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

 

20 Things I’ve Learned in 20 Years

Happy birthday to me! June 24th 2019 marks my 20th birthday and I am currently celebrating in Spain with my boyfriend Lewis. Wonderful. I cannot believe my teenage years are over? I’m definitely a little bit sad about it, but looking forward to being taken a little bit more seriously now I can knock the “teen” part off of my age. I do feel beyond my years though, I feel like it should be a 3 in front of the 0, not a 2. A lot has changed in the last year that has heightened my adult status more than I could have ever imagined. I’m not a wise old owl (yet), but I am growing, learning and changing every single day.

I remember my 12th birthday so vividly. Surrounded by Puffles (who remembers those), cheesy badges and a blue pullover fleece (12 year olds now would never). Actually, I remember every year quite vividly, and I can sit here now and recognise how much I’ve developed and matured each and every year. Time has flown by so incredibly fast, I find myself struggling to catch up. One minute I’m episodes deep into Good Luck Charlie, and the next I’m paying council tax. MADNESS. So I wanted to culminate just 20 things I’ve learnt in my 20 years of existence.

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