The Negative Impact of Comparison
“Stay in your own lane. Comparison kills creativity and joy.” — Brené Brown
Have you ever felt like you’re not good enough? Like you’re constantly comparing yourself to others and coming up short? If so, you’re not alone. Comparing ourselves to others is a natural human tendency, but it can have a negative impact on our self-esteem and happiness. Everyone compares themselves to others, and no one is immune from the destructive habit. Comparing ourselves to others highlights our shortcomings, making us realise we are not reaching our full potential. So, over the coming paragraphs, I’ll explore the dangers of comparing ourselves to others and offer you tips to break free from the comparison trap, to live an authentic life.
The dangers of comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy, envy, and self-doubt because we feel we are not good enough or doing our best. But if we use others as a measure of our own success, we are making a judgement based on our initial observations. In other words, it is impossible to compare ourselves to other people because we are complex individuals. For instance, if you compare your introverted nature to your close friend, who is always the life of the party, it is not a correct comparison because you are looking at two opposing personality types. You are creating a distorted perception, where to be more accurate, being more sociable might involve attracting unwanted attention.
Comparison gives us the wrong impression that we are not perfect and may lead to depression and anxiety. When we direct our attention to what is wrong in our lives, it becomes our primary focus and the more time we dwell on it, the more we recognise our failures. We cannot consider how other components of our lives may be more beneficial, and this limited view doesn’t do justice to the bigger picture. To put it differently, when you compare yourself to your sociable friend, you fail to consider all the positive attributes you have. Making comparisons can be damaging, as we become focused on one attribute without seeing all of our other positive traits. To make a fair comparison with other people, we need to consider each of our strengths and weaknesses and have them evaluated by an unbiased source. I’m aware I’m making an overstated assumption when we compare ourselves to other people, but that’s just what we do.
The Inaccuracy of Comparison
“Comparison is the root of all feelings of inferiority. The moment you begin comparing yourself to others is the moment you lose sight of your own greatness.” — Robin Sharma
Can you see why comparing ourselves to others is difficult to measure? Assessing ourselves against other people is rooted in negative comparison, and there is no way of determining whether we are doing well in that area. So, how can we break free from the comparison trap? How can we find fulfilment in our lives without comparing ourselves to others? To break free from the comparison trap requires focussing on our own journey, rather than on the lives of other people. To make progress in an area of our life, we should look at what isn’t functioning properly and collaborate with a mentor, coach, or someone we trust to help us make improvements.
We are all on our own unique paths to success and fulfilment, and there are many ways to get there. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things. Even though it may appear other people are doing well, they may be falling short in other areas. As an example, I’ve coached hundreds of people over the years who appeared to be successful upon first impression. After getting to know them better, they admitted to failing in other areas of life which they regretted. For instance, those who are succeeding in their professional careers may neglect their family due to overworking and, as a result, their relationships suffer. Similarly, their health may suffer because of working too hard to achieve success. Comparison is a negative use of our time and energy that does not improve our life.
Breaking Free from the Comparison Trap
“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” — Jon Acuff
Other ways to break free from the comparison trap are to focus on our goals and dreams and make it our priority. For instance, what do you want to achieve in life? What makes you happy? What are your highest aspirations? What is your purpose if you believe you have one? We ought to focus on these pursuits and give them our attention. When we are pursuing our passions, it makes us come alive and there is no time for comparison. There is no room for comparison when you are busy pushing yourself to excel and accomplishing your goals. Therefore, I encourage you to focus on getting ahead in life instead of comparing yourself to others. Could you do it? Could you stop comparing yourself to others from this point forward and focus on the person you wish to become? What qualities do you need to cultivate to become the person you dream of becoming? Start working on that image and allow yourself to become that person instead of wishing for something that isn’t yours.
It’s important to mention here the role social media plays in the comparison trap. Social media has become a façade, where people curate a false version of their life to appear more desirable. Professionally speaking, there are few people in the world who have their life in order, no matter how successful, rich, healthy, or madly in love they are. As humans, we are imperfect creatures and subject to life’s laws, so naturally we will experience heartbreak, pain, and all the trappings of life on earth. Not that we can’t be happy or fulfilled, even when life isn’t unfolding as we wish. Rather, it is where we focus our attention that becomes central to whether we are happy or depressed.
If you’ve gained anything from this article, I hope it is this: be kind to yourself because everyone makes mistakes and you are no exception. It is part of the human condition to make mistakes, and the notion of perfection does not exist. We ought to focus on self-improvement and personal excellence because it’s okay to fail. It’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to be working it out as you go along. It’s okay not to know your place in the world. Who said you need to have life worked out? Life is a complex puzzle, and if you give yourself some breathing space and the opportunity to learn, you may eventually figure it out. But until then, go easy on yourself and do the best you can, given your circumstances. Considering this, as an exercise, I invite you to write two or three favourable qualities in each area of your life. For example, health, finances, career, relationships, community, purpose, etc. If something needs improvement, write it down and list how you can improve in this area. After all, breaking free from the comparison trap is difficult, but it is possible. If you are determined to stop comparing yourself to others and live a happier, more fulfilling life, you will achieve this as long as you don’t give up on yourself.