Comparison is the thief of joyTheodore Roosevelt.
Society has trained us to compare ourselves to other people above, below us, and even on our levels. The societal standards of the measures of “success” based on age, social status, weight, marital status, etc. have been used to determine our sense of worth or relevance. In reality, these societal standards rarely bring fulfillment or happiness, they simply put undue pressure on us to measure up, and if we don’t, we are deemed not good enough.
This societal influence has ingrained in most of us the mostly subconscious habit of self-comparison. We often compare ourselves to others to have a perception of our worth and value. It’s almost as natural as breathing and if you are like me, you’ve caught yourself in that spiral one too many times. It’s an emotionally-dangerous trap we keep falling into and frankly, everyone does it at some point.
Whether we’re doing it to evaluate ourselves or because we feel inadequate in some way, self-comparison changes us. Some argue that it pushes us to do well which is right for some people but to the vast majority, it does more harm than good.
There’s an infinite number of people you could compare yourself to and with the growing influence of social media, there are countless scenarios to get lost in.
Comparing yourself to other people comes with a number of negative effects.
What Are These Negative Effects of Self-comparison
A Sense of Inadequacy
Except you are the best, and I mean – the literal best in every aspect of life, comparing yourself to people brings all your inadequacies to the fore. It shows you how the next person is better than you are and how you do not measure up to the level of expertise of another person. We often overestimate the positives in other people’s lives and deem them to be happier than we are.
This could become an endless cycle that breeds a sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. T. Harv Eker once said, “If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too.”
Poor Goal Accomplishment
Constantly pondering how well another person is doing or how they seem to have achieved so much in little to no time whereas you don’t seem to have covered enough ground can be the spoke in your wheel. To make headway, it is essential to learn from people or adopt new strategies that help you achieve those goals instead of sitting on your haunches and wallowing in self-pity. Actions are what help people get ahead, inaction has never helped anyone.
Comparing yourself to other people can breed a habit of resentment, not just of yourself but also of others. It’s easy to resent oneself when one is constantly found lacking when compared to others, and easier to resent others for being better. Sometimes, it can make you start overestimating yourself, especially regarding people you deem lower than yourself to make yourself feel better. Anger, envy, and jealousy can all come as a result of resentment and in terrible cases; you can be focused on bringing the other person down. That is dangerous territory and it’s a self-destructive path that only gets worse.
Self-esteem and self-worth go hand in hand. Self-comparison often robs you of seeing and appreciating the values you truly possess. It tampers with your assessment of yourself and belittles your achievements such that you begin to feel you don’t measure up to standards that are oftentimes a figment of your imagination.
Self-comparison is toxic to your psychological well-being. It is often accompanied by feelings of frustration, unhappiness, and demoralization which can mess with your mental health. Studies have shown that people often feel worse after a bout of social comparison and it can lead to depression and self-destructive habits like social isolation.
One of the most effective ways to build anxiety is constant self-comparison. It builds a mentally distressing state mixed with uneasiness, nervousness, and self-doubt over what we consider a flaw or an imperfection. Anxiety can also affect our physiological state and lead to medical conditions like depression or chronic anxiety.
It is critical to remember that nothing is ever really what it seems. Looking at something from the outside never gives you the true picture or facts. Often, the comparison is done without accurate information. It’s much like comparing yourself to an idea you consider perfect when in the real sense, that “perfect figure” is as flawed as you are.
Comparing yourself to people is fighting a losing people. You are bound to come up short at some point. You can never be the best in the world, there’ll always be another that’ll beat you to something and the sooner you accept that the faster you can focus on your strengths and maximize them to achieve your goals, for yourself, not because of what people think or how they might see you.
The beauty of our humanity is that we can learn and get better. When we set out to achieve our goals without the added pressure of other people’s perception of us or how they estimate or value us, we are bound to do well. Maybe even surpass the benchmark we set. Sometimes, we might not hit that mark, but that is fine too. We just go and do it again.
The only person you are capable of being is yourself and frankly, why would you want to be anyone else? Each of us is unique and that is the premise upon which our self-evaluation should be made. The only basis for comparison should be our past selves because we owe it to ourselves to be better than we were in the past.
One way to curb this habit is to gain awareness of your thoughts. A deliberate effort to quell those thoughts halts their progress and over time, improves your psychological and physiological well-being. It also improves your outlook on life and leads to better goal accomplishment.
So, when next you catch yourself using someone else as a measure of success or yielding to societal pressure, stop. Remind yourself that the true measure of your success isn’t what society thinks – it is you.