How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparing ourselves to those around us is something that we have all done multiple times in our lives. And in truth, simply making a comparison for the sake of education and observation is not a negative thing at all. In fact, it may even be a positive practice, helping us to evaluate and gauge our successes and accomplishments alongside to those of our peers.
But too often comparison is followed by judgement. And this type of judgment, if we are not careful, can lead to thoughts and feelings of insecurity, embarrassment, low self worth, and even depression. Or the judgement can have the inverse effect. If we judge others to be inferior to ourselves, then feelings of superiority, pride, and disdain for those who appear to have achieved less than we have may follow.
Here are some important truths we should keep in mind when making comparisons.
- There is never really a winner when we make comparisons. No matter which individuals we choose to compare, there will always be another individual somewhere who appears to have achieved more or less than all those involved in the original comparison. Therefore comparison for the purpose of determining a winner and a loser, or even a rank order, is pointless. But that is precisely the type of comparison that we most often engage in.
- We are frequently using inaccurate information when we make comparisons. What most people present as reality about themselves and their lives to the outside world is often far from real. We are trained to share and publicize what is most positive, and to downplay or hide what is most negative in our lives. As a result, if we compare our real selves to the inaccurately portrayed selves of others, we will always fall short. Because we know the full truth about ourselves, yet we do not know the full truth about them, we will never form a complete and accurate picture.
- If we determine our self worth based on how we rank ourselves against others, then we will never be truly happy. If our goal is to be better than those around us then that is a goal that is unattainable. It is impossible to always be better than all those around us in every category. On top of being impossible, it is actually undesirable. Part of what makes us interesting and endearing to others is our uniqueness, and that includes our shortcomings. Our relationships are richer and more rewarding not only when we have something to teach, but also something to learn from those around us. By surrounding ourselves with individuals who can help us to grow, we can improve and become happier in the process.
So how do we learn to stop comparing ourselves to others? By learning to instead compare ourselves to ourselves. Instead of asking “How am I better or worse than she is?”, we should ask, “How am I better or worse than I was three years, six months or even two weeks ago?”
We should use this opportunity to measure how much we have grown, how much we have achieved, and how much closer we are to reaching our goals. We should set a baseline by making a thoughtful, candid and thorough evaluation of our current situation. There is no accurate way to measure progress without an effective starting point, and this baseline evaluation will provide us with this starting point.
A great way to do this is by developing this act of self-comparison into a regular practice. We should set aside time on a periodic basis (once a week, or at a minimum once a month) to count our achievements and accomplishments. We should count not only all the great and wonderful things we have done, but also the challenges and obstacles we have encountered. Not every experience will be a pleasant one, but every experience will be an opportunity for growth and development.
By focusing on ourselves, and by comparing our present selves to our prior selves, we will be establishing a practice that will help us to develop our self esteem and self worth, rather than bring ourselves down by making unfair and unrealistic comparisons to others. We will not only learn gratitude and appreciation for what we have and who we are, but, most importantly, we will love ourselves more and become happier in the process.