“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt
Whether it is comparing our achievements or looks to those of others we see in the media and around us or our talents to those of fellow colleagues at our place of Work. We all compare ourselves to others in our social worlds and we do so either consciously, subtly or unconsciously each time we interact or relate with other people.
Surprisingly People tend to rely on these comparisons with other people so as to gauge their own skills, abilities, beliefs, and attitudes. As social beings, there is always the tendency to make comparison with others and in psychology, social comparison as it is referred to is one of the major reasons that there exist, in the human organism, a drive to evaluate his opinions and his abilities.
Humans are social creatures and comparison is what we use to cope with threats and build ourselves up or even establish our identity in a world full of others. While as an entrepreneur, a business person, blogger, writer, event planner, musicians, actor and so on we all tend to engage in it at some point perhaps for obvious reasons best known to us.
Types of Comparison
According to psychologist social comparison process can exist in two forms. We can either compare ourselves with others in upwards or downwards comparison as the case may be.
Upward Comparison: This is when we compare ourselves with those who we believe are way better than us. These comparisons sometimes centre on the desire to improve on our current level of ability.
Downward Comparison: this is when we compare ourselves to others who are worse off than ourselves. This type of comparisons is often centred on making ourselves feel better about our abilities. We feel at least we are better off than someone else.
No matter the type of comparison both upward and downward, it can cause resentment towards others and ourselves; it always deprives us of our joy and adds no value or fulfilment to our lives.
As the case may be, social comparison plays a vital role in the judgments that individuals make about themselves and likewise in the way that they behave. Some comparisons can either affect you negatively or boost your confidence and self-esteem – hence be mindful and sensitive to the negative feelings that might arise as a result.
Some reasons why we compare
Doubt– Sometimes when we fail in our attempt to achieve a certain goal or meet a certain standard- doubt sets in; we no longer trust our hustle or believe in our self then we start to second-guess every of our work and process. As a result of that, we begin to compare our achievements as against that of others.
Desire – The problem often time is that we desire to have what others have or to be where others are – and this type of feeling of lack of fulfilment can result in comparison. The desire to meet a certain standard at a certain time makes us compare our progress to that of others. Instead of appreciating where you are, what you have and how far you’ve come then looking for ways to improve on your desired goals, you start to compare your lives with others.
Competition – it is important to know that life is about finding yourself and discovering your gift and strength; it is not about competing with others. You are unique and special in our own way; you are not designed for the same purpose as others. Everyone at the same time cannot be doctor, engineer, lawyers, graduates, manager, CEO, founders and the list goes on. Not everyone is meant to lead, some are designed to follow- just ensure you are adding value at whatever level you find yourself per time.
Misplaced priorities – Why do you do what you do? Do you do it because Mr A is doing it? What really is that thing that is important in your life? What are your true objectives in life that are based on your values? That should be the motivating force as to why you are chasing that goal or working so hard. It shouldn’t be measured by what someone else does or don’t do. Misplaced priorities become the order of the day if you can’t see the need in what you are doing as against that of others but you just have to do it anyway.
Tips for avoiding the trap of comparison
Visualize you’re on a race
Someone on a race does not watch his competitors. You are focused on winning and your target is ahead towards the finish line. You are certain and completely aware of where you are heading and what you must do to get there. Everyone is running a different race so be clear on your goals and the steps you must take to achieve them.
Identify your motives
Perhaps you need inspiration and motivation to manage your mood or anxiety that you feel. Often time anxiety can make us look for reassurance from people and sometimes we are forced to compare ourselves to others in order to boost our confidence level. Does this reason for comparison boost or hinder your mood? Ask yourself.
Compare with yourself; it is safer
Comparison with others puts you under unnecessary pressure and anxiety but a constant assessment of your achievement, no matter how small, will lift up your spirit. Focus on achieving your personal best and worry less about comparing with others.
Social Comparison Can Affect Your Mental Health & Overall Well-being
Today we can say without any doubt that social media is the ultimate upward form of the comparison trap. Studies have shown that exposing ourselves to this type of comparison poses a serious threat to our well-being as a whole. It can damage self-esteem and put one at risk of anxiety and depression.
Breaking the trap of comparison: Social media as a case study
According to psychologicaltheory, People are driven to acquire a precise assessment of themselves by discerning their abilities and opinions in comparison with individuals around them. Individuals tend to measure their self-worth or personal values with others in their social circle. And studies also have shown that people who make frequent social comparison are prone to having feelings of regret, envy, guilt, worry, doubt amidst others.
Studies suggest that those who are less vulnerable to social comparison are the happiest because they simply do not pay attention to how others are doing but on themselves and how they can become better at what they do or in who they are.
There is no end as to the danger and harm we are exposed to daily through our engagement on social media. It is very common for people to feel depressed, sad or anxious after scrolling through the post of others even just for a few minutes and wishing away their life in comparison.
The sad truth is that people only share part of their lives and “make-believe” stories with the general public but leave out other negative experiences they are not proud to share unknown to the online viewers and followers. This is certainly not a healthy and ideal way to access yourself or growth in life.
Your mental health and overall well-being are much more important thus you can minimize your access or use of social media if it will affect your personality or self-esteem. Use that time to work on your weaknesses and improve on your skills.