Sometimes, we fall into the trap of being jealous of someone else’s success instead of celebrating it. This doesn’t make us bad people, but does mean we could put too much stock in comparing ourselves with others. Quite frankly, this is a surefire way to make yourself feel terrible.
Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others is a skill you need to cultivate if you want to live a fulfilling life, both in and out of the office. In this article, we’ll talk more about why comparing yourself to others can be such a bad thing for you. Then we’ll discuss three steps you can follow to eliminate this behavior from your life.
Let’s talk self-improvement!
What Makes Comparisons So Essential to Your Progress
In short, being able to make comparisons is one of the most efficient ways of gauging progress. For example, it’s usually a smart move to compare your salary with what other people in similar positions and locations are earning. Without those comparison points, you can’t ascertain if you’re getting paid what you’re worth.
Of course, the counter-argument here is that as long as you make enough money to live well, making comparisons is unwarranted. However, using data to make smarter decisions is, well, smart – and comparisons are a key part of the process.
To put it another way, comparing yourself to other people can be a valuable skill to determine what improvements you need to make to your own life. It can also provide you with an assessment of your own career’s progress. However, what you shouldn’t do is let those comparisons alone dictate your mindset and planning, which we’ll talk more about next.
Why You Shouldn’t Compare Yourself to Others
Although comparisons are a natural part of life, they’re also something that can affect you negatively. For example, imagine having a colleague (let’s call him John), who’s handsome, funny, fantastic at his job, well-liked, and even a badass guitar player.
Of course, John is amazing, but unfortunately, few people can live up to the standard. If you let yourself fall into the trap of comparing yourself with him, it’s not going to be fun for you. Depending on your mindset, these comparisons can make you feel insecure, affect your work, and even sour your relationship itself with John. Over time, these constant comparisons can breed resentment, which is obviously something you don’t want to happen.
The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be as amazing a guy as John is. However, there’s a difference between striving to be a better person in general and wanting to become better than someone else. With the former, there’s no pressure, because as long as you’re working on improving yourself, you’ll always be on the right track. However, if you use someone else’s situation as your goalposts, you’ll constantly feel bad if you’re not up to their level.
In other words, striving to achieve more than you did yesterday is a better goal than looking to be better than someone else, mainly because the former is totally within your control. Let’s talk more about how to do so.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (in 3 Steps)
If you’re worried that this next section will simply be a lecture don’t be. We’re also going to help you figure out how to stop comparing yourself to others, since just like John, we’re cool like that!
Step #1: Take Stock of Your Strengths and Weaknesses
As cool as John may be, we’re willing to bet there’s at least one area in life where you’re more skilled than he is. Maybe you’re a talented programmer or you have an amazing eye for design.
Conversely, there’s probably skills or parts of your life needing a bit of improvement. However, this is nothing to feel bad about, since we’re all works in progress.
At this stage, you should make an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and the medium (such as on your computer, or using pen and paper) is up to you. When finished, you should have a clear picture of what your skill set looks like. With this information, you’ll know what areas you need to improve, so you can stop comparing yourself to other people.
If you’re having problems with this step, here are some tips to help get the ball rolling:
- Ask your friends or coworkers for their honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Remain open to constructive feedback – and don’t take it personally.
- Take note of everything you’re told, then ask yourself if you think those assessments are accurate.
Receiving feedback from the people around you can be a humbling experience. However, it can also lay the groundwork for improving yourself, so it’s almost always a smart move.
Step #2: Make a Mental Note When You Compare Yourself to Others
At this stage, you should have an accurate idea of your personal pros and cons. This means you can get to work on improving yourself any way you see fit. However, you also need to avoid comparing yourself to others so you don’t become frustrated with the process.
For a lot of us, controlling and changing how we think can be one of the most difficult tasks to achieve. To give you an example, imagine you’re on a diet and you have a craving for a big, tasty chocolate cake. As you may be aware, ignoring this craving takes a lot of willpower. The approach in this instance is to acknowledge your craving, then think about how the indulgence would set you back in your goals.
The same can be applied to comparisons. One method that may help is to simply note whenever you find you’re making comparisons with someone else. Just the act of acknowledging it can be enough to help you break out of the habit, and you can even rope your friends in for support too.
We can apply the same approach to negative comparisons. When you feel upset because you’re not at someone else’s level, make a note of it, give yourself a quick telling off over your thoughts aren’t helpful, then get on with your day. After all, being productive rather than feeling sorry for yourself is always a better alternative.
Step #3: Focus on Improving Yourself Gradually
The key (and arguably best way) to avoiding comparisons of yourself with others is to try and improve constantly. Since you’ve already discovered your weaknesses, you have a set of areas to begin improving, and some goals to reach.
For example, if you’re a chronic procrastinator, you can try and exercise self-discipline each day to avoid wasting time. If planned and implemented correctly, this process should become a habit, essentially achieving the improvement you set out to accomplish.
The knock-on effect is that eventually, you’ll have no need to compare yourself to others as you’ll have hopefully recognized the effort you’ve put into improving yourself. However, it’s important to understand that this process takes time – sometimes years – regardless of the specific aspect of improvement.
Also, bear in mind that if you become frustrated, you’re more likely to revert to your old patterns. To combat this, take the time to simply appreciate each success you make. Each day you go without procrastinating, for example, is an opportunity to pat yourself on the back. You could also give yourself milestones, and reward yourself at each point.
Ultimately, when you accomplish something you set out to do, you deserve to feel good about it. Over time, these small successes should help boost your confidence, and stop you from comparing yourself with others.
It’s only natural you compare yourself with others. After all, some things are only evident through comparison. However, falling into a pattern where you constantly feel bad about where you are in life in comparison to others can be toxic. This goes both for yourself and for those relationships.
Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others is one of the best ways to lead a less stressful life, and here are three steps to help you get there:
- Take stock of your strengths and weaknesses.
- Make a mental note when you compare yourself to others.
- Focus on improving yourself gradually (and appreciate your successes).
Do you have any questions about how to stop comparing yourself to others? Ask away in the comments section below!