How often do you compare yourself to others? Your achievements to theirs? Your social status and wealth to your neighbour’s, friend’s, or colleague’s? Are you aware of how often you compare yourself to others? And if you were to be brutally honest and tell me precisely how often you compare, would it be 10, 20, or perhaps 100 times per day? Do you want to know why comparing yourself to others is bad?
Next question; does comparing yourself to others inspire you, make you feel better or worse about yourself? Let me give you an example:
I’ve got two neighbours, one is professionally highly accomplished, the other one recently lost her job. When I compare myself to the former, I feel worse about myself, whereas if I pitch myself against the latter, I feel better about myself. I lose either way. In the first case because I’m putting myself down. In the second, because I lack empathy and kindness for the neighbour who lost her job.
Let’s say I have a third neighbour who works really hard to stay in shape. She inspires me and makes me think I could get and stay fit too.
You see, comparing yourself to others can be a good thing. However, I dare say, in most cases, the emotions that surface through comparing are destructive rather than constructive.
Why comparing yourself to others is bad
According to Deborah Carr, PhD, it’s best to try to stop comparing yourself to others. In her piece in Psychology Today, she writes about the pitfalls of social comparison especially when it comes to self-esteem and self-worth. From college students to work colleagues and housewives, everyone appears to have fallen victim to the social comparison malaise. As a result, mental health issues have become more and more common.
Social media platforms play a crucial role in the comparison game with every post escalating the perfection myth even further, leaving everyone feeling depressed and inadequate. Naturally, each post doesn’t show the true or full picture, only the best aspects make it onto social media. But consumers of social media posts don’t stop and think about that. Instead, you and I and everyone else is in awe of all the perfect lives we are bombarded with. Pitch them against your own life, and you’re in trouble.
Your self-esteem goes south, while your zest for life gets strangled. You forget about your own talents because you’ve seen others whom you consider so much better than you. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the motivation to work hard and make changes in your own life where necessary. But chances are, your efforts will be fruitless. Comparing is bad because you’re likely to ignore your own qualities and blessings.
Why comparing yourself to others is futile
Stop and think about it for a moment. Can you truly compare your own life with someone else’s? It’s obvious that you wouldn’t be comparing like with like. Everyone is fundamentally different when it comes to talents, starting points in life, and personal circumstances. Life deals everyone a different hand, so comparing is rather silly. What’s more, life isn’t fair because people neither enjoy the same opportunities nor do they have the same set of talents.
Perhaps most importantly, people usually only put their best foot forward, hiding all the cracks. People who appear perfectly happy may be going through a hard time. But because of the pressures of society, we feel compelled to perpetuate the perfection farce. The next time you compare yourself with your perfect colleague, remember that no one’s life is perfect.
Comparing yourself to someone who’s less rich or beautiful than you may give you a brief sense of satisfaction. But do you really want or need to use other people’s difficulties to make yourself feel better? Who knows, the tables could turn any day!
Why do we have the urge to compare ourselves?
According to scientists, the need to pitch yourself against others is a useful, built-in human mechanism, needed to assess situations and decide on whether to retreat or attack. This instinct is also present in animals, however, in humans, it usually is more distinct, or so it should be.
The desire to compete combines with this comparison mechanism, so it’s understandable that you compare yourself to others. Both are a means of assessment, providing a way for you to discern how you’re doing. That in itself is perfectly healthy as long as you keep in mind the pitfalls mentioned above.
Stop comparing and unlock your potential
What would happen if you stopped comparing yourself to others? Would you suddenly have an abundance of resources to discern and develop your own unique talents? You should try it and let me know how you get on. I bet your focus will undergo drastic changes, and you’ll stumble upon your personal unrivalled brilliance. You can then go on to harness your potential and give the world the gift of an authentic you. All the while, you grow calmer and happier, while also beginning to appreciate the unique talents of others.
So, how do you stop comparing? All you need is a little self-discipline. Watch your thoughts and stop comparing. At the same time, take time to find your passions and talents. Dedicate time to them every day, so that they can grow and you can blossom into the wonderful person only you can be.