When you compare yourself with other people, you’re contrasting your life with theirs. This mindset causes you to either believe that other people’s lives are better than yours or worse than yours. It’s hard to break free from the comparison trap. Here are ten habits that you may be doing that cause you to make unfair comparisons about yourself to others.
Professor of organizational behavior Thomas Mussweiler explains comparison like this, saying, “It’s one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not so good at.”
These Ten Habits Cause You to Make Unfair Comparisons
Of course, if you’re always making unfavorable comparisons about yourself, you’ll feel like you’re not good at anything. The lens you use to look at your life will make your life look worse than everybody else’s life. These thoughts will destroy your self-esteem over time.
Envying people causes you to feel jealous of others. According to one study, envy is looking downward or upward in social comparison. It divides rather than unites. When you envy others, you end up making negative comparisons with yourself. Typically, when you’re feeling envious of somebody else, you won’t feel good about having these negative feelings. Being envious of others will cause you to not focus on the things you need to do because you’re distracted by your envious thoughts.
What’s the difference between jealousy and envy?
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, envy is your discontent with what other people have and their advantages. It’s having covetous feelings about another person’s looks, possessions, or career. Jealousy is feeling suspicious and upset by someone who is your rival. Jealousy and envy get used simultaneously by most people even though they are very different.
2 – You see people as your competition
When you see others as your competition, you rank them as better than you or worse than you. You feel like you need to “beat” them in looks, dress, and how well your kids behave. This type of comparison is exhausting because you are always on alert, making sure they aren’t “winning.”
Your self worth gets tied up in how well you think you’re doing compared to everyone else.
3 – Judging other people before you know the facts
Judging people causes you to assume you know other people’s motives. You’re critical of what they do, even if you don’t see why they’re doing things. You see them as either better or worse than you. You don’t like what they do or how they do it. At the same time, you may feel intimidated by them.
Judging is never helpful. It can lead to gossip and rejection of people. Judging can come back to bite you since you’ll gain a reputation for being overly critical and challenging to get along with. In the end, you’re the big loser when you judge others and compare them to yourself.
4 – Believing that others lives are perfect
Perfection is overrated, plus it is not reality. No one’s life is perfect, no matter how it looks to you. Social media can give you the illusion that other people have perfect lives. Online people tend to share the good stuff, but you don’t see the other stuff going on in their life. It’s easy to compare your life to these people and feel like you got a bad deal. Remember, for every “perfect” post that gets shared. There is a whole story behind it that you don’t know.
5 – Feeling like your life is more demanding than everybody else
Years ago, your parents or a teacher at school may have told you, “Life isn’t fair.” You probably didn’t like them saying that. It felt so harsh. Surely life must be fair. Sadly, as you’ve gotten older, you probably realize this truth.
But you may still be tempted to feel like everyone else has a more comfortable life than you do. When you compare your life to others, you feel discontent and irritated about your life. Everyone has difficulties in their life, and sadly, some people have more challenging things than others.
But focusing on all that’s wrong with your life won’t help you. You will feel miserable and angry. Step back from your life and get a good evaluation of what’s good and less favorable.
Are there things you can change to make your life better? If so, try to do them, but if many of the hard things are out of your control, it may be time to look for the small bit of light in the darkness. This can help you guard against bitterness and anger.
5 – Preoccupied with your past mistakes
It’s easy to focus on your mistakes. Perhaps you’ve made some bad choices in your life, or even more complicated, maybe somebody made terrible choices for you. Perhaps the decisions you have caused your life to be tough. When you’re preoccupied with the mistakes, you miss out on what you’re doing right.
Your mistakes don’t define who you are or how you live. If you compare yourself to others because you’ve made some bad mistakes, it hinders you from trying new things. You worry you’ll make another mistake. Don’t live in the shadow of your past errors or other people’s mistakes.
Instead, choose to look forward without comparing your life to others.
6 – Anxious thoughts
Sitting around ruminating about all the things that aren’t right in your life causes you to compare yourself with others. You’ll feel negative and unhappy as you dwell on how bad your life is in comparison to your neighbors, your church friends, or the parents of your child’s best friend.
Anxious thoughts weigh you down and keep you from enjoying your life. Resist the urge to give in to your anxiety and worry about your life. Stop comparing it to others whose lives look so much easier.
But when we dwell on the highlights of other people’s lives, it can quickly become toxic. We’re wired for connection and belonging, but if we always compare ourselves to others, we’re putting our happiness, confidence, and mental health at risk.
8 – Ungrateful for what you have
If you find yourself wishing you had more all the time, good chance you struggle with feeling grateful for what you do have. It’s human nature to compare yourself to others, but if you become obsessed with comparing yourself all the time, you’ll miss out on the good in life. Step back and take a look around.
There is probably a long list of things and people you can be thankful for. Even the smallest good thing in your life is worth celebrating. Shift your focus and see what you have rather than what you don’t have in life.
9 – You do not accept yourself
You are a unique person. There’s no one like you. Perhaps you don’t like this truth, because you wish you were someone else. When you compare yourself with others, they become your standard of measure; they are what you think you want in your life. It’s important to value who you are, even with all your imperfections. Celebrating who you are can help you stop comparing yourself, so you are free to live your life growing, creating, and caring for others.
10 – Too much social media
One habit that accentuates comparison is too much social media. If you’re bombarded with other people’s success, wealth, and beautiful houses, it makes you feel like you have a dreary life in comparison. We are not all skinny Instagram models! Even if these people share their hardships online, you may feel like their worst days can’t be as bad as yours.
One study found that too much online social networking is linked to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Keep your social media in check. Give yourself a break once in a while and find other things to read or do online. You may be surprised how happy you feel.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Re-gain Self Esteem
There are some positive ways not to compare yourself to others. Here are a few practical steps you can take.
Taking time each day to look for things you’re grateful for in your life can help you overcome the comparison trap. Keep a gratitude journal. Write down the good things in your life. You can reread what you wrote on challenging days.
Contentment gives you a sense of satisfaction that your life is enough. You can be happy with where you’re at in your life instead of worried about what others are doing. You can set goals in your life, but not because you’re trying to “beat” out other people. Remember to set goals to grow and become the best you that you can become.
When you’re comparing yourself to other people, you are self-focused. It blinds you to the good others are doing. When your friend tells you they’ve gotten a promotion at work, you can’t feel happy for them because you are focused on yourself. Try to look up and outward, see what others are doing, and enjoy their good fortune.
When you compare yourself to others, it eats away at your sense of identity since you’re always looking to others to figure out who you are. It’s hard to break free from the comparison trap, but it’s worth it. Find ways to stop comparing yourself to other people and enjoy who you are and the life you have. You’ll be surprised how happy you feel as you embrace being you.