Comparing ourselves with others. We all do it and we all know we do it (though we might not realize just how often it happens) but we don’t seem to be able to find an easy way to stop. Maybe that’s because it’s so ingrained in us to compare that it’s not easy to shift the mindset. But it’s important to talk about how to stop comparing yourself to others in real and lasting ways because it’s going to make a big difference for you in your relationships with other people (whether that’s your spouse or partner, friends, family, or others)[1] and it can improve your mental health and well-being.[2]

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others on social MediaThe thing is, comparison sometimes seems especially hard to avoid in a world that’s so media-driven. It’s all too easy to scroll and compare, scroll and compare. You see what everyone else is doing, or at least the parts they want to show you—where they went out to dinner, what sporting event they attended, where they are on vacation, and how they just remodeled their house. It’s so easy to compare your own life and feel like you’re not measuring up.[3]

I probably don’t even need to tell you that comparison like that is not great for you. It’s harmful to your relationships with others, to your feelings of self-worth,[4] to your mental health,[5] and even to your creativity.[6]

The problem is, we are so used to comparing with others, it’s hard to know how to stop, right? Let’s talk about some realistic things you can do to stop comparing yourself with others.

Why Do We Compare Ourselves to Others?

I can give you a list of things to do to stop comparing, things like practicing gratitude or avoiding social media, and these things are helpful. But I think it’s much more important to get to the heart of the issue and consider first WHY you are engaging in comparison so that you can make deep and lasting changes at the core of yourself.

Comparison often stems from a healthy place. It’s normal to learn about yourself by comparing to others. You see what others are good at or what choices they make, and you learn important truths about yourself in comparison to what you see them doing.[7] (Read more about the ins and outs of comparison and what it looks in daily life here.)

But there’s often something much more complicated at work beneath the surface of our comparison. A lot of the time that we spend comparing is to see how we measure up.

Comparing yourself with other peopleWe want, more than anything, to convince ourselves that we are valid and worthy. That we matter and that we are important. And frankly, sometimes, many times, we do this by comparing ourselves to others.

We take an inventory of the people around us to make sure we aren’t at the bottom of the pile. If I can see what others are doing and feel like I am doing better, or maybe at least as good as they are, I will feel great about myself. This is called downward comparison—when you compare yourself with other people who are worse off than you so that you can feel good about yourself.

Unfortunately, there are two big problems with the habit of comparison:

Problem #1:

First of all, the mindset of engaging in comparison is going to take hold so strongly that you find yourself so deeply in a habit of comparison that you may not even realize it is happening. You get so used to comparison that in your mind you are constantly putting yourself in some sort of hierarchy with others. I’m a little better than her because I make more money. Or I am a better parent than that woman. Or I have a greener lawn than he does.

The other problem stems from this habit of comparing.

Problem #2:

Everything has its opposite, right? When you are in that mindset of comparison and trying to make yourself feel valid and worthwhile and seeing how you measure up, you’re also going to see how you fall short.This is called upward comparison and it means looking at others who you think are better off than you. And that’s not going to make you feel great. Now you’ll be caught in a trap of feeling like you’re falling short and noticing everything.

The thing is, neither of these types of comparison—upward or downward—are likely to make you feel good about yourself. Needing to measure yourself against other people in order to feel good about yourself or to prove your worth is inevitably going to leave you feeling inadequate.

You might feel great for a minute when you think you’re better off than someone else, but this is a superficial feeling of happiness and self-worth. It’s not based on genuine feelings of loving yourself. And soon enough, the tables will turn, and you’ll compare yourself in a way that leaves you feeling awful.

How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others in 3 Stepss

You need to learn to see yourself as valuable and worthwhile regardless of other people.

Here are a few hands-on ways to shift your mindset so that you can stop comparing yourself to others:

#1: Recognize Why You Are Comparing

The first thing we’ve already covered, but it’s still the most important so I want to be sure that you’re including it in your list of actionable items. And that is to recognize why you are comparing. Comparison often stems from a need to prove our own worth, whether that’s to ourselves in our own mind or to the people around us. You might not always recognize that as the reason behind the comparison, but if you can start to see that happening, it’s going to help you stop the comparison.

#2: Pay Attention to When You Are Doing It

The next thing to do is to pay attention to when you are doing it and to challenge yourself on it. See if you can catch yourself in a moment of comparison. Find ways that you are doing it. Actively look for them. This may happen when you are scrolling social media. Did you just inadvertently compare your life to someone else’s? Your body to hers? Your vacation to his? When you see this happening, stop yourself in the moment. Consider why you are doing it (remember our first step) and take some time to think about how that is making you feel.

(And as part of paying attention to when you do it and challenging it, you may recognize triggers—places or settings when you compare more. Once you know you can avoid those situations, or you can mentally prepare for them)

# 3: Appreciate Yourself for Who YOU Are

The third big thing you can do is to appreciate yourself for who you are, things that have nothing to do with how you measure up to anyone else. Finding ways to love and appreciate who you are and what is happening in your life without referencing other people is a great buffer against comparison.

Hopefully, these ideas and thoughts are going to help you with how to stop comparing yourself with others. It’s a hard thing to do, but the more you work at it, the more success you’re going to have. This is one step in your journey to becoming more authentic which ultimately will help you deepen your relationships with others and the connection you feel.

 

[1] Lockwood, P., Dolderman, D., Sadler, P., & Gerchak, E. (2004). Feeling better about doing worse: Social comparisons within romantic relationships. Journal of personality and social psychology87(1), 80.

[2] Jabłońska, M. R., & Zajdel, R. (2020). Artificial neural networks for predicting social comparison effects among female Instagram users. PLOS ONE, 15(2), Article e0229354.

[3] Coyne, S. M., McDaniel, B. T., & Stockdale, L. A. (2017). “Do you dare to compare?” Associations between maternal social comparisons on social networking sites and parenting, mental health, and romantic relationship outcomes. Computers in Human Behavior70, 335-340.

[4] Stapleton, P., Luiz, G., & Chatwin, H. (2017). Generation validation: The role of social comparison in use of Instagram among emerging adults. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 20(3), 142–149.

[5] Jang, K., Park, N., & Song, H. (2016). Social comparison on Facebook: Its antecedents and psychological outcomes. Computers in Human Behavior, 62, 147–154.

[6] Buunk, A. P., & Gibbons, F. X. (2007). Social comparison: The end of a theory and the emergence of a field. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes102(1), 3-21.

[7] Carter, M. J., & Fuller, C. (2015). Symbolic interactionism. Sociopedia. isa1(1), 1-17.

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