What Happens when we Compare Ourselves to Others
If you want a reliable way to reduce your confidence, motivation, and self-esteem, comparing yourself to others is a great way to do it!
It is human nature to make these types of comparisons, as from the first day we are born, we learn and develop through imitating others.
However, this doesn’t mean that comparisons are healthy to our self-esteem
In fact, if left unchecked, there are challenges that occur when you compare yourself to others and if you do ever find yourself doing this, there are several important factors to consider.
For instance, everyone has a different starting point. You might be just learning to play chess, yet your friend has been playing since childhood.
You cannot compare progress, results, or success unless the starting points are the same, and they never are. We all have a different skills and abilities. Some people are great at strategic thinking, others more creative. Some people naturally have amazing hand-eye coordination, others have a natural knack for music or maths. Again, different starting points.
We have vastly different resources available including time, energy, money and support of friends or family. If you want to play the violin and your mother is a wealthy concert violinist, you have a huge advantage over someone born into a financially-challenged family that has no experience in music.
Another element to consider is our natural tendency to compare ourselves to absolutely everyone.
You may compare your looks to your neighbour of the same age and background, but also to Instagram influencers. We don’t just compare ourselves to the average, but also to the best the world has to offer or unreal figures we see in the media.
The problem here is that our brains cannot differentiate between what is “real life” and what is “unreal” with the vast amount of information passing through our senses.
1 in 8,000,000,000
We rarely remind ourselves that there is always someone better (usually). There are nearly eight billion people in the world, so realistically, there only a handful of people that can make a reasonable claim to being the best at anything. That’s a lot of people you have to compare yourself and surpass to be the very best!
Taking all this into account, it’s easy to see why making comparisons can be harming to our self-esteem and mental health. With very little gain and much risk, comparing yourself to others rarely provides useful information.
So what can you do to overcome this very natural tendency?
1. Compare Yourself to Yourself
A much fairer option is to compare yourself to yourself, paying attention to your progress over time. Notice your improvement and as long as you’re making headway, you have a good reason to be excited! Strive to become better each day.
2. Limit your Exposure to Social Media
In theory, social media exists to connect people. However, in actuality, social media is often used to portray a chosen narrative and you rarely get the real story. What you really see is what that person wants you to see, which is why it seems that everyone, except you, seems to be living a spectacular life.
It’s just not true
The most troubling aspect about this fact, is that however much we logically know this fact to be true, the detrimental impact on our emotions, happiness and self-esteem is still very much present and powerful.
Be cautious and limiting social media has immediate impacts on our emotions and beliefs, with people actually reporting being happier when they removed social media from their lives completely.
3. Use the Success of Others as Inspiration Instead of Envy
Let’s consider the difference in comparisons that create envy & self-criticism, and comparisons that create inspiration. The success of others can be very useful to you by inspiring actions and allowing you to study exactly how they became so successful.
Their success can inspire you to become the best you can be, if you avoid comparing your success to theirs. This way, you will be starting your own journey from a place of knowledge and motivation as opposed to envy and shame - making it much more likely that you will succeed.
Do you compare yourself to others?
As you have learned, making negative comparisons can be detrimental to your confidence and self-esteem.
Instead, compare your current version of yourself to the version of yourself from three days ago, three weeks ago, three months ago or even three years ago.
By making these much fairer comparisons, it becomes easier to see your progress or lack of progress.
The best comparison you can make is always to your past self. So, try setting a few goals and spend some time each day working on those goals. You’ll be much happier when you see the progress you’ve made!