“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt.
Is he right? Comparing ourselves to others is natural. Whether this is based on what job we have, what grades we get, how much money we earn, how we look. There are many categories in which we find comparing ourselves to another, and this trait tends to follow us throughout life.
Social comparison theory argues that we define our self-worth from the comparisons we make of those we perceive to be better or worse than ourselves. Yes, it is argued that comparisons can be healthy on some level to help us build on self-improvement, but when does this become unhealthy?
No two people are the same. It would be impossible for comparisons of one another to be true and fair as no two people are the same. Our backgrounds, experiences, DNA reflect who we are and help build the achievements we make.
We only look at the goodness in others. I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t celebrate one another’s achievements. Although, when we compare ourselves we often focus on the good and fail to look at the other person’s hardships or struggles in the process and only look at our own. We can fail to remember that everyone has their flaws and these too should be embraced.
We focus on the wrong person. We can often spend so much time comparing ourselves to others that we fail to focus on ourselves and the positives that can come with doing so. The most important comparisons should be of ourselves, to reflect on how far we have grown and developed.
It’s an emotional battle. Comparing ourselves regularly to others we regard as “better” than who we are can impact on our emotional health. It can decrease our self worth, lower self-esteem and create feelings of misery.
Although the consequences of comparisons are varied, there are some benefits. Comparisons can lead us to evaluate where we want to go in life and what our goals are. This can also lead us to become more motivated in achieving these.
Perspective can have a big influence of whether or not we gain the positive or negative effects of comparison behaviour. To embrace the comparisons more effectively we should;
- Remind ourselves that everyone is different;
- Not forget our own achievements;
- Focus on our strengths;
- Build on these strengths and aspire for greater things;
- Embrace our imperfections;
- Remember the only competition we should be in is against ourselves.
There is always someone out there who we are going to perceive as “better” than ourselves and at the end of the day that doesn’t really matter, as long as the most important person we decide to focus on is ourselves.