The act of comparing oneself to others is a deeply ingrained psychological phenomenon that arises from various social, cultural, and evolutionary factors. Humans are inherently social beings, and their self-concept often develops through interactions with others.
It's important to grasp that the people you're comparing yourself to are actually quite unfamiliar to you. This means that what you see is their shiny, polished and “perfect” exterior, not the true reality of their life.
That sense of envy, jealousy and or resentment you feel when you observe their seemingly perfect lives is mostly a trick of the mind, and closer to an illusion. You are unique, fundamentally different from everyone else. Comparing yourself to them isn't fair because they aren't walking the same path as you. They don't share your family, your disposition, your struggles, or your talents. All of these things that make you who you are – they're exclusively yours. That's why it's crucial to measure your progress against who you were yesterday, not against who someone else is today.
While some level of comparison can serve as a motivator or potential guide to self-improvement, excessive comparison is an unhealthy habit that leads to several negative outcomes. A personal example is about my podcast. Although I’ve had quite a bit of experience in voice-over work and radio, creating a podcast is a different type of beast. My podcast is about the American Revolution and there is another guy who has a podcast on the same topic, and he has several million downloads, way more episodes and a huge audience.
It would be very easy for me to be jealous of what he’s created, hold resentment and tell myself I shouldn’t do a podcast as there is already one (his) way better than mine, afterall, I’m just an amateur, how could my podcast be successful or compare to his?
Listening to countless episodes of his podcast provided me with ideas on how to make mine better. His podcast was a motivator to me and it provided me with good ideas, and at the same time it showed me things I didn't necessarily like, which I would leave out of my show.
Then, I contacted him and asked if he would like to be on my show as a guest, and he graciously agreed. Not only did I gain further insight from the interview, he shared how he got started, things he would do differently, and it was not only a fantastic conversation, it was educational.
He then shared our interview with his audience and gave my podcast a shoutout on his! Now, think of what my show would be like had I not reached out to him. What would have happened if I sat in the jealousy state of mind or “I’ll never be as good as him so why bother” mentality? I would have been unhappy, jealous and had a feeling of being inadequate and never going to be good enough thoughts racing through my mind, over and over again.
Do I want my podcast to grow and have more listeners? Do I want my shows to be better? Yes is the answer to both, but with a distinct difference. I don't pull up my statistics and compare them with his podcast to see who is "better," that isn't important. What is important is that with each episode, I make improvements and it becomes better, no matter how small or slight the increase. I compare my previous episodes with the current one, instead of comparing my podcast as a whole to another podcast or for that matter, to anyone else. Do you see the clear distinction and how it yields far greater peace of mind and better results?
This is an example of how to compare yourself to others in a healthy and productive way, and use it as a motivator and allow it to be beneficial. As of now, my podcast has been listened to in 42 countries, every state in the United States, and has thousands of downloads and hundreds of subscribers. Is it as big and popular as his? Nope, and I don't bother worrying about that sort of thing, I sincerely hope his show grows and gets bigger and better than even he can fathom. I'll focus on improving each show, the rest will fall into place as it should.
There will always be someone better than me, someone richer, someone better looking, and so on. My goal is to become a better version of myself, that is who I compare myself to, me and me only. It not only moves me closer to reaching my goals, it eliminates the issues that come from comparing yourself to others in an unhealthy way, which I’ve listed a few below.
Negative Consequences of Comparison:
Low Self-Esteem: Constantly comparing oneself unfavorably to others can erode self-esteem, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-worth issues.
Jealousy and Envy: Unfavorable comparisons can lead to jealousy and envy, which strain relationships and negatively impact mental well-being.
Anxiety and Depression: Persistent negative self-comparisons can contribute to anxiety and depression as individuals feel overwhelmed by perceived shortcomings.
Inauthenticity: Focusing on external standards rather than internal values can result in individuals pursuing paths that are not aligned with their true desires and passions.
So what are some things to do, or not do, that can help reduce or eliminate comparing yourself to others?
Practice Self-Awareness: Becoming aware of when you're engaging in unhealthy comparison is the first step. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions when you find yourself comparing.
Focus on Personal Growth: Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own progress and growth. Set personal goals and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small.
Limit Social Media Consumption: Social media often presents a distorted view of reality, emphasizing only the positive aspects of people's lives. Limit your exposure to avoid unfavorable comparisons. This is a huge issue for most, especially young girls (12-17 years old,) but many adults struggle with this too.
Cultivate Gratitude: Regularly practice gratitude for your own strengths, achievements, and the positive aspects of your life. This can help shift your focus away from comparison. I have created exercises for this topic alone, as it's one of the most significant ways to impact not only self-doubt and comparing yourself to others, it's far more reaching.
Develop Self-Compassion: Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a close friend. Acknowledge that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and holding yourself to a higher standard, when extreme, will oftentimes backfire.
Build a Supportive Network: Surround yourself with friends and mentors who encourage your growth and provide constructive feedback without creating a competitive environment. This is a common issue I see in my clients, and I help them at a granular level to overcome it.
Breathing, Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices like mindfulness and meditation can help you stay present, reduce negative self-talk, and enhance your self-awareness. Diaphragmatic breathing techniques quickly changes the brain chemistry, allowing a shift in the negative spiral thought pattern.
While comparison is a natural tendency, it's crucial to recognize when it becomes harmful and take steps to mitigate its negative effects. Embracing self-compassion, focusing on personal growth, and cultivating a healthy perspective on others' achievements can contribute to a more positive and fulfilling mindset.
Clients in my area have the benefit of hands-on experiences like breathing exercises, equine therapy and neurofeedback. For those who aren’t in close proximity, I offer life-coaching, teach the diaphragmatic breathing and neurofeedback that can be done in the comfort and privacy of your home, that are equally beneficial. These are powerful tools that can be life-changing and encourage you to consider them.
If you are experiencing low self-confidence or low self-esteem, or other obstacles that you would like to overcome, please feel free to reach out to me. I offer a free consultation (video or phone for those who do not live close by) where we discuss the best options that will provide you with maximum results.
Looking forward to speaking with you!