How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others - and Enjoy Life

how to stop comparing yourself to others

Feeling trapped by comparison? Read this article to learn how to stop comparing yourself to others and break the habit of constant comparison.

All of us want to feel comfortable in our skin. We want to be happy with what we have, where we live, and how we look. 

Alas, we are far from being happy and content because there is something we are doing wrong. We are comparing ourselves to others, and that’s making us feel miserable, inadequate, and resentful of them.

Whether it’s our best friends, our close family or coworkers, this tendency to compare ourselves with them, not only highlights our shortcomings but also creates rivals who could have been a source of reliable social support. No wonder, such resentment is leading us to feel lonelier, withdrawn and bitter.

What’s more, with the advent of social networking sites, the comparison mindset has only gotten worse, making us feel perpetually dissatisfied with our looks, possessions, skills, and lifestyle. 

It is hard not to compare ourselves when we are chasing to be in the spotlight, to garner attention and validation from our loved ones and acquaintances.

We fear being disliked, rejected, mocked down, and being second to someone. All of us want to be heroes. We want to feel worthy of love, good enough and capable of making an impact on others, and lead the best possible life.

A part of us knows how tiring and fruitless it is to keep comparing ourselves with others, but somehow, we find ourselves completely helpless in stopping this habit. 

This article helps you notice the damage comparison making does and provides you with some tips on how you can stop comparing yourself to others. As you will read further, you would find practical and science-based exercises on improving your self-esteem, making you more grateful, and finding joy in your current state of life. But before that, let’s try and understand what comparison is and why we compare ourselves with others.

What is Comparison

Comparison is a process to evaluate how two or more things stack up against one another in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

In our case, we compare our possessions, abilities, appearance, the number of our friends and ‘fans’, and lifestyle (among other infinite things) with that of people around us or the ones who we see on the Internet and media.

Why You Compare Yourself to Other People

A comparison mindset stems from our need to evaluate ourselves. The process, which happens almost subconsciously, helps us understand our worth.

The Psychology of Comparison

As human beings, we want to make the best decisions, look the most attractive, be the one with maximum resources, and enjoy all the pleasures of this life. Our chances of acceptance by society and survival increase if we have the best and are the being.

Evolutionary speaking, our mating and reproduction opportunities improve as we become more visible, favourably, in our community, and so does our longevity. These are the reasons why we compare ourselves.

Comparison lets us assess how we measure up against other members of our society, where we are, and what we need to improve and maintain the motivation to keep on going in life. 

So there is a strong urge to compare ourselves with others. A recent study indicated that 10 per cent of our daily thoughts are about comparisons. Why wouldn’t it be so? After all, who doesn’t want a long life where they can thrive. Comparison keeps us on our guard, by poking and making us uncomfortable every time we begin to fall short.

Comparison in the Old World

Comparison is an involuntary mechanism designed to keep us aware of our strengths and weaknesses which impact our social acceptability, survival and mating chances.

Until a couple of centuries ago, our worldview was comparatively limited. We didn’t know as many people as we do today. A large part of lives, for most of humanity, revolved around their families and homes. Not many people left their villages or the places where they were born. They interacted with a smaller population, and thus, the number of people to who they compared themselves was also small.

If the people made any comparison, it was not as frequent as it is today. So they did feel the sting of comparison if they fell short, but it wasn’t that often. Being restrained to a smaller area meant they had access to, more or less, similar resources. They ate the same kind of food as their other community members; they looked similar as they didn’t have many chances to breed outside of their community. They had problems that affected each member equally, thus, making them more cohesive with one another.

The Modern World Breeds Comparison

The last two centuries have radically changed our world and the way we see it. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, maddening leaps in print, media and entertainment industry, and later, the arrival of the Internet, the world view for most of us has expanded dramatically.

We now know more people and have access to the lives of people from the remotest parts of the earth. Now, we leave not only our villages or cities but also our countries. We are aware of better resources, more attractive potential mates and competitors, and safer and beautiful places. 

So the thing is we are far more aware now, and the comparisons have become not only frequent but also stark.

The advertisements on TV, media, and the Internet take advantage of this comparison we make so that they can shove up more products into our lives. Once someone from our community makes a purchase of these products and shows off how it has improved his social stature, the other members of the community become restless. This perceived lack triggers a sense of inadequacy, unhappiness and one-upmanship. Even if we don’t buy these products, the bombardment of these ads acts as frequent reminders of what is lacking in us, making us feel miserable.

Consumerism is driven by our need to compare ourselves with others and to be better than them. Global corporate giants have been shelling out billions of dollars in their marketing strategies, unearthing newer psychological loopholes of consumers so that they can make the comparison we make with our friends, family or colleagues, more painful. The greater the pain of our perceived shortcomings, the greater will be their financial revenue!

Does Comparison Affect My Daily Life?

Below you will find the disadvantages of comparison and why you should never compare yourself to others.

Comparison Kills Your Joy

Measuring yourself up against someone else is the sure-fire way to highlight your weaknesses. Once you concentrate on your deficiencies, you will experience a range of negative emotions. Anger, hopelessness, envy, and restlessness may lead to anxiety, fear of missing out (FOMO) and depression.

Comparison Makes You Resent Others

We compare ourselves to those who are similar to us; this includes our friends, families, neighbours, acquaintances and colleagues. Comparing our growth and progress with theirs develops a sense of competition with them. Once that happens, instead of becoming our social and emotional support, they become our rivals in our heads. This can cause us to resent them. Such resentment can push us to isolate ourselves from our loved ones, triggering a feeling of loneliness.

Comparison Lowers Your Self-Esteem

People with high self-esteem value themselves. They believe in their abilities, know their weaknesses, and have a path of their own to walk at a pace comfortable to them. 

The habit of comparing yourself to others can lower your self-esteem. It makes you second-guess your abilities, and it instils a fear of failure. You hesitate to take risks because you don’t want to appear a fool or someone who is not-good-enough. This insecurity can make you feel impatient, can steal your peace of mind, and can make you take decisions that you regret later.

Comparison Creates Financial Distress and Troubled Relationships

When we shift our focus from fulfilling our needs to appearing the one with most possessions, most friends and most pleasures, things begin to fall apart. Trying to one-up others, encourages you to make impulse purchases, spend more than you can afford, and accumulate debts. 

The tendency to compare yourself with others can create a rift among family members. You can end up increasing the stress and pressure on the breadwinner with your endless demands. 

There is no end to the damages unhealthy comparison can do to you. Your spouse becomes less attractive, your kids become less intelligent, and you become poorer when you compare. The rising expectations from one another lead to arguments and dissatisfaction, eventually, breaking families apart.

Comparison Wastes Your Time 

Comparing yourself to others exposes what you don’t have and what you are not. It causes ruminations and anxious thoughts about your future. 

Others become the centre of your world. Their growth, progress and achievements begin to overwhelm you. Instead of focusing on improving yourself, you feel distracted by their shining and glorious lives. You end up wasting your time stalking their social media profiles for any updates. The more you indulge in such self-sabotaging behaviours, the more unproductive you become.

Breaking the Habit of Comparing Yourself with Others

How Can We Reduce Comparison Making? How do I stop comparing myself? Here are some tips for Stopping Comparison.

Limit Your Social Media Use

The posts, status updates, display pictures of those on your friend list and news feeds on the social networking sites rarely make us happy. Spending time scrolling down the social media pages makes you compare your life with others. You become more aware of what’s better out there, and you create a desire to have it, own it, and experience it. Ads begin to appear out of nowhere, and you get tempted to buy that product, that experience. 

You don’t want to be reminded of what you lack, every other hour! What you do want is some uninterrupted, focused time to work on the real things in your life, and savour the fruits of your labour.

Restraining your social media use will decrease the frequency and intensity of comparisons and the resultant negative emotions. Turn off your phone while you work; take a couple of days off from social media. Curate your friend list; if you find the posts of some of your friends are making you miserable, it would be a good idea to unfollow them. If it gets too overwhelming, the best would be saying goodbye to social media, forever.

Acknowledge What You Have

Before you count your blessings, know that no one has everything in their life. Our lives are imperfect. Once you understand this simple fact, it would be much easier for you to appreciate what you have and feel less miserable for what you don’t.

The problem is, today, most people are trying to portray as if they are living the best life. They highlight their best moments on social media and when they talk to you. This makes us feel everything is perfect in their life. Only it is not! You don’t know the inside picture, what’s troubling them, and giving them sleepless nights.

Learning how to be grateful for what you have in your life is one of the simplest ways to bring your attention to yourself. 

What does it mean to be grateful? It is being appreciative of the presence of things, people, your abilities, and experiences that bring you pleasure, respite or positive emotions in any form. It’s about being aware of the fact that many people in this world don’t have what you have. It is about feeling thankful for your little blessings in life.

An Exercise to be More Grateful

Each Friday evening, write about three to five things that generated positive emotions the last week. If you want, you can do the exercise twice a week or even daily! Reflecting on positive emotions and taking the time to write about them help your mind look on the brighter side of life.

Shift Your Focus from Others to Yourself

As mentioned earlier, we compare ourselves with others to evaluate ourselves, hoping it will bring improvement in our life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t, and it only makes us feel unhappy.

So, how to assess ourselves and how to improve?

The best advice here is to start comparing yourself with the Past You. Remove that image of your best friend, close relative, neighbour, acquaintance or colleague from your mind. Replace it with the Past You.

Did the Past You weigh 85 Kg and the Current You is lesser than that? If yes, you improved. Your efforts brought you a positive outcome. Feel happy about it, celebrate it! If No, take help from others who can help you reach your goal and start working on it.

Do you live in a better home than you did in the past? Have your marks improved than what it was in the last exam? Do you find yourself more social in real life than you were last year? Ask these questions; not how many marks your best friend got, how is your neighbour’s home or why all your friends are more outgoing than you.

You get the drift. Compare yourself with yourself.

It’s imperative to identify your strengths for your well-being. Unless you do, you will keep on comparing your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths.

Once you know what your strengths are, try and work on them to bring happiness to your life. 

We are all unique individuals with a different set of natural talents and acquired skills. You need focused attention to develop your strengths. The more you develop your strengths and use them for bettering your life, the lesser concerned you would be about others. 

An Exercise to Improve Your Self-Esteem

Each night, before sleeping, write three things that happened in the day and made you feel good about yourself because of your efforts or actions. The next morning, when you wake up, read aloud those three things. Continue this exercise for a month. Aim for 90 different points by the end of the month; doing this will improve your self-esteem.

Bond and Connect with Others

Humans crave emotional closeness and bonding. It is almost impossible to feel a sense of intimacy with others if we keep on comparing ourselves with them. 

We need to create a safe space for each other, where we can show our most vulnerable side. This can’t happen if we resent others and fear humiliation for our weakness or hardships.

One of the simplest ways to let go of that gnawing feeling of constantly comparing oneself to someone else is by being appreciative of their contribution and success. Letting them at ease, feel safe and unchallenged make them more open and receptive to you. The feelings of comparison fade away when we connect with someone emotionally and start to find comfort with each other.

Conclusion – How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Comparison is a natural mechanism to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses. However, frequent comparisons with people around us can open a can of worms and make our lives unhappy. Comparison is a trap that not only steals away our joy, wastes our time, but also weakens our relationship with others, leaving us lonely. The good news is: it’s possible to break this habit of constant comparison by being aware of our strengths, monitoring our time on social media, being grateful for blessings in our lives, and making efforts to bond with others sincerely.

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