Why You Compare Yourself to Other People (And How To Stop)

self-learning self-worth May 02, 2021
woman looking at her reflection in the mirror with judgement


We humans are so interesting, aren’t we? We often do things that make us feel like $#!+. Even when we know that it makes us feel like $#!+, we do it anyway.


One of the worst offenders of these behaviors is self-comparison. Boy, do we love to compare ourselves to other people! After all, what would life be without a good ‘ol comparison that reminds you that you’re not fit enough, tall enough, smart enough, thin enough, or good enough?


Alas, I invite you to come with me on this lil’ written journey of uncovering why we do this thing that makes us feel so bad and what you can do about it all!


Why You Compare Yourself To Other People


The psychology behind why you compare yourself to other people can be summed up in three parts:

  1. You want to assess your own progress, a very natural and helpful thing to do

  2. You also want to feel good about yourself and maintain your self-esteem (so you inflate yourself with downward social comparisons and coincidentally, make yourself feel bad via upward social comparisons too)

  3. You want to confirm that what you already think about yourself is true


And it’s this third point that’s really powerful. Simply stated:

  1. You want to confirm what you already think (it feels good to be right, right?)

  2. You find evidence in others to support what you think (for example, if you don’t feel good about your own weight and physique you find someone thin and fit to compare yourself to, or if you’re not the intelligent type you find someone incredibly smart to compare yourself to)

  3. This reinforces your belief (for instance, that your body isn’t good enough or that you’re not smart enough) and your mind feels good because no information “out there” has threatened what you perceive to be true in here”. Even if your mind hasn’t quite painted the most accurate picture, things are consistent in your mind and in the world, and this consistency and stability feels oh so good!


How It Works


There are dozens or maybe even hundreds of people around you, depending on how you spend your days, and you could compare yourself to any one of them. Why do you think you choose the comparisons you do? To reinforce what you already believe, of course! And, well, to reduce the unsettling feeling that comes when our perceptions get challenged by new information...


You see, unless you were just born, you’re not an empty slate. You’ve had years and years to develop opinions about who you are and who you aren’t and you’ve got a sense of how you stack up against others in terms of looks, talents, smarts, and anything and everything else that might be important in the society in which you love. 


And the way you see yourself shapes how you make sense of and act in the world around you. If you feel confident about your ability to do your job, for example, you’ll show up with confidence and masterfully take on questions and tasks. If you don’t feel confident about your ability to do your job, you’ll shy away from responsibilities and risks and feel incredibly stressed at work.


I’ve heard it said that when you’re comparing yourself to others, what you’re really doing is comparing your idea about yourself to your idea of them. And because of the above, I couldn’t agree more. You have an idea about yourself. You have an idea about them (given what they choose to show and hide). And so, the comparison is only ever be between ideas. You are, after all, comparing yourself to another person solely to confirm what you already think. We’re so clever in that way, aren’t we?


How to Stop Comparing Yourself To Other People


When people ask me “how do I stop comparing myself to other people?”, I often say “that’s a great question, but how about we ask a different one?” Since your comparisons of yourself to other people exist to affirm the view you already have about yourself, why don’t we start there, at the source, with your self-view? Why don’t we ask “how do I think better things about myself so that when my mind goes looking for information in the environment to support what I already think, it makes me feel better rather than worse?” Because if you think that you’re pretty rad or pretty smart, your mind will be searching for and finding different comparisons in the environment altogether… the kind that will affirm those positive self-views.


It can be a bit of a mental twist, but trust me. To avoid the mental and emotional conundrum created by comparing ourselves to people who we think are better than us in one way or another, we just need to start thinking new and more affirming things about ourselves. We’ve got to make up our minds that we are worthy, that we are smart, and that we are capable of having good relationships (or whatever your inner goal/s might be). The result will be that we find abundant evidence of that in our life. Otherwise, you’ll just keep finding evidence to affirm the not-so-great things you believe about who you are. And what fun is that?!


Where to start?


Because this conundrum doesn’t affect one of us but all of us, I am sharing tips for how to start reshaping your self-view (and thereby decreasing these nasty self-comparisons) in The Happiness Hub this week. Come join us! Even if you don’t read this in time to watch the live segment, the replay will be available for you to tune in to whenever you choose!


I’ll see you there.


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