We are told that we are unique and that there is no one else like us, so why do so many of us compare ourselves to others? We might compare things like intelligence, appearance, wealth, skill, health, and the list goes on. For those of us who compare ourselves to others, it is as if there is a built-in ranking mechanism that operates unconsciously or habitually and that signals whether we come in above or below the subjects of our comparison.
We often end up feeling worse when we compare ourselves because we perceive ourselves as lacking in some way compared to others, even though our conclusion is based on quick and superficial assessment. Sometimes we “rank” ourselves within seconds of seeing or meeting others. Sadly, we often rank ourselves as less than others, which perpetuates a belief that we are, in some way, not good enough.
Evolutionary-wise it may have been a matter of survival to compare oneself in terms of strength, physical prowess, attractiveness, etc. It was a time of survival of the fittest. Somehow socially, psychologically, and/or emotionally, we have continued to compare ourselves to others. Now, however, it seems to be related more to status, style, popularity, appearance, and aspects related to “surviving” (and maybe thriving) socially in current times. We no longer need to worry about surviving the elements, predators, competing partners, and other more basic threats. People are, however, still competing for their place in groups and other social systems. The drive to belong may lend itself to comparing oneself to others to determine one’s “place” and to gain a sense of security.
Nevertheless, comparisons are usually made in narrow contexts and do not serve one’s overall sense of wellbeing. Conversely, it degrades self-esteem and leads to frustration and unhappiness. If one has been accustomed to comparing oneself, it becomes so natural, that it can be difficult to change this mindset.
Here are some things you can do to minimize or stop comparing yourself to others:
First, know when you are comparing yourself to others. Become curious about why you are inclined to do so, and become aware of what triggers you to compare yourself to others. Once you have identified triggers, you can practice avoiding them or at least challenging them.
Noticing your feelings
Notice how you feel, in the moment and afterwards, when you are comparing yourself to others. If you compare yourself in a positive light to someone, how do you feel? When you compare yourself negatively in some way to others, how do you feel then? Ask yourself, “How true is it that I am not as smart as so-and-so?” Practice changing your thought from self-deficiency to something else, such as appreciating something about yourself. Notice how your feelings change when you hold a new or different thought.
Establish healthy boundaries
When you see yourself as unique and different from others, you can better appreciate who you are and lessen the tendency to compare yourself to others. In this way you are also setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. You can also appreciate things about others without blurring the boundary between them and you.
Limit your time on social media
Social media, especially for young people, has become a trap for comparison. People tend to post only the positive, glamorous photos and stories about themselves, which makes it seem like they have a perfectly wonderful life in which everything is going well. If you see these posts about others over and over, it is easy to compare yourself in a negative light and feel like you are lacking something. This kind of comparison can lead to resentment, envy, and even depression. It is an unrealistic comparison because you do not see what others are not showing you via social media. They usually don’t post their struggles, vulnerabilities, and failures.
Focus on your strengths
Embrace your strengths and values. If you try to be like someone with whom you compare yourself, you can be at most second best of that person. Focusing on who you are and the strengths you have allows you to grow and become the best version of yourself instead of the second best of someone else. Focus on your own strengths and qualities, and you may find that you focus less on the lack you perceive in yourself from comparing to others. Be your own advocate and direct your energy and attention into filling yourself up, rather than depleting or diminishing yourself.
Check in about what you are comparing
Perhaps you notice something about another person within a few seconds of encountering them. What you initially see outwardly may not reflect the person’s internal state. Your quick outward assessment is not worth comparing to who you are inwardly. It is like comparing apples to oranges when you compare someone’s outside with your inside. You can only really compare your own self in terms of how much you have grown from one week, month, or year to the next. This perspective fosters your movement forward for which you can be proud and feel confident.
Ultimately you are unique; you can only be yourself, live your life, and share your gifts with the world. So, practice putting your energy in these directions, rather than diminishing them by wasting your energy comparing yourself to others. Like you, they have their unique gifts to share.
Learning about self-appreciation and self-confidence through training is another way you can develop and practice it. The Karen Natasha Coaching training program offers workshops on self-confidence and breaking the cycle of comparing yourself to others. See https://www.karenatashacoaching.com/ for more details.
What to do TODAY?
Karen Natasha Coaching helps many people access awareness about themselves. We help people shift their energy, so that they can move forward with assurance, confidence, and renewed energy to achieve their goals and bring their best selves to any situation. We can help you gain appreciation for and confidence in yourself, so that you do not need to compare yourself to others.. Contact Karen Natasha Coaching for a consultation to experience how we can help.