Comparing ourselves to others is a complex process and can lead to very different outcomes. The consequences of which vary greatly depending on how and why we choose to draw comparisons with others.
Reassurance is a key factor with self-comparison; people stand themselves up against others as a checking in or reference point. We look out for people with similar characteristics and mark ourselves against them.
For example; mothers may look to other mothers dealing with young children and asses their parenting skills. The outcome of this is that they sense that they are achieving the same outcome and feel good about what they are doing.
We can also learn and improve through comparing ourselves, look at what others are doing and see how they have done this, using this as a benchmark.
Comparing ourselves to older and more experienced individuals can also be a useful way of looking at our own development and can provide assistance to choosing paths. Learning from the mistakes of others and understanding that life doesn’t always run smoothly can help us move forward.
Observing the lives of others on a global scale or as close as next door can help put perspective on our own lives.
Choosing to compare ourselves against people or situations that make us feel inadequate is an utter waste of time. If you had a painful cut on your finger would you rub a handful of salt all over the wound? No you would not; you would clean the cut and put a plaster on it. If you are feeling unsuccessful and down on yourself, take positive steps towards self-improvement and protect yourself rather than adding insult to injury.
Battling insecurities through bringing up irrelevant comparisons is a dangerous game, the gut-wrenching emotions of uselessness that emerge are poisonous and can easily be avoided through taking control and not allowing yourself to get pulled into this pointless game.
The list of negative self-comparisons is endless, generally it will reflect whatever it is that you are struggling with at the time, below I have outlined a few examples of some of the most common forms:
- Body image: Feeling insecure about your appearance or weight? Picking up a magazine and flicking through pictures of scantily clad models is not going to help! Looking at the weight loss and dieting efforts of celebrities against your own is fruitless. All you are getting is an image with a brief written capsule of text you have nothing real or concrete to set against yourself. Ditch the magazines and opt for a novel instead.
- Relationships: Comparing yourself against your current partners ex is a sure fire way of creating avoidable bitterness and angst. Maybe she seems more successful? More attractive? More fun? Torturing yourself about the past can distance you from the present, it is your future that you are working towards, concentrate on what you are doing right and what works and learn to leave what is in the past: behind.
- Career: If you are feeling uncertain of unhappy in your current career, putting yourself up against someone who you see as being more successful is a damaging approach. Dwelling on how well somebody else is achieving does nothing but hinder your own development. Instead look into positive steps to improve your working situation.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Whoever or whatever it is that you use to negatively compare yourself against, should be recognised and dealt with.
Feeling jealously towards people involved in your life can be difficult to deal with; you may be very fond of them but find them difficult to be around when you are having moments of self-doubt. Rather than subjecting yourself to them, take a little break, it is far better to distance yourself for a moment than tainting a friendship with jealousy.
Making yourself aware of what makes you feel inadequate is a great way of dealing with it, learn to recognise how and why you get involved in this negative cycle and quickly remove yourself.
Think: comparing yourself to others is pointless, because there has never been or will be a person just like you!