How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others: This Might Be Why You Feel Like You’re Never Good Enough.

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In this post, you’ll learn how to stop comparing yourself to others. 

I see this all the time in therapy, people come in feeling like crap about themselves and when we dig into it, they might not even realize it, but it’s because they’ve been comparing themselves to other people. And they feel like they’re never good enough, they’re never going to measure up because everyone else is happier, prettier, fitter or more successful than they are.

 

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Sometimes comparison makes you miserable in a different way, you constantly look for people who are worse than you to lift yourself up. He’s so lazy, She’s so vain, he’s so undisciplined…or entire groups- cops are all pigs, blacks are all dangerous, fill in the political party- republicans are all bigots and stupid. And while you may feel slightly better in the short term when you compare yourself to someone you perceive as worse than you, that boost doesn’t last long because it’s founded in insecurity. 

Here’s what we do know about comparison- it contributes to mental health concerns like eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, body dissatisfaction, jealousy, narcissism, and perfectionism. It can also lead to other problems like overspending to keep up with the Joneses. One study found that when someone in a neighborhood won the lottery, neighbors began making big purchases like expensive cars that they couldn’t afford. When we compare ourselves to others it will always let us down in the long run. 

Let’s talk about 3 reasons why comparison lets us down, and then we’ll talk about what to do instead. 

  1. Comparison is a brain shortcut, but it’s also a blind spot. 
  2. You’re outsourcing your identity- making yourself helpless
  3. Comparison leads to isolation and drama

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#1. Comparison is not based in reality

OK, remember, our brain lies to us all the time, it distorts reality all the time. It takes these little cognitive shortcuts to speed things up, but that gives you blind spots. 

So when we compare ourselves to others, we often have what psychologists call a Selective-focus blind spot- we highlight what we don’t like about ourselves, and then only notice people who are “better” “I’ve got the worst acne in the school” “Everyone is skinnier than me”.  And it feels true because we selectively ignore information that doesn’t support that. (ie we ignore all the other kids that have acne, and focus on the kids who don’t). Your brain isn’t showing you the truth, it’s just showing you whatever confirms your beliefs.

We also rarely see the whole person– we see what’s on the outside, but not all aspects of their lives. (But our brain conveniently forgets about this)  ‘He is so much smarter than me, I envy him” (But we don’t see that his parents are super perfectionistic, or he’s actually very lonely, or really bad at parties). Our judgments are often false and superficial- we are making ourselves miserable by comparing our real life (where we know all the details) to stuff other people show on the outside.  You don’t really know what’s going on in their life.  You could make a long list of celebrities that seemed perfect on the outside but their lives were a mess behind closed doors. 

For a more personal example- I have a family member who is awesome, she’s friendly, super outgoing, easy to talk with, super chill- so many traits that don’t come naturally to me. But I only see them a couple times a year. Once I commented to her husband “It must be so nice to be married to someone so chill” and he replied gently “Sometimes she’s a little too chill”, and without blaming her, also mentioned that many important tasks don’t get done because she’s so “chill” I realized that I had been comparing myself to her in a negative way, but I wasn’t even seeing the big picture. 

Not only does our brain ignore a lot of things without telling us, but social comparison is a bigger problem now than ever in the past because we interact in a real way with much fewer people than in the past. We all hang out isolated in our own homes, we see one side of people on social media, but we don’t live in a tight village where everyone knows everyone. We know fewer people than ever in a real, deep way.

So, Catch Yourself Comparing Yourself.

On a practical level- You could use my worksheet. 

  1. Write down the situations where you most often compare yourself to others
  2. Write down you most common comparison thoughts
  3. Remind yourself- Thoughts aren’t reality (let’s challenge that thought) 
    1. 1. My comparisons are usually false
      1. Selective filtering makes me highlight their good and my bad. 
      2. I can’t see the whole person- no one has it all
    2. Get off social media. You think you can see through it, but you can’t. Unfollow toxic accounts. Write and notice the types of accounts that demotivate you- parenting, weight loss, makeup, etc

 

And that takes us to #2, Comparison will always let you down because You’re Outsourcing Your Identity-

Because even though it’s natural to compare, basing your worth on comparison is fueling the underlying belief that your worth is dependent on being better than someone else, that determining whether you’re a good person depends on how many people are above you in the hierarchy and how many are below you.

And this will always let you down because you will always be able to find someone who’s better than you and someone who is worse than you, always. Even if you’re a freaking olympic gold medalist, someone will be better at you in other areas, and in a matter of years, better than you at your sport. 

Comparison will always let you down. As my brilliant friend and fellow therapist Kjristin Walters said “the problem with comparison is that you’re outsourcing your identity” you’re allowing others, and things outside of you to determine your worth.” 

So how do you stop? The first thing you have to do is realize your worth is not dependent on being better than other people. Let’s choose something more honest, your worth is inherent, you are always worthwhile and valuable. And the goodness of your life depends on how closely you live your values. How much integrity do you have to what’s important to you? 

So, if you want to build a solid secure sense of self, to do this, you’ve got to constantly shift attention away from comparison to integrity.

So let’s look at this. If in the past I said “I want to be a healthy person, well Shelly is fitter than I am so I’m a failure. But Martha is in worse shape, so I guess I’m good.” That’s outsourcing your sense of identity and your sense of worth. Instead let’s replace it with this:

“I want to be a healthy person- do I act in integrity with this?” Hmm, I’m walking every day but I’m eating too much junk food. How can I eat better?” We base our motivation on what we are running toward, not running away from. Who do I want to be? How can I move towards that a little more today?” 

 

Your Worth is inherent, your goodness is based on your values, not on comparison

When you catch yourself comparing- ask- what do I really value?

 

  1. Do I value getting a lot of people to like me? Or do I value being confident internally? Do I value looking perfect all the time? Or getting physically healthy? Do I value putting other people down? Or building us all up? 
  2. Shift your attention away from competition as your goal and focus on what you really care about. 
  3. Create visual reminders of your values, goals and your accomplishments
  4. Instead of comparing yourself to others, channel your energy into personal growth, creativity, and pursuits that bring you joy and fulfillment. Focus your energy on who you want to be. 

Take Action To Have Integrity Toward Being The Person That You Want To Be

So let’s say you get all caught up in how popular that one girl is, how pretty the other one is. Instead say “What’s most important to me is being authentic. I want to be real and build others up, I want to be a good friend, or a hard worker, and I’m going to focus on that instead of putting others up or down” 

Here’s the 3rd reason comparison will always let you down. Comparison leads to isolation and constant drama

Social comparison is a type of cognitive distortion. It’s an attempt to move up the hierarchy- but is that really your goal? It’s natural, but it’s not a lasting form of happiness. 

Comparison is fed by a scarcity mindset. It’s based on the idea that “There’s not enough to go around, so I’ve got to put myself in competition with everyone else to survive. you’re basically putting yourself at war with everyone else. It’s like crabs in a bucket, if someone else starts climbing up, I’ve got to pull them down. 

This might sound like a hippy dippy idea, but even in competitive sports- if you have a scarcity mindset, it’s going to backfire. Let’s imagine a soccer player- his goal is to be “The best” so this motivates him to work hard, but there’s one problem- that focus on being “the best” may make him compete with his teammates, not share the ball, get angry about their teammates successes/goals, feel constantly stressed and insecure. 

What if instead they focus on their values, they’ll be more successful. This looks like saying “I’m going to work as hard as I can” I’m going to learn how to be a good team player and make good decisions on the field. I’m going to devote my energy to self-improvement and winning with my team”. Competing with others will only take you so far, to be truly great, you need the lasting motivation of your internal values, paired with connection to others. 

Now, I just want to throw this out there? Who benefits from making us all feel like life is a competition? Who benefits from convincing us that we are unhappy as we are and need to get more than other people to be happy? Basically everyone selling something. Our belief in competition and scarcity is fueled by the media and advertising. They make money by making us feel inferior. And choosing to make your life about something else, is an act of rebellion to the cultural messages we are drowning in every day.

 Healthy People Build a world of abundance and cooperation instead of scarcity and competition. At the very least, we can create that world internally. We can live a life of abundance. 

Create a new rule that life is about collaboration not good competition. Lifting someone else up doesn’t cost you anything. When someone else is happy, be happy with them. When someone else suffers a loss, mourn with them. When someone else is successful, get excited for them, and learn from them.  

There is actually enough happiness to go around. There’s enough excitement for everyone. Love is a renewable resource, the more you give the more you have. He can be a hard worker- and so can I. There’s enough success to go around. The world is abundant. When you’re kind to someone else, you don’t run out of kindness, it grows inside of you. 

If you feel stuck comparing yourself to others, try counting your blessings. When you shift your mindset away from scarcity to abundance, suddenly you don’t feel so scared about whether you’re good enough.

So in summary, On a practical level

  • Notice the people, places and activities that trigger comparison thoughts
  • Recognize your distorted thinking
  • Remind yourself- Comparisons won’t make me happy, successful, or connected
  • Redirect your attention to your values- 
    • Who do I want to be? What do I really care about? Who do I really care about?

As you do this, you can begin to notice a true shift in yourself. Instead of comparing yourself to the public side of people, you start to see people in a more real way. With their gifts and their flaws, but you aren’t using them anymore, you are using their personhood for the selfish purpose of determining your own goodness, instead you can actually connect with them. You stop comparing, and start connecting. As you start to really see people you can start to see yourself clearly as well. And suddenly, you can actually love yourself too. 

Check out the course, How to Process Your Emotions below. 

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