We just can’t help it! Comparing ourselves to others is the most human of emotions. We measure our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up – our lives, our attractiveness, intelligence, success – and if we compare better or worse! But it can also make us unhappy.
For some of us making comparisons can be quite a positive experience leading to motivation and self-improvement. But it can also bring out other responses of judgement, competitiveness, even superiority. Most of us have the social skills and personal control to keep envy at bay but our true feelings can come out in other ways. Research shows that if we regularly compare ourselves to others we can experience negative feelings of guilt, dissatisfaction and remorse. This can come out in destructive behaviours, like lying and bullying, which can lead to depression, stress and anxiety.
As suggested by social comparison theory, self-confidence is the important psychological concept that correlates to achievement, good relationships with others, satisfaction and fulfilment. Without it, we can have little self-regard for ourselves, become depressed, fall short of our true potential and may become self-destructive.
So here are 5 ways to help stop comparing ourselves to others
1. Take a social media detox
Social media now opens a window into the lives of the world and we can swipe though many more images, stories, video diaries, idealising our perfect digital self. We are all guilty of showcasing our best selves on social media and invite others to look in on our perfect life. But the truth is we use social media to portray an ideal, focusing on key aspects of our lives, highlighting the positive and hiding the reality. After just 10 minutes of browsing, research shows our mood can change and we can become depressed. The pressure of showing the world our happy, smiling, “having it all” digital selves is huge and social media has exposed us to endless potential comparisons, many of whom appear perfect online.
Try to take a step back and remember that nothing on social media is necessarily as it seems. Are you making comparisons to a real, or an idealised life? When everyone is broadcasting their best selves to the world on social media, it can be difficult. Try taking a break from social media and instead focus on the things you care about.
2. Only compare yourself with others for motivation and inspiration
A little healthy comparison can be beneficial but excessive comparison of other people’s success will drain your energy. It’s exhausting. It does nothing to help fuel your own success and diverts your energy, motivation and positive thinking away from your own wants and goals. Comparisons can make you feel bad about yourself and can create resentment towards others you feel are more successful. We can compare the worst parts of our own lives to what we see are the best parts of other people’s lives.
Don’t get stuck on the things that other people have in their lives that you may not have. If someone has a great job they love or a happy relationship tell yourself you can achieve those things for yourself and focus on how they got them. Turn your desire into inspiration and improvement for your own life
3. Measure how well you are doing
The best comparison is to focus on your own progress and growth as a person. Set some personal goals for yourself that you want to achieve and channel your energy into comparing the improvements you make for yourself into productive personal growth
4. Be grateful for the things in your life
Being grateful for the things you have in your life is a great way to overcome the need for comparison. List the things that make you happy, your own accomplishments and the people you have in your life. By focussing on what you have instead of the things you wish you had can help you refocus your energy on yourself instead of others.
5. Work on your self confidence and self esteem
Think about where the need for making comparison is coming from. An effective strategy is to consider your reasons and what you can learn from them. What are the needs you are fulfilling from social comparison and how you can interrupt and change these thinking patterns positively? As you think about the situation differently you can develop your self-esteem without the need for external validation. Set goals that give you mastery and confidence from the satisfaction of achievement and having done a job done well.
It’s time we focus on being the best versions of ourselves rather than the best version of someone else.
Remember “the art of what makes life awesome and interesting is learning from the talents of others. Instead of trying to be as good as or better than others, focus your energy on being the very best version of yourself.”