No, You Can't Just 'Stop Comparing'
We all compare ourselves to others and we’re going to keep doing it. It’s in our nature and when it works, it helps us to accurately assess our own skills and abilities. Unfortunately, many people use comparisons in ways that hurt them.
Leon Festinger developed the social comparison theory in 1954. It’s the idea that we all have a drive to evaluate ourselves and one of the main ways we do this is in relation to others.
There are upward comparisons - making comparisons to those who we believe are better off than us and downward comparisons - when we compare to those who are worse off than us.
Comparisons can inspire us, motivate us, validate whether or not we’re doing things properly, and let us know when we’re off track. When used in an unhelpful manner they can leave us feeling less-than, not good enough, like a failure, and even worthless.
Below are some ways to get out of the cycle of unhelpful comparisons, strengthen your sense of self, and effectively work towards your goals.
Using comparisons for good. Real talk: there are a bunch of people out there that are doing better than you and that doesn’t make you less-than. Try letting this reality motivate you. Get inspired by the fact that other people are doing what feels important to them and you can too.
Next time you see someone who just bought a shiny new car, took an amazing vacation, or landed a new job, start thinking about your own goals and make moves towards achieving them. There’s always an opportunity to feel better, try harder, be proud of yourself, and do good in this world.
Check-in with yourself. When making comparisons, pay attention to how you’re doing it. Ask yourself, ‘Am I doing this in a way that is helpful in reaching my goals and living my best life?’ If not, then readjust. Shift your mindset to one that is positive and of value in building the life you want.
If unhelpful comparisons feel automatic and it’s hard for you to catch yourself, use your emotions as signals. When you start to feel down or doubt yourself, check-in and ask ‘Am I getting pulled into unhelpful comparisons?’ Then, refocus your mental efforts.
Be your own benchmark. You can compare yourself to... yourself! This is helpful when you are struggling because you can remember things like, ‘I’ve been through much worse, I can definitely get through this’ or even ‘There was a time when things were so difficult for me, my hard work has really paid off.’ Be your own inspiration. You’re the expert on what you’ve been through and accomplished so use that knowledge to your advantage.
Give It a Try!
Over the next few days, start using some of these skills. Learning to compare in a helpful way takes time and practice. Remember, if you want to feel different, you have to do different. You deserve to do better and feel better and nothing compares ;) to that!