Why You Can’t Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
The smiling faces you see only tell part of the story. When highlights of others’ lives and their accomplishments surround you, it’s natural to compare yourself.
Sometimes comparing yourself to others can inspire self-motivation and change, but it’s a slippery slope. Once you start, it can be hard to stop.
Why You Compare Yourself to Others
Why do you compare yourself when you see someone dressing in designer clothing, sporting a pleasing physique or getting a promotion? Scientist Leon Festinger described the phenomenon as the theory of social comparison, which says comparing yourself to others is part of human nature. Here are three reasons why:
1. You Compare to Learn
Humans learn how to act and define themselves and the world by comparison. To learn how to speak, you compare how others are forming words and adjust. Likewise, you learn how to behave from others. It’s how you know to greet someone by shaking hands or to say please and thank you.
2. You Reflect and Evaluate
Just like tests in school evaluate our knowledge and have us reflect on what we can do to improve, comparison invites us to reflect on and evaluate ourselves.
However, most comparisons lack an objective, like improving behavior or learning conversational skills. When we compare ourselves in unobjective ways, we fail to measure up, leaving us feeling inferior and depressed.
3. You Fear Missing Out
Whether others have a large circle of friends or the latest fashion trends, you interpret that as being successful and happy. Being social creatures, we want to feel accepted, not like we’re missing out. When you compare yourself to others and feel like you’re coming up short, you feel lonely and alienated.
Is It Possible to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others?
You may not be able to stop the comparisons, but you can change how you approach things.
In a study of culture and social comparison-seeking, the culture a child grew up in influenced the attitude and use of social comparison in their adult lives. It showed that Asian Canadians put more emphasis on social comparison as opposed to European Canadians. However, the social comparisons of Asian Canadians tended to be more self-improving and positive in nature.
How social comparison is used and perceived is also a factor in stopping its negative effects. A study looking into the culture of social comparison found that within certain cultures, mental, emotional and physical relationships are factors in developing healthy comparisons.
When people feel connected to others and valued for their individuality, social comparison is positive and used for self-improving.
Both studies show changing your perception and attitude makes it possible to choose happiness, accept yourself and banish feelings of inadequacy.
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How To Stop Negatively Comparing Yourself to Others
These guidelines will keep you from beating yourself up:
1. Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk changes the negative voice in your head into an affirming one.
Instead of saying, “I’ll never be as pretty as her,” say, “I’m pretty in my own way.” Have a mantra that you repeat whenever a negative thought threatens to bring you down. There are many ways to engage in positive self-talk and be kind to yourself.
2. Focus on Improvement Over Perfection
Nothing and no one is perfect. When we achieve perfection, we stop growing and learning. If you focus on being just a little better than you were yesterday, you’ll always improve and your self-confidence will grow.
3. Limit Time on Social Media
According to a study analyzing comparison and social networking, social media comparisons caused greater feelings of low self-esteem and symptoms of depression.
The best way experts say to stop social media comparison is to limit the time you spend on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram and to unfollow influencers and bloggers whose posts foster negative self-comparisons.
4. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercising and making better choices in the kitchen show increases in positive self-esteem and body image, too. Plus, it lowers blood pressure, anxiety and depression through better weight control and increased endorphins from being more active.
5. Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude provides benefits like better sleep, more opportunities to form relationships and increased resiliency. It will put you on the way to appreciating yourself and better enjoying what others take for granted.
Conquering Comparing Yourself to Others
Self-acceptance is the crowning achievement when you conquer negative comparisons. Accepting yourself changes your perceptions surrounding comparisons and boosts your self-confidence and overall health.
When you stop comparing yourself to others, you open yourself up to a happier and healthier life.
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Also published on Medium.
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