Are you always comparing yourself to others on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram?
Do you compare yourself to your peers physically, financially and everything else?
Does reading about other people’s successes make you feel like a failure?
In most situations, comparison doesn’t make us happy. Sometimes, it makes us feel jealous and envious. Other times, it makes us feel depressed, stressful and horrible, especially when we expect ourselves to be as good as other people.
We know we gain little from comparison, but we still do that all the time. Why is that so?
Why do we compare ourselves to others all the time?
Usually, there are two outcomes when we compare ourselves to others:
- One, we are worse off than others.
- Two, we are better off than others.
However, neither of the outcomes determine our reactions. It’s our beliefs which determine our reactions.
Most of us feel inferior about ourselves when we are worse off than others, but not everyone reacts this way. Some of us might feel inspired by the achievement of others. We look up to others who are more successful than us. And there are some of us who feel jealous of other people’s success, thinking: “They’re just lucky. If I were lucky too, I can do the same.”
Comparison helps us maintain our self-image and beliefs.
Whether our self-image is good or bad, when we feel insecure of our self-image, we find ways to strengthen it. And what’s the best way to do this? Comparing ourselves to others.
When we believe that we aren’t good enough, comparing ourselves to people who are better off than us affirms that belief. It’s like telling ourselves, “I told you so. You aren’t good enough. Here’s the evidence.” Even though, it doesn’t make us feel good, it matches with what we already know about ourselves. So at least it’s stable; it makes us feel safe.
Then, there are others who have a superior image of themselves. They think they are better than everyone else. Comparing themselves with people who are worse off than them help them to validate their superior image. Deep down inside though, they might not believe they are good enough. But to protect themselves from feeling inferior, they rather deny that via comparison.
Why we should not compare ourselves with others?
1. We are often too subjective when comparing.
Comparison is only meaningful when it’s objective. But for most of us, our purpose of comparing with others is to validate our existing self-image and beliefs. We bring our subjective assumptions and beliefs into our comparison, and that skew our interpretation and conclusion. So how is that a useful and fair comparison?
Why compare when you have already decided on the answers?
There will always be people who are better than you and people who are worse than you. If you want to find evidence to support your beliefs, you definitely can. According to the book, The Art of Thinking Clearly, written by Rolf Dobelli, this is called the Confirmation Bias. Since we have already decided on the answers, what is the point of comparison?
2. It’s difficult to find a good comparison.
It’s difficult to compare when all of us have different goals and priorities in life.
How do we compare apples with oranges?
If someone’s goal is to earn a million dollar and yours is to spend quality time with your family, naturally you are not going to be as rich as the other person. How do you find someone with the exact same goals and priorities as yours to make a meaningful comparison? You can’t.
And understand that people are at where they are now in life because of the actions they have taken. You can’t compare with someone who is 30 years ahead of you. Of course, they are likely to achieve more than you.
Comparing yourself with someone at one point in their life. Is this a fair comparison?
3. We compare things that doesn’t matter to us.
We can’t be the best in everything. Same as the example given above, when we put more attention and time on one aspect of our life, we will have less time for other things.
But yet, we are jealous when someone earns more than us even though we choose our family and passion over money. We are envious of other people’s success when we put more energy into play than work. We are upset when people post holiday photos when we choose work over play.
We already tell the Universe what is important to us via our actions.
However, most of us still compare everything, from monthly income to number of Facebook likes, even though they are not important to us. Plus, we love to compare the worst aspect of our life to the best aspect of someone else’s life.
Why compare things that we didn’t choose to pay attention to in the first place?
4. Our interpretations are not the truth.
In accounting, when we do ratio analysis. We know that interpretations are just interpretations. They are not the truth. Different accountants who see the same ratio and data could have different interpretations.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
From where you are standing, the view on the other side will always looks different. When you are on the other side, you will never get back the same view from where you are standing now.
You always think others are happier because they have more than you, for example a new car, a new house. But perhaps they aren’t.
5. We compare to stay the same, not to change.
Actually there’s nothing wrong with comparison. It’s your purpose of comparison which is important. Business compares with each other so they know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. So they can adjust their actions and do better.
Most of us compare to feel worse about ourselves or to maintain our self-image. We didn’t compare because we want growth. In fact, the last thing we want is change. We compare to stay the same. We either compete to maintain our superior self-image or get discouraged to maintain our inferior self-image. It’s never about growth.
Comparison, for most of us, is just a tool to help us stay passive in life.
We spent so much time looking at other people’s life and judging others, so that we don’t have to spend any time on our own. So unless you are comparing to make a change in your life, stop comparing yourself to others.
Here’s how to stop comparing yourself to others.
1. Notice your addiction.
The reason why we can’t stop comparing ourselves to others because we are addicted to comparison. Comparison helps to feed our self-image. We do it all the time because we are insecure with ourselves and now it becomes a habit.
When people said there’s no end in comparison, there is really no end. If you already know that you are good enough, why is there a need to compare yourself to others?
Comparison is just a quick fix for self-doubt.
Whenever you feel like comparing yourself with others, stop. Before you get on Facebook, breathe in for a moment. Notice your addiction, be conscious. If you need to overcome your self-doubt, work on it. Don’t use comparison as a substitute.
But if you still want to compare, do it consciously. Notice how comparison makes you feel. Later, ask yourself is that is something you want to experience again?
2. Focus on growth.
The reason why we feel so miserable when comparing is because we always ask the wrong questions. Most of the time, we ask “why”:
- Why am I not as successful as them?
- Why am I not like them?
- Why couldn’t I do the same?
Instead of wondering why you are not as good as others, be inspired by them. A slight change to the questions makes a lot of difference. Rather than asking “why”, ask “what” and “how”. These questions will encourage actions:
- What can I do to be as successful as them?
- How can I be like them?
- How can I do the same?
The time you spend worrying about others could be time spend working on yourself.
It’s even better if you can exclude other people from the questions. Some people need a pacer when they run. But that also limit their potential. They can only run as fast as their pacer is.
Rather than focusing on other people, focus on your own growth and development. Listen to your own calling. Follow the path that is revealed to you. And do what’s right for you to blossom.
3. Realize everything is not about you.
Even if you don’t consciously compare to others, sometimes you just can’t help it. You go on Facebook, and you see others posting happy pictures about their life. Someone went for a holiday. You wish you are there. Someone gets promoted. You wish you could be promoted too. Someone is dating. You wish you are dating too.
Don’t blame the social media. There’s nothing wrong with social media. You can’t stop people from sharing their successes. And it’s not just social media, it’s everywhere. You can’t hide from it. Sharing successes is a good thing.
What you need to know instead is:
Other people’s successes don’t make you a failure.
Just because someone wins a competition, that doesn’t automatically make you are a loser. You weren’t even in the competition! When someone get attached, it just means they are in a relationship. Don’t interpret how lonely you are as a single. It has nothing to do with you. It’s about them. Be happy for them.
We love to make everything about ourselves even when the situation has nothing to do with us. When you master not taking things personal, you will eventually stop comparing yourself to others.
4. Live with gratitude.
Comparison makes you focused on the gap. Even if you are inspired by your role model, a gap is still a gap. When you try to catch up and close up the gap, realize that the other person is also growing and moving ahead. The gap may never be bridged.
Instead, replace your competitive nature with gratitude.
Realize life is not a competition.
The Universe doesn’t provide sunlight, food, water and air, so that humans can fight over it. The resources are meant to be shared. The Universe could care less if you are better than someone else or not. When it provides sunlight, it provides for all. It doesn’t discriminates.
They are always things to be grateful for, no matter how big or small they are. Start with yourself. Appreciate who you are. As you do that, you will naturally compare less. You can’t perceive the true essence of your beauty when you are competing with another person.
5. Change your perception of what is good.
Most of us believe that getting more is better. But is that the truth?
- Does buying more stuff makes you abundant?
- Does getting more money makes you happier?
- Is getting to the top the best way to live your life?
“All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power.” Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching.
I love, Tao Te Ching, written by Lao Tzu. Inside the book, there are many verses that remind us to stay humble and live in contentment. Having less and staying low aren’t necessarily bad. A person who is content with the amount of money they have is happier than a person who has a lot of money but not content with it.
Focus on things that cannot be measured.
And not all things can be measured with ease. How do we measure humility, love and compassion? How do we know that someone is happier than us just by looking at their photo on Facebook? When we compare, we are always biased. We tend to only compare things that can be measured easily. Things that can be seen on the surface.
What about things that cannot be measured and can only be felt? These are the things which we could put more attention to.
6. Above all, let go of your self-image.
All of the above suggestions would be useless if you don’t let go of your self-image. Instead of stopping yourself from comparing with others, you may find new ways to compare and enhance your own self-image.
- I’m more loving than other people. I do charity work and others don’t.
- I’m more grateful than others. I write my gratitude journal daily while others always complain about their life.
- I take action on my life and focus on growth, while others are just wasting their life.
When we hold onto our self-image dearly, it’s easy to fall back into the comparison trap. Beside, what motivates us to compare in the first place? Our self-image.
Save your analytical skills for your work.
My student loves to compare themselves with each other. If they have so much time, I would rather they use their analytical skills on their studies.
If you can’t help to compare and have an analytical mind like me, you are much better off using your analytical skills for your work than on yourself. Rather than wanting to do better than others or wanting others to do worse off you. Cooperate with each another.
There is no best. We are all the same. Our self-image is really not that important. So let it go.
Featured Photo Credit: Zips ‘n’ Buttons / Mister G.C.