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How to Compare Yourselves to Others

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Whether you have a friend who’s posting about their exotic holiday, a colleague who’s just received a promotion or a sibling who’s a few inches taller than you, we live in a world where it’s so easy to be absorbed by comparing ourselves to others.

"Comparison is the thief of joy." - Theodore Roosevelt

Comparing yourself to others can easily become a downward spiral, evoking feelings of jealousy and fostering frustration, hopelessness and anxiety. It’s a common belief that the accessibility of social media has led to an increase in social comparison, causing an increase in the negative effects experienced. However, a recent study found mixed evidence for this claim and suggested that how we practice comparing ourselves to others has a more significant effect on our well-being than comparison itself. The truth is that comparison is a fundamental characteristic of human behaviour that can be a powerful motivator, enhance optimism and strengthen self-esteem. So where do we go wrong?

We tend to compare ourselves to people we perceive to be above us, neglecting to reflect on those we are more fortunate than, and we often compare our weaknesses to others’ strengths leading us to ignore our own strengths. Usually, we are more critical and less forgiving of our own shortcomings than those of other people. These are sub-conscious actions that we don’t even notice, until we’re experiencing the effects of resentment or anxiety. It’s a habit. Habits can be hard to break, but the benefits will be reaped in raised self-esteem and confidence.

It can be difficult to completely avoid situations of social comparison (unless you want to throw away your phone, quit your job and live off the grid) but we can adapt our mindset to use comparison to aid our own personal growth.

Exercise mindfulness. By acknowledging the feeling but not allowing it to develop further into jealousy, anxiety or frustration, you can break the cycle of negative comparison. To practice this, when you notice that you’re comparing yourself to others, grab a pen and make a note of 5 things that you are proud of achieving or that you’re grateful for in your own life.

See others’ achievements as inspiration. How did they achieve their goal? What can you learn from them? Use your feelings as motivation to improve and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

Celebrate others as you would yourself. Negate feelings of bitterness by choosing to be happy and celebrate for others and this can help you feel fulfilled. Simply smiling when you feel down can trick your brain into believing that you’re happy, so if you’re having difficulty celebrating others then fake it! Smile, congratulate them and share the good news with a friend and enjoy the positive energy that results.

Comparison doesn’t have to be the thief of joy, allow it to motivate you, assist you in achieving your goals and create positive energy!


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