Comparing ourselves to others…we know we shouldn’t, but sometimes, we just can’t help ourselves. It’s so commonplace, we even have a cliche for it ‘keeping up with the Jones’. While it’s always been part of our human tendency, with the growth of social media over the past decade, I’d say it’s at an all time high.
And it really needs to stop.
One of my friends compares herself to others constantly and in her eyes, she never measures up which leaves her feeling, not only like ‘life isn’t fair’, but also frustrated, deflated, ‘not good enough’, and unhappy. No matter what is going on in her life, those around her have what she desires and their life is perfect (at least according to her skewed perspective). ‘Why can’t that work for me?’, or something along those lines, is something I’ve heard her say so many times over the years.
My heart always breaks for her. She’s projecting a perfect world onto everyone else and then comparing herself to that instead of reality. It’s no wonder she never feels she measures up!
I’ve talked to her about this countless times and I think she’s more aware of it now, but it’s still something she struggles with and she’s not alone. We tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves and seeing others have what we want (material or non-material) can sting and make us question ourselves and/or feel bad.
But, there are a lot of problems with comparing yourself to others and in the majority of cases, it’s more damaging than not. I can’t say that I never compare myself to others…I don’t think anyone can honestly claim that! But, I don’t let myself go too far with it because you only end up feeling like crap, and honestly, you never really know what’s going on in someone else’s world, so you’re really just making most of it up anyway!
Why Comparing Yourself to Others is Bad
Before I dive into the major reasons why comparing yourself to others is bad, I do want to say that there are times when comparing yourself to others is good. If, and only if, you use it as a means to evaluate how you can up your game or do something better to improve your life or situation. You don’t look down on the other person or yourself. The other person’s situation or what they have that you want makes you feel motivated and inspired, not jealous.
When it becomes bad is when you view the comparison through a negative lens (with you coming out on the negative side). You feel jealous or not good enough or that it’s not fair. This is not productive, it doesn’t motivate you to make any changes and all it does is leave you feeling resentful and bitter.
If you struggle with this, here are a few things to keep in mind:
What you see isn’t always what you get
People project a ‘perfect’ image to others…that’s normal. When you’re having a crappy day and someone asks you ‘How are you?’ do you honestly tell them, or just respond with ‘I’m fine!’? Think about what you post on Instagram or Facebook. Do you share images of the not-so-great side of life, or cherry pick the prettiest, most photo worthy moments? It’s completely normal to want to show only the best parts of your life. The problem comes in when you’re viewing someone else’s ‘perfect’ life and feel you come up short in comparison.
Here’s the reality...No one is perfect, no matter how perfect of an image they project to the world.
To compare yourself to that is like comparing apples and oranges. You are comparing your full life picture with their very filtered version. Furthermore, you magnify your own shortcomings and exaggerate their greatness. You’re not putting yourself on an even playing field! How can you expect to come out positively in that scenario?
You’re comparing yourself to an Assumption
This is an extension of the last point, but warrants a little extra mention. You never know what is going on behind closed doors with other people or what they’re struggling with and I guarantee, they’re struggling with something!
Everyone has struggles whether you see them or not.
For example, maybe your ‘perfect’ friend has a big, beautiful house that you’d sell your back teeth for because you’re still in a tiny apartment in a not so great part of town. Well, you may not be aware that she's barely able to pay the mortgage and she can’t sleep at night because she's so worried about keeping her head above water. She might even be envious of you and the fact that you’re not in over your head on a too-big-mortgage.
Or, your colleague appears to have the perfect marriage and you can’t seem to find a normal guy to make it past the 1 month mark in the dating game. You may not be aware that she’s hiding the fact that her husband doesn’t pay much attention to her or, maybe he’s cheating, being abusive, or suffering from his own issues that cast a dark shadow over the perceived perfection.
In other words…you have no idea what is going on with someone else and to assume that they have exactly what you want is just that….an assumption.
It’s wasted energy
When you’re focusing your energy on feeling bad or jealous about what others have or who they are, you’re wasting your energy. Absolutely nothing good comes out of it, so you’re basically channeling your energy into a sinking ship.
It’s better to turn that energy around and use it as fuel to improve your own life instead of getting stuck in just tearing down yourself (or worse…tearing down others).
If you continue to let yourself feel down or unhappy or not good enough because of what you think others have, you’re preventing yourself from improving your own life. And all of it is based on an assumption…that’s crazy, right?
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Work on yourself
Generally if you’re constantly comparing yourself to others and coming up short, it’s a sign that you need to work on yourself. You need more compassion for yourself, you need to forgive yourself for your faults, and you need to dig deep and find things about yourself that you truly like.
Related Topic: The Power of Forgiving Yourself and How to Do It
Once you start seeing yourself in a more positive light, you won’t feel the need to compare yourself to others nearly as much.
Practice Daily Gratitude
This isn’t something new, but if you can look at your life and find things to be grateful for every day, you’ll start to shift your view. You’ll start seeing things through a more positive perspective and appreciating who you are and what you have in life. This can be a game changer in the fight against comparing yourself to others!
Be grateful of who you are and what you have, instead of resentful of who you think you aren’t or what you think you don’t have.
Break the habit
While this is a natural human tendency, it’s also a bad habit we allow ourselves to perpetuate. Like any bad habit, it can take some work to break, but with some self-awareness, you can break it. Once you’re aware you’re doing it, you can start to retrain your thought process.
One of my favorite ways to do this is with positive replacement. When you feel yourself comparing yourself to someone else, stop it in it’s track and replace the negative thought with a positive one.
For example, instead of saying something like ’Things are never going to go as easily for me as my friend Melissa’ replace it with something like ‘You know what self, you don’t actually know what else is going on with her that may be hard. And for me, my ability to make friends comes really easy to me and I’m grateful for that’. While not necessarily a direct correlation, it’s still identifying something positive about yourself that will help make you feel good about YOU.
Use Others as a Motivational Tool
Change the lens you are looking through when you feel yourself going down that comparison path.
Instead of looking at others as a means to belittle yourself, start looking at what you can learn from others to apply in your own life. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and eating a pint of ice cream because you’ll never be good enough….try to see if you can spot ways that you can learn how to approach things differently, set a few goals for yourself, or challenge yourself to try something new.
This is a different mindset and may take some work, but if you are conscious of your thoughts and want to turn your thoughts around, you do have the power to reverse the negative train to a more positive one.
Surround yourself by Positive people
If your circle of friends sit around and play the comparison game and you want to get off that hamster wheel, you’ll either need to motivate your friends to change (not likely to happen!) or look for new circles.
You’ll never be able to break this habit if you’re surrounded by those that will continue to try to drag you into it. If you’re really serious about making these positive changes, it may require some tough choices about who you allow in your life and that can be really tough. But, in the long run, we’re responsible for our own selves and happiness, so if your friends aren’t enhancing your happiness or feelings of self-worth, it’s okay to move on.
Life will never be fair
It may not be fair, but the truth of the matter is life isn’t fair and it never will be, so you have to let that go. Getting caught up in the thought process of ‘its not fair…” is never going to serve you well. If you don’t learn to accept this, you will constantly hold yourself back.
Chase your dreams and your desires because they mean something to you and stop holding yourself back because you think things aren’t fair. You have no control over what’s ‘fair’ and ‘not fair’, so quit letting that give you power.
Once you start letting go of the comparison mentality, you’ll start to feel freer in your own skin. You’ll start realizing you’re just as good as those around you and while you don’t have everything you may want in life at this exact moment, you’ll be better equipped to put yourself on the path to get there.
We are all different and unique! Embrace your uniqueness because that’s what makes you special! If we were all alike what a boring world we’d live in.
Screw the Jones…don’t try to keep up with them. Forge your own unique path and revel in your own journey!