“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt
“Comparisons only break you; they never make you.” ~ Becca from Missing In Sight
I don’t remember when the comparisons to other people started, but I clearly remember asking my college English professor if anyone scored a higher grade on their English paper than I. At least since then, everything in my life became a comparison: who was the skinniest; who was the smartest; who won the most academic awards; who won the most professional awards; who won the most coaching awards; who had better content or more followers, subscribers, likes; ect. The comparisons have been endless, and most definitely not friendly to my self-esteem.
Negative Effects of Comparison
Everybody compares. It’s human nature. Some comparisons are harmless, but not all. When you constantly obsess over who is the best or you compare yourself to the point that you feel inferior and talk negatively to yourself, then the comparisons become concerning.
If you think comparison will just make you work harder and improve your performance, chances are that is unlikely. Habitual comparisons lead to self-defeating choices, depression, anxiety, stress, low self-worth, and a pummeling of your confidence. It is a breeding ground of negative self-talk which further perpetuates the unhappiness. These feelings of low self-worth can negatively affect your mental health as well as other areas in your life, such as work, relationships, and physical health. Jack Canfield, an American author and motivational speaker said regarding comparisons
I generally find that comparison is the fast track to unhappiness. No one ever compares themselves to someone else and comes out even. Nine times out of ten, we compare ourselves to people who are somehow better than us and end up feeling more inadequate.
Brenda Raftlova, a self-acceptance blogger, tells us that when comparing yourself to others often impedes what you’re doing and trying to accomplish, which will stall your progress. If you spend your days comparing yourself to other people’s achievements, you’ll never get anything accomplished. Instead of motivating you to do and be better, comparison thwarts your efforts and keeps you stuck in the spiraling self-esteem cycle and possibly causing you to lose your passion for what you love.
Also, comparing yourself to others makes your self-worth dependent on the achievements of others. If they’re doing poorly compared to you, you feel good. If they’re doing better than you are, you feel bad. Is it really a good idea to make your feelings about yourself and your dreams dependent on others?
Lastly, and to be blunt, you are wasting your time comparing yourself to others. No one is thinking about you and what you are doing because everyone is too busy thinking about themselves.
How to Combat Comparison
1) Be grateful for what you do have. You may not have the amount of success that others have, but you can be grateful for the amount you do HAVE. Everyone does have something for which they can be grateful, we just need to look. When you focus on yourself and what you are grateful for, you have no time to worry about others and if they are doing something better than you.
2) Choose to look for the hidden positivity in any situation. You can always find something positive in any situation. Does it really matter if so-and-so has more followers than you? Look for the positive in that situation. Perhaps your following is growing. While a cliche, always look for the bright side of things.
3) Comparison is a wasteful use of mental resources. You most likely don’t know what someone has been through or how they have achieved a certain level of success.
In addition, Steven Furtick said on Twitter:
We usually compare the worst we think of ourselves to the best we presume of someone else. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Make sure you are watering your own grass because you can’t always see the other side’s weeds.
4) Focus on you and your strengths. There is no end to comparisons, and they are always unfair. You can not win if you compare yourself to others. To be honest, there will always be somebody better than you; however, you are unique and good at something. You can offer something no one else can. Own that and promote it.
5) Stay away from or limit your use of social media. Social media can be a great source for inspiration, but if your feed is filled with tweets and posts that are fueling your need to compare, then take a break. Unfollow and unsubscribe from people that cause you the need to compare and leave you feeling inferior.
6) There is only person in the world you can control – you. Don’t waste time comparing yourself to others when you can only control yourself. What can you do to improve your life quality? What can you do to increase or improve your performance? How can you be nicer to yourself than you were yesterday? You are the only person you can compare yourself with. Instead of telling yourself you’re not competent enough to do the work you want to do, tell yourself you’re brave enough to try something new. Instead of blaming yourself for mistakes in the past, remind yourself that you did the best you could and that you’ve learned from it.
7) Improve your self-esteem so you don’t feel the need to compare yourself to others. Avoid negative self-talk and start praising yourself for things you are doing that is creating and promoting the success you want. Focus on your positives. Write believable affirmations that promote positive thinking and feelings. Write acheivable goals in a journal and work towards meeting them. Surround yourself with positive people.
8) , digital strategist & self-improvement enthusiast, recommends spending time alone. When you spend time alone, you learn to accept yourself for who are you and what you can do. You spend time on honing your craft and learn that what everyone else is doing is in no way the benchmark for what you should do.
9) Be glad for what others have achieved instead of feeling envy. While it may be the last thing you want to do, go so far as to even congratulate others on his/her success. It may not feel genuine at first, but, the more you applaud others, the easier it becomes. Remember, others’ successes are not the enemy; your faulty, comparative thinking is.
10) Invest all your energy into pursuing your own dreams and goals. Forget others. They can do nothing for you. Will they feel the joy you do when you achieve a dream? Probably not. So do it for yourself.
Why do I do if I can’t stop comparing myself to others?
1) Stop your comparison thoughts dead in their tracks. Once you realize you’re doing these comparisons, give yourself a pause. Don’t berate yourself or feel bad — just acknowledge the thought, and gently change focus. The times you catch yourself comparing is the time to count your blessings and remember your gratitudes.
2) Know if you aren’t happy with your situation, this isn’t the end of the movie; Where you are today does not mean this is wear you will be in three to five years. What matters is your mindset, attitude, and your drive. You still have time to chase your dreams and reach your goals. Ask yourself, though, what you are doing this for. Are you trying to reach a level of success to make yourself happy or just to be better than others? Once you realize your true motivation, stopping the comparison game might not be as hard as you think.
3) William Cho wrote on mystudentvoices.com, “Instead of comparing yourself to the more fortunate, why don’t you try comparing yourself to the unfortunate?” This isn’t meant to demean the pain you might feel when you are on the short end of the success stick, but it does keep you humble when you realize others aren’t as fortunate. Understand that while you are jealous of someone else’s success, others may look at you and feel inferior for your accomplishments.
Comparing yourself to others is a difficult habit to break, and your mindset will need to repeatedly practice working on acknowledging your positives and combatting the negative self-talk. But it is worth it. Comparisons only break you; they never make you. So stop comparing yourself to others, realize your own potential and success, and soon you will watch others be inspired by you.