. For many reasons, black men are left to suffer silently, and the resulting consequences are extensive. Systemic oppression, lack of access, damaging social constructs, social stigmas about therapy, a hesitancy to express emotions, and a lack of awareness of coping strategies, are but just a few.

So how are black men affected by social comparison orientation? And, perhaps, an-even-more important question, what are black men comparing themselves to? Is it physique? Possibly. In fact, body dysmorphia is actually rather common amongst men. However, with the “Dad Bod” being so popular, it’s quite possible that that’s not a go-to comparison. Actually, most black men look at money as the comparison, or what comes from “money;” for example, women, cars, clothes, jewelry, or an overall expensive lifestyle.

Many black men consider the role of “man as the provider” as being high on their list of values. However, almost 40% of Black females said they tapped into their emergency savings, or borrowed money from family or a friend since the COVID-19 outbreak, as compared to 26% of Black men. So, as black men, it is possible that we see the needs of our black women, yet have to internalize the shame and guilt of not being able to do enough.

This leads me to discuss a recently popularized term within the black culture, and how it pertains to social comparison orientation. The term is “High-value man,” and it has a long history, however, the definition has dramatically shifted, and has become especially trendy on social media within the black culture; whether it’s hip hop, blog sites, or black Twitter. With the help of popular YouTubers and influencers, High-Value Man is now considered one who makes excessive amounts of money and is able to provide everything that’s necessary for one’s financial security. Unfortunately, these popularized views regarding “High-Value Man” play a major role in the social comparison orientation for black men.

The narrative of “money” defining the value of men is similar to the notion of “body” and “sex appeal” being the defining aspects for the beauty of women. While studies have shown the mental and emotional effects that such “thinking” has on women, we must also be aware of how social comparison orientation with money can dramatically affect men; particularly black men. From a health and wellness perspective, this becomes a huge challenge for many of the men I work with, primarily for those who are convinced it has no effect at all on the mental and emotional issues they deal with.

Humans are not immune to the effects of social media. The subconscious brain makes up about 95% of brainpower. It manages everything the body needs to function properly, from eating and breathing to digesting and making memories. It is always “taking in” new information and processing it. Although we are “aware” of the information our conscious takes in, it is not so with the subconscious. In fact, the subconscious actually takes in far more information than the conscious. Therefore, whenever we are exposed to marketing psychology, even if for only a minute, our brains and body are affected by whatever colors, narrative, message, and intention social media experts use.

Black men, and notably black boys, adopting the narrative of “High value” being tied to their status and money, is a narrative that says, “I’m not enough.” The idea of “I’m not enough” is rooted in fear. The fear and scarcity associated with this notion shifts us from using our rational brain to operating from a primitive brain. Suddenly, the amygdala takes over and we react from an emotional response of flight or freeze. The culture alone is driven by fear. For black men, we are born into a life of flight or freeze. Better yet: “Fight or flight.” Often, one can't avoid feeling that way in this country, whether it stems from police brutality, systemic racism, institutional poverty, etc. And, in the world of social media, that is how the brain becomes influenced; whether one is aware of it or not.

Much like many other emotions and health issues, this form of social comparison orientation is something that many black men are silently struggling with. Anytime an object validates who someone is, there is suffering. From a mental and physical health perspective, my goal is to provide transformational ways to deal with this social comparison orientation head-on, and defeat the silent killer of comparison. Let’s look at some of them.

Social media didn’t create social comparison orientation. There has always been a measure of comparison. However, in the age of social media comparison, it’s a constant narrative that’s playing over and over in several ways. Not just podcast and YouTube platforms. The lifestyle of how wealthy men shower their women with gifts, and how the “trips,” the “clothes,” the “cars,” and the attention a man who is wealthy gets, are all narratives that are constantly running on social media. Like it or not, we are all being exposed to the narrative. So we have to be aware, and become equipped with a transformation strategy that helps us combat this social comparison orientation.

The strategy I use incorporates aspects of the “author and observer method,” and is one that helps in all areas of life. It is the foundation to my transformation coaching system and requires a critical analysis approach to the thoughts we take in. I refer to the strategy as IICEE (spoken like “ice”). It consists of five stages.

The “IICEE” Strategy to Combat Social Comparison Orientation

  1. Identify the story

  2. Identify the limiting beliefs from the story

  3. Create a new story

  4. Empowering beliefs

  5. Evidence

Identify the story

We have to be honest and vulnerable about the narrative being presented to us in social media. The narrative, or story, that is presented claims that “High Value” is determined by income. Keep in mind that, for this story or narrative to actually be true, it is essentially saying that the majority of black men are of low value. And this is because, according to the narrative, the majority of black men make less than 100k a year.

As a black man, and as a Life Coach, I am certain that such a narrative is 1000 percent, categorically untrue. Every human being is of value! And if we do not see ourselves as high value, we will suffer and fall short of becoming our fullest potential. Black men should strive to be wealthy and break generational wealth curses, but in order to begin that path most powerfully, one has to do it from a growth mindset, and not from a deficit mindset or from a story that says, “you are of low value.” Black men need to see themselves as more than the victims of oppression, stereotypes, and systemic racism.

Identify limiting beliefs

This story produces limiting beliefs that limit us from having a positive self-image mindset. Here the limiting belief suggests that if you do not make a certain amount of money, you will not be a man of high value. As with anything, and any experience in life, we have to identify the story that we are telling ourselves, identify the limiting beliefs, and then we have to transform those limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs by creating a new story.

Create a new story

The new story isn’t just making something up in order to lie to yourself. The new story must be supported by evidence, and it must be a story that makes sense. So, let’s renew the term for High-Value Man. A “High-Value Man” is naturally self-confident because he lives a life that he is proud of. A man with integrity is high-value because he is trustworthy. Though not the easiest thing to do, he has values and moral codes that he upholds, even when no one is watching. He does the right thing when it's not convenient.

Looking at this definition of “High-Value Man,” we can create a completely different story that is empowering, healthy, and makes sense. Yet, it still does not necessarily exclude the importance of creating wealth. It’s important to emphasize that I am not suggesting that we should not care about money or not focus on earning adequate wealth. Money is important, and in my personal opinion, if we are to express the fullness of God, then what better way to do that than through wealth. So it is crucial for a man to be focused on how he can create generational wealth for himself and his family.

The problem with the contemporary use of the term, and the characteristics being advocated by social media, is that their version of “High Value Man” can only lead one to a path of wealth. However, one can be wealthy, and yet have low value in integrity, faithfulness, and discipline. And, more than likely, wealth gained in this way will probably not last very long and many bridges will be burnt along the way. Bridges that cannot be gotten back.

So the new story for black men is: “I am a high-value man, with integrity, principles, morals, discipline, and humility in all that I do. My word is Bond, and walking in this righteous path WILL lead me to abundance in all areas of wellness.” Now that we have created a story that makes sense, let’s look at the evidence to support why this story is true.

Empowering Beliefs

The process of developing empowering beliefs is critically-important to the overall transformation process. Empowering beliefs drive a person’s thought processes, which lead to meaningful actions and successful outcomes. Instilling positive beliefs enables a person to take constructive action that improves their life, makes them feel good, and establishes emotional balance. Not only does this create a better frame of mind for connecting with the right people and building valuable relationships, but it also diminishes vulnerability to anxiety, depression, or other potential mental health issues.

So, let’s take a look at some of the empowering beliefs we created with our new story.

  • The attributes of good character attract wealth.

  • “My” discipline is freedom. This leads to breaking negative patterns and habits that limit my financial success.

  • “My” value is determined by how I feel, and not by position, status, or possessions.

  • “My” vision and purpose reflect my value.


The evidence is what supports our story. This is the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. So, let’s look at the facts that support the story of “High-Value Man.”

Integrity. When considering individuals for employment, multi-billionaire Warren Buffet says, “We look for intelligence, we look for initiative or energy, and we look for integrity. And if they don't have the latter, the first two will kill you.” Integrity makes you secure and confident in who you are as a person. If you don't have integrity, there's nothing to nourish your self-esteem because you're not honest about your morals and values. Confidence comes from being secure in who you are and reflecting on that to others. Integrity benefits our life personally and establishes healthy relationships. One who is known for integrity has a much better opportunity of securing a network of wealthy people who recognize their value through integrity alone. However, a person who has money without integrity will likely rely on other not-so-attractive qualities, like manipulation and fear, to acquire their networks and net worth.

Discipline. With integrity comes a significant amount of discipline. Rafael Badziag spent five years conducting face-to-face interviews with 21 self-made billionaire entrepreneurs around the world (defined as those with a net worth of at least $1 billion), and researched their lives and companies. “The billionaires I interviewed are the most disciplined people I have ever met," Badziag wrote. "They put a high standard on themselves and on the people around them.”

An author, successful podcaster, and Navy seal officer, Jocko Willink, was quoted saying, "Freedom is what everyone wants – to be able to act and live with freedom. But the only way to get to a place of freedom is through discipline."

Will Smith once said, “At the center of bringing any dream into fruition is self-discipline.”

Discipline is one of the most valuable traits a man can have. Women feel more secure around men who have self-control. It means one can be loyal, faithful, smart with handling money, reliable, and dependable.

Purpose and Vision. In the classic book, “The Way of Superior Man,” David Deida says, “ If a man prioritizes his relationship over his highest purpose, he weakens himself, dis-serves the universe, and cheats his woman of an authentic man who can offer his full, undivided presence.” A man with a vision, a purpose, and the integrity and discipline to pursue them will always be valuable to a team, a partner, or a potential investor. Without either a vision or purpose where exactly are you going? Why would anyone want to partner with a person who has no vision or purpose?

I encourage black men to own their power, know their true value, and create a powerful vision/purpose from this understanding. No matter what occurs in life, this vision/purpose becomes a daily motivation that encourages a person to be driven. See this vision daily by using the active process of “visualization.” When practiced, “visualization” stimulates the same region(s) of the brain associated with the physical actualization of the vision. Therefore, when we visualize something, our brain does distinguish between what happened in the mind vs what occurred in the body. If our vision is only about surviving the day, and not about our true value, we will have a hard time acquiring wealth or achieving any goal.

Self Care. Another high value is how one takes care of themself. Yes, I’m talking about your hygiene, how you dress, and your physical fitness. Keeping yourself healthy and fit, well-groomed, face neatly trimmed, nails clean, and even an occasional pedicure are essential. Self-care looks good on you. And it doesn’t take a whole lot of money to do it. But self-care isn’t only about what one cares for on the body. It is also about what one cares for in their spirit, and in their emotions. It costs nothing to make “intentional breathing” a part of your daily life. The benefits of intentional breathing can be astounding.

Consciously changing the way one breathes can help to slow heart rate and promote feelings of calm, as well as release stress hormones, like cortisol. Black men specifically deal with an enormous amount of stress, so simply making breathing a daily habit will significantly help to “take care” of your mind, body and spirit, especially when you show up in the world of professionalism or relationships.

Self-care is showing the value you have in yourself. Sure people may “tolerate” someone who is wealthy, but to be tolerated isn’t anything to be necessarily proud of. It certainly does not reflect high value. Self-Care is a reflection of self-love. And as famous singer, and “Fast and Furious” star, Tyrese Gibson, said, “If you’re not happy about how you look, you have to question how much self-love you have.” Notice he didn’t say how much money. How much love do you have for yourself to keep your inside and outside clean and healthy?

Self-Image Psychology has been extensively researched and studied for the last few decades. Simply put, Self-image Psychology is the image you see of yourself. If you don’t see yourself as strong enough, capable enough, or willed enough to be better than where you are, then it will be that much more challenging to see a better version of the life you are currently living. My work in coaching is rooted in self-image psychology. As black men, it's important that we see ourselves of high value. For hundreds of years, there has been a very deliberate attempt to lower the value that we see in ourselves. We can become easily consumed by the pressures and oppression that exists in this country against black men. Comparison is a silent killer and a vehicle to our suffering. This is why it is so important for black men to have awareness and access to therapy and coaching so we no longer have to silently suffer, but can instead acquire the strategies and methods that free us from “The Unseen Bondage.”

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Yannae, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Founded and pioneered by Master Transformation Specialist Janai Kemp (Yannae), YTK services are based upon a core belief that the SOUL leads a person to their purpose. Once aligned with this understanding, our clients are able to empower their “true self,” cultivate a lifestyle of physical and emotional wellness, develop routines and strategies that support their goals and vision, and ultimately engineer a transition to their Higher-Self and a greater life journey.



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