Why We Compare Ourselves

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, comparison, by definition is ‘the act of comparing two or more people or things’ or ‘an examination of the differences between persons or things’. Today we’re going to explore deeper into the depths of comparison and the impact it can have on our daily lives.

Comparison is the thief of joy, yet it is just so easy to do.

We commonly compare our education, intelligence, homes, relationship status, fashion sense, employment status, and even what we read and eat. It doesn’t always have to come from a place of malintent, but does it truly do us any good to pit ourselves against one another – either publicly or in secret?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Does comparison achieve anything?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Personally, I find comparing myself to others quite detrimental to my own self-esteem. It can send my self-worth and motivation spiraling, so I do my best to avoid it.

I decided to research why we compare ourselves in the first place and here is what I found. A social psychologist named Leon Festinger explored the act of comparison and said that ‘people evaluate their opinions and abilities by comparing themselves to other people for two reasons: First, to reduce uncertainty in the areas in which they’re comparing themselves. And second, to learn how to define themselves.’ (The Jordan Harbinger Show). This concept is called the social comparison theory.

People can engage in upward or downward comparisons. Upward being with people we think are better than us, and downward being with people we think are worse off. The latter can make us feel better about ourselves, but what a toxic way that is to live. There is also the concept of self-evaluation and self-enhancement.

‘Self-evaluation occurs when someone looks for positive traits in himself based on the best person he compares himself with. Self-enhancement, on the other hand, occurs when someone questions which aspects of himself need to be improved in order to reach the level of goodness of the person he is comparing himself to.’ – (Psychology Notes HQ).

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

How can comparison make us feel?

Comparison could be beneficial in that it may motivate you to develop yourself further or strive for that goal you’ve been putting off. For example with blogging, if I’m looking to improve my engagement and statistics, I may compare what I’m doing to a better-performing blog. This allows me to learn and improve my methods.  On the contrary, I don’t believe comparison as a whole is particularly healthy.  It can cause a judgemental attitude and may lead to destructive behaviours.

Personally, it can make me feel “behind” in my accomplishments, not intelligent enough and perhaps look at areas of my life negatively that I hadn’t worried about before.

I also asked on Instagram how comparing yourselves to others makes you feel, and here were the responses:

  • “Usually I’m not comparing myself in a good way which I’d love to know how to change!”
  • “Sometimes motivated to improve myself. Other times, my self-esteem plummets!”
  • “Usually pretty crap, even though I’m grateful for all I have, I still end up feeling rubbish”
  • “Inadequate”
  • “Inadequate, then again social media is as much a platform for user content as it is for advertising”

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

What can we do instead of comparing ourselves?

  • Be grateful for what we have and have achieved so far
  • If we’re going to compare, be reasonable about it. We don’t live any life other than our own, so how can we expect to be like other people when we have different incomes, responsibilities, opportunities etc that is often out of our control.
  • Instead of thinking the grass is greener on the other side, water the grass we’re currently on
  • Detox aspects of your life that are causing your comparisons
  • Channel your thoughts into motivation and drive

Becoming Minimalist have an excellent article which lists why we shouldn’t compare ourselves, and what we can do instead if you’d like to read more.

Social media can be a big culprit in kickstarting our comparisons. It can be a dark hole of engagements, baby announcements, new homes and new jobs, the list is endless. It is so key to remember that not everything is at it seems online. We see just snippets of people’s actual lives; their highlight reels.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to develop ourselves, but it does not have to be a competition in the meantime, or an internal battle about who is “better” and who is “worse”.

I’m really interested to hear your thoughts on the topic in the comments below. Thank you for reading!

Until next time,

Emily x


12 thoughts on “Why We Compare Ourselves

  1. Lynn Mejia says:

    This is a great post Emily! I totally agree, I think social media plays such a huge part in negative comparisons. I also feel like it boils down to self esteem and confidence too. There’s only a few people that I have ever compared success to but other than that, I find that I do positive comparison and it motivates me to want to achieve more. Thanks for sharing x


  2. Ruth| Ruthiee loves Glamour says:

    This is such a great post Emily. Comparing ourself to others is something we have all done at one point in our lives. It can be so easy to compare ourself with others but by comparing ourselves with others, we are slowly writing our own death sentence. I believe that everyone’s journey is different and everyone’s destination is different too and that is one good reason why we should never compare ourselves to others. Also, I really love the tips you gave on things we can do instead of comparing ourselves to others. This post came at the right time. This motivation was much needed. Thank you for sharing x!
    Ruth| Ruthiee loves Glamour


    • emilygabriellax says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Ruth! It’s a deep dark hole that’s so easily to fall down, so I’m glad you liked the tips too!x


  3. Corinne says:

    I love this post. Comparison is good if it inspires you to do better. But it can be dangerous if it’s used to beat yourself up or bag out other people. I believe self-reflection is crucial in learning how to let comparison make you or break you.


    • emilygabriellax says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I think taking time to acknowledge all that we’re worth would make us see ourselves in a positive light. Thank you for reading and commenting!


  4. Penny says:

    This is an amazing post Emily. Thank you so much for voicing your opinion about comparison. I think social media causes us to compare ourselves with many filtered lives. Not everyone’s life is 100% perfect and thats alright, we should always keep this in mind! x Penny | whatdidshetype.blogspot.com


    • emilygabriellax says:

      Thank you for your lovely comment, Penny! I am so glad you enjoyed reading. I 100% agree, such an important message to share! Have a great day x


  5. Paige says:

    This is a really interesting post Emily! Personally I found that I used to compare myself constantly to those around me or those who were more successful, until I experienced a revelation one day where I was just like ‘so what?’. These people are achieving wonders and smashing their own goals, but so am I! You have some great tips too, and completely agree that social media and heavily filtered lives play a bit part in the scary realm of comparison too.


    • emilygabriellax says:

      Thank you so much for reading, Paige! It’s really interesting to hear of people’s personal experience with comparison, I think it’s an inevitable part of life in some aspects! I’m glad you had that revelation!


  6. Charlotte says:

    Love the Psychology content within this post – very informative! Comparison is one of the reasons I deactivated my blog IG because it was making me unhappy. You’re right, detoxing from the source works. Since deactivating the account, I’ve felt sooo much better.


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