Comparing Yourself To Others: Downsides, Benefits, And Learning to Love Yourself
Comparing ourselves to others may come automatically to us. After all, we're social beings, so wanting to see how we "measure up" makes sense in some ways, as does seeking inspiration from others. Comparisons can have benefits and drawbacks. Keeping comparisons in perspective and loving ourselves for who we are as we continue to grow can help us feel positive and be productive.
Looking For Ways To Stop Comparing and Start Embracing Yourself? In Therapy, Learn To Love Who You Are
Comparing Ourselves To Others
Comparing ourselves may be an instinct for us. After all, we're social beings who are surrounded by others. We often evaluate our abilities, achievements, or attitudes compared to people around us, either those who are directly in our lives or who we see in the media. These comparisons can affect our self-esteem, self-image, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Comparisons may motivate us, lift us, or bring us down. Learning about why we compare ourselves and how we can use comparisons in healthy, productive ways may help the way we think, act, and feel.
Three Types Of Social Comparisons
In psychology, there is a subject called "Social Comparison Theory. " According to the theory, there are three types of social comparisons:
- Upward Social Comparison: Upward social comparison involves comparing ourselves to someone we judge or think of as being better than we are (such as someone who has more material goods or wealth, which we consider more physically attractive, or who has what we perceive as higher social status or superior professional position).
- Downward Social Comparison: Downward social comparison means we compare ourselves to someone we perceive as lower in status than we are in one or more personal areas.
- Lateral Social Comparison: Lateral social comparison involves comparing ourselves to someone we believe is approximately equal to us in status.
Drawbacks Of Comparing Yourself To Others
- Dwelling On Your Shortcomings: If you compare yourself to others, you may look at what they have or are. By comparison, your mind may go to what you "aren't" or what you don't have instead of focusing on your positives.
- Low Self-Confidence: Your self-confidence and self-image can take a hit when you compare yourself to others. Instead of looking at your strengths, you may feel bad about why you aren't like the person you're comparing yourself to.
- Envy: Envy is the desire to have a characteristic, experience, or thing that belongs to someone else. It can lead to feelings of discontentment or resentment.
- Unrealistic Comparisons: Sometimes, comparisons are unrealistic. Things or people may not be as desirable as they appear. Things aren't always as they seem. It's likely that others are experiencing their challenges, as most (or all) people do.
- Magnifying Imperfections: If you compare yourself to others, you may fuel or exaggerate your perception of your imperfections. Instead of recognizing that nobody's perfect, comparisons can make you hyper-focused on what you might feel are your shortcomings.
Benefits Of Comparing Yourself To Others
- Motivating Progress: When you compare, you might be motivating your progress. For instance, if your comparison is realistic, it might motivate you to set realistic goals for yourself and discover ways to reach those goals by drawing inspiration from others.
- Getting Feedback: When you compare realistically, you can receive helpful feedback on how you're doing. Comparisons may give you information on what you're doing well relative to others and how or what you might work on changing or improving.
- Discovering What You Like Or Want (Or Don't Like Or Want): Comparison can give you clues to your preferences and what you might want to achieve for yourself. For instance, do you want a certain job that you think is desirable? Comparing can help you see the pros and cons and assess your inclinations.
- Encouraging Self-Improvement: If you compare yourself to someone you view as a positive role model, you might learn ways to adapt their admirable traits to suit your style.For instance, if you admire the way someone handles adversity or stress, taking tips from them might help you improve your stress-management style. You might also find ways of self-improvement by noting behaviors that aren't positive. For instance, if you compare your communication style to that of someone else who tends to interrupt, you might be motivated to work on being a better listener.
- Appreciating Who You Are And What You Have: When you compare yourself to others, you might be motivated to take a good, realistic look at yourself. You might note your positive traits and the good in your life.
Ways To Embrace Yourself And Let Go Of Unhealthy Comparisons
- Instead Of Viewing Comparisons As Competitions, Look At Them As Insights: Instead of feeling envy or "less than, " you might try a new approach. You might ask yourself, "Why am I feeling this way? " or tell yourself, "I can set realistic goals to get closer to where I want to be. " You might also ask yourself, "What's something positive I can learn from comparing myself to this person?"
- Be Aware That You're Comparing: Sometimes, we make comparisons without realizing it. Recognizing that you might be in the habit of making comparisons can help you be more conscious of the comparisons' effects on you. You can then try to manage or break the habit or use it more productively.
- Focus On Your Strengths: Knowing and celebrating your strengths can be powerful. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on yourself. Try consciously thinking of what you do well and what's going well in your life. You might even write down your strengths or ask someone close to you what they view as your strengths. Your strengths may not be the same as someone else's, but they're meaningful.
- Accept Imperfections: Nobody's perfect. Every single person has flaws. But when you start comparing yourself to others, you may not see their imperfections. You may magnify your own and minimize theirs. Imperfections are part of being human—we all have them, so you might try accepting yours and others and loving yourself for who you are.
- Be Kind To Yourself And Others: Sometimes envy accompanies comparisons. If you compare yourself to someone and feel you come up short, you may feel bad about yourself and begin to feel ill-willed towards the other person. Instead, you might think, "We may be different, but I have strengths, and so do they."
- Celebrate Others: If you compare yourself to others and begin to feel down, you might try turning the tables. Instead of thinking about what you might be lacking compared to what they have, you can try simply being happy for them and take yourself out of the equation. When you add yourself back in after celebrating someone else's successes, your selflessness and generous spirit may make you feel more positive.
- Focus On Changes You'd Like To Make: Instead of letting comparisons bring you down, you might try thinking about positive changes that you'd like to make to help yourself feel more confident. Setting realistic, attainable, measurable goals can motivate self-improvement.
- Practice Gratitude Regularly: Practicing gratitude is a habit that can be life-changing. Consciously naming big and small things you're grateful for can help you shift your mindset to a positive one. If you have an attitude of gratitude, you might find comparisons don't affect you quite as much because you're aware of and focused on the good in your life.
- Commit To Contentment: Instead of thinking about what other people are doing, you might try embracing an outlook that you are at a good place in your life. It may not be exactly where you want to be, but that doesn't mean you can't be content or feel satisfied and peaceful where you are even as you set goals to keep growing.
- Recognize That You Might Only Be Seeing People's Highlight Reels. With (and even without) social media, many people post or project just the positives in their lives. This is not a complete or realistic portrayal of the ups and downs of life. You may be comparing yourself to an incomplete picture or idealized one. Remember to keep the comparisons in perspective. You might try playing your highlight reel, too, to focus on the good things in your life—big and small.
You may have heard the expression "Keeping up with the Joneses." It means wanting to have or do the same things as others because you want to share their social status or be like them. In reality, though, their status may not be right for you. Instead of comparing yourself to the "Joneses" or anyone else, try focusing on yourself—your real likes, preferences, desires, goals, strengths, gifts, and accomplishments. When you do look outward at others, try looking at what you can learn from them rather than what they have that you might lack. You might find inspiration from them—ways to learn, grow, and motivation to reflect on what you value and who you are. Appreciating their achievements while being grateful for what you have and who you can be is a win-win.
Seeking Support To Feel Better
If you find that comparing yourself to others leaves you dissatisfied or unhappy, working with a licensed mental health professional can help. In therapy, you can learn to set goals, work on self-esteem, and find healthier ways of thinking, behaving, and feeling. You can connect with a licensed mental health professional who is a good fit for you on BetterHelp. Research shows that online therapy is very effective. Therapy through BetterHelp's online platform is an affordable and convenient way to work with a therapist to learn ways to live a better life and love yourself.
What Is It Called When You Compare Yourself To Others?
Comparing yourself to others is sometimes called "social comparison."Often, we compare ourselves to others to gauge how we're doing. We may instinctively compare to other people with or without realizing we're doing it.
What Causes You To Compare Yourself To Others?
We're social animals by nature. In some ways, comparing ourselves to others around us comes automatically. Comparisons can become a way for us to measure how we're doing. But these comparisons aren't always accurate or healthy, especially because we're all unique individuals with different strengths and life circumstances.
How Do You Stop Comparing Yourself To Others?
There are several tips to try to stop comparing yourself to others. Reaching a state of contentment with yourself is one way. Making an effort to regularly tell yourself "I'm enough" can take some time but can also be very effective. You can continue to grow and set goals for yourself, but at the same time, be kind to yourself and accept your positive, individual qualities. Regularly practicing gratitude can also help. When you get into a habit of recognizing what you're thankful for—what's going right—you may not feel as inclined to feel down if you compare yourself to others. Instead, you might look to others for inspiration and learn. Consciously finding ways to feel good about yourself can be a healthy, positive way to keep comparisons in perspective.
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