“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Teddy Roosevelt
Comparing yourself to other people, whether you perceive them to be better or less than yourself, can be unhealthy especially when it gets out of hand.
Discover healthy ways on how to stop comparing yourself to others and be the best version of yourself:
Table of Contents
- Practice self-compassion
- Catch, check and change your thoughts
- Observe and evaluate your own progress
- Shift your focus to your life — envision yourself happy and fulfilled
- Make sure your basic physiological needs are met
- Focus on the one person you’ve been neglecting — yourself
- Look at your strengths, goals, and your intentions
- Own your journey and focus on your goals
- Recognize what you value and allow that to guide your decisions
- Start valuing yourself as an individual
- Accept that no one has a perfect life
- Start a dream of your own and work towards it
- Be aware of exactly where you are right now
- Cut the noise out and figure out what’s important for you
Self-compassion means showing yourself the kindness you show others and silencing that inner critic that is always comparing. It also means embracing the idea that everyone has ups and downs, it is part of humanity and we don’t have to isolate as the only one that doesn’t have or isn’t doing.
Practicing self-compassion also means being in the moment, your moment from where you are, and not only seeing the problem. Rather acknowledge that comparison is hard and that you won’t have to stay in that hard feeling. This feels better than shaming yourself or pretending you aren’t feeling the way you are. Acknowledge and move forward.
Catch, check and change your thoughts
Pay attention to how you think about a situation. The comparisons are merely a perspective. Our thoughts greatly affect how we feel and behave so work on challenging your negative thoughts when you have them, note whether there is value or truth in this line of thinking, and then look for a more balanced thought.
Eating Psychology Therapist, | Blogger | Author
Observe and evaluate your own progress
First off, it’s not necessarily pathological to compare ourselves to others. Some degree of doing so is normal and healthy (and I suspect, hardwired into us), as it gives us a sense of what’s possible as well as where we don’t want to end up.
Comparison only becomes unhealthy when it is used automatically and unconsciously, when we generally view ourselves unfavorably in the process, when we overuse it for motivational purposes, and when we rely on it rather than ourselves to assess how we’re doing.
The goal is not to eliminate comparing ourselves to others but to do it sparingly, as part of a larger process, and for a specific purpose.
For example, if you’re applying to the same colleges as your friends, you might want to consider what their SAT scores are. If you’re in competition for a job, award, etc. it’s important to know how you stack up against your competition. This is a useful way to use comparison.
Many people, however, use it to assess where they should be regarding grades, jobs, weight, etc. and don’t even realize how often they view themselves vis a vis other people. This habit becomes ingrained and is detrimental in two ways. First is that achievement and success are hardly based on an equal playing field.
People are gifted by genetics in different ways via temperament and talents. Second, how we were raised has a huge impact on the way we use or benefit from those talents.
The biggest loss in comparing ourselves to others is that we may habitually find ourselves wanting and feel less than. Habitual comparers often don’t look at who is not doing as well as they are; instead, they see only those doing better. This is a way of putting themselves down.
Wanting to push past our limits also generates increased stress in our lives. A bit of stress might be motivating, but always wanting to be other than who you are is exhausting and often debilitating—and can lead to anxiety and depression.
The most important factors in establishing and maintaining a healthy self-image are to observe and evaluate your own progress rather than measuring yourself against others (unless you’re in a formal competition).
Charting your own progress and learning what motivates and improves you is far more useful than trying to be like or better than someone else. The focus in progress should always be on ourselves, that is, on our real potential and equally realistic limits.
Shift your focus to your life — envision yourself happy and fulfilled
Comparison is often very much a habit that has increased with the presence of social media. We see photos of people happy, out and about, and what seems like enjoying their lives. An important reminder is that people rarely post anything negative so it gives us a skewed perspective of their reality.
Giving yourself a reality check before going on social media can be a way to avoid comparison. Keeping a running list of things in your life that you are grateful for helps to keep your perspective on the positive side, rather than on all that is missing in your life (but seems apparent in others’ lives).
The moment you find yourself feeling envious of something someone else has or is, shift your focus to your life, envisioning yourself happy and fulfilled. Feeling those feelings will start to tell your body more of what you want to feel instead of the negative energy that comes with jealousy, deficiency, and lack.
Lawyer | Mediator | Conflict Resolution Author
Make sure your basic physiological needs are met
Like nearly every human I have ever met, I can’t stop comparing myself to others. By default, I size myself up this way, especially when I am feeling insecure about my business, my relationships, my health, etc.
I have noticed that I also do this more when I am not getting enough sleep, exercise, nutrient-rich food, and mental rest. So, the first thing to do is to make sure your basic physiological needs are met.
Additionally: Make a list of 10 things you love about yourself.
For example, maybe you ride horses. Even if someone else rides them, consider how do you do it differently. Do you own a horse, ride in special places, have a special relationship with a horse, etc.? Have you overcome an accident or injury related to riding? How did you get into this hobby?
Your story is unique, whatever it is. Embrace that as a gift.
Lawyer | Travel Blogger
Focus on the one person you’ve been neglecting — yourself
When you’re single, it’s easy to feel like everyone else is taken. A scroll down your Facebook news feed can reveal a baby shower, engagement and anniversary celebration in one swipe. The pressure to fit in is so immense that some people keep up appearances as a happy couple even while separated.
We all want to garner likes and feel celebrated. In the absence of a romantic milestone, embrace the one thing you have that friends with spouses or children don’t — freedom. You can pick up and go wherever you please, having to only worry about taking time off for one person or paying for one flight.
Not only will traveling give you amazing pictures to post online, but you’ll also gain a new perspective and realize that for a limited time only you get to focus on the one person you’ve been neglecting — yourself.
Founder, Taylor-Johnson Administration
Look at your strengths, goals, and your intentions
Comparing yourself to others is the same as seeking validation for how well or how badly you’re doing. Seeking validation from other people, especially ones you don’t know, causes so much damage not only to your self-esteem but also your confidence and productivity.
When we compare ourselves to others we see their end results and their best pieces. We don’t see the dirty dishes, the mini emotional outbursts, the screaming children, the pile of laundry. We often don’t know the sacrifices they make, which may well be sacrifices you can’t or don’t want to make.
A perfect example: When I was creating my business, I looked at what everyone else was doing and tried to copy it. All of it. There’s so much conflicting advice out there and trying to do it all meant I was tangling myself in knots, not making progress, and (not surprisingly) completely failing to move forward and grow. Nothing worked because I was comparing myself to others and not looking to my own skills, strengths, limitations, and goals.
There was an ‘inspirational‘ meme going around a few years ago that told us that we all have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce. It was rubbish because we don’t have those hours (more on that later).
When you study that Beyonce meme closely, it’s easy to think that you’re wasting your time. After all, why aren’t you achieving what a mega pop star can achieve? Falling into that question ends in insecurity and self-doubt. The reality is, you can’t do unless you have nannies, personal assistants, house cleaners, personal trainers, an in-home studio etc.
When it came to my business, I was comparing myself to companies that had entire teams (and I was a team of one!). I couldn’t compete or even replicate what I was seeing and I personally ensured that I felt bad about that.
Realizing that my limitations (time, team support, funds) can be used to make me strong helped wonders. I focused on the one-to-one I could offer people, the personal touch. I looked at what my strengths were, what my goals looked like, and what my intentions were and I started connecting with people who loved what I had to offer.
By recognizing that you actually don’t have all the hours that Beyonce does you’re able to set realistic expectations of yourself and develop into someone who uses themselves for their own validation.
Ashlea Hopkins, LCSW
Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Spero Works Therapy, LLC
Own your journey and focus on your goals
First, remember that what you see is only part of the story. Often there have been a series of failures and a long history of work to get to the point that you’re seeing. You don’t get to see the ugly on the way to pretty. You don’t know the full story. Your story is your own. Your journey is different. Own your own journey and focus on your own goals.
Often we compare ourselves to someone who has achieved things we haven’t even set out to achieve. The supermodel who has set out to achieve stardom and multiple magazine covers has likely worked out, dieted, and developed relationships her whole life just to achieve that goal.
Your goals are different from hers. Focus on where you are going. Is it a college degree? Is it a promotion? VP of your company? That acting gig?
Whatever it is, the time you spend comparing yourself to someone else just serves as a distraction from your own goals. Even if you want to be a supermodel, you are on your own journey. Don’t compare the journey but look for hints as to how to succeed. Look at someone else’s success as an opportunity to learn what to do or not to do.
Ask questions. Someone else’s success isn’t a reason to look down on yourself, it’s an opportunity to seek out answers to questions you might have concerning your own journey. Believe in your own potential. It’s easy to get discouraged because you are not there yet.
Also, remember that failure may mean that you need a change in plan. Morgan Freeman originally joined the Air Force to become a pilot. He is quoted as saying, “I realized I wasn’t in love with this, I was in love with the idea of this.” He changed gears and changed plans and became an actor. It didn’t come easily. He hit his big break in 1971 when he got a part on the electric company. He was 34 years old.
It can be hard to be patient in your own journey. Be patient, be kind to yourself, set goals, and enjoy the process. Take pride in the small victories along the way.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Recognize what you value and allow that to guide your decisions
Anxiety & self-doubt often play as a catalyst for continual comparison. Some degree of comparison is healthy and actually keeps us safe. Think about the last time you drove on the highway and noticed the car next to you slowing down. In that instance, you were comparing their speed to yours and perhaps it was a good thing because there was a wreck ahead.
Comparison can also, at times, help us reach our goals. In grad school, I often compared myself to my mentor who was 15 years my senior and, naturally, much further ahead in his career. That comparison pushed me to follow in his footsteps to the career I have today.
Comparison, especially in the age of social media and continual access to others, certainly has a dark side. In Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we teach patients to recognize their thoughts for what they are…..just thoughts!
What matters (and often becomes problematic) is if we allow those thoughts to change our behavior or direction. Ask yourself “will this matter in 5, 10, 25 years?” When it comes to toxic comparison, often the answer is no.
Instead, recognize what you value and allow that to guide your decisions. For example, do you value being a respected employee, a caring and compassionate mother, or a trusted friend? Then jumping off the comparison train and choosing actions that take you closer to these values is always a good step.
This will also help you come in contact with who you are from the foundation of who you WANT to be, not who you think you SHOULD be, which is often based on the societal comparison.
Quick example: Let’s say you see on social media that your acquaintance Vanessa ran ANOTHER half marathon. Perhaps your brain gives you thought like “I’m so lazy, I really need to start being more active“. Chances are, if you align with this thought it will lead to feelings of self-doubt, disappoint etc.
Instead, recognize what is important to you and matches your values. Will a race matter that much to me in 10 years or would I only be doing it to “keep up”? What’s more important to me RIGHT NOW…maybe that’s spending the time you would be training with your partner or child or advancing your career.
Start valuing yourself as an individual
A key to stop comparing yourself to others is to internalize and examine why you would even do that in the first place. Do you have self-esteem issues or feel disappointed in your own life? These are complicated issues for people to resolve but I believe this is the first step. Start valuing yourself as an individual so you don’t have the need to think of what someone else has or how they achieved success in their own life.
Another useful mental exercise is to realize that success isn’t a zero-sum game. Just because someone else finds success doesn’t mean you can’t either. The world is filled with opportunities and chances to grow so there is really no reason to be bogged down in comparisons to others.
It also helps to realize that people have all kinds of hidden struggles that you may never know about from the outside. For example, that guy with a successful business might have major relationship issues or that successful model might suffer from anxiety. Given the option, you might not even want to trade their life for yours if you knew more about them.
The last point I want to bring up is a quote I heard from Jordan Peterson that goes “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday“. By doing this you change the narrative from always looking at people ahead of you in certain areas and can instead focus on self-improvement and working on yourself over time.
To sum it all up, wish for the success of others instead of getting bogged down in envy, pay attention to your own life instead of focusing on others and always work on self-improvement. By doing this you will increase your potential to help both your life and the lives of others in the long run.
I find this is a common thread today, comparing ourselves to others. To make it worse, I have even found articles supporting arguments about being concerned, and critical of the success of others, or what others are doing.
One thing we all have to remember here is that one minute spent worrying about what others are up to, outside of a marketing study, is a minute of our life completely wasted.
Instead of wasting energy being concerned with others, we should be more focused on ourselves. Not comparing, but conducting research on ourselves to determine a few things. Here are a couple of points of interest:
What am I passionate about? What do I believe I am lacking?
Once we answer these questions, we can begin to work towards goals that will turn our comparing narrative around and channel that energy instead into our own success story. Life change is hard. If you have to, start small! Start whatever you can do to stimulate your mind in something that interests you. There are lots of fluffy “follow your dreams” type of advice out there. It may seem unrealistic and many nay-sayers will interject: “well you can’t pay the bills doing that…” I call bull on that statement.
People who are passionate about what they do tend to have a notably escalated confidence in their craft or practice. This can allow them to excel exceedingly faster than others in the field that are “just trying to pay the bills“. You might not even know what you are passionate about. But if you do some digging online or in your locale you may eventually discover what it is and start to create your opportunity to change course.
Determining what we believe we are lacking is a great way to set some goals for ourselves. Want to gain weight, lose weight? Wish you spoke Spanish? Always wanted to be good at tennis? Whatever the case may be if it is something you feel strongly about, then set some realistic goals for yourself, meet them, and continue to set more goals and knock them down.
Dive into the community and network. You’ll be pretty glad you did. In a nutshell, we have to learn how to change the course of our energy use from comparing ourselves to others, to improving oneself and believing in yourself more.
Try a meditation practice to help you manage distraction and be able to clearly identify when you have gone off track with the comparing narrative. Mindfulness practices such as meditation can simply help identify that you have wandered off, and allow you to regain control, and refocus on building oneself. Far more efficient use of your time and energy. Positive vibes only.
My first step was recognizing my triggers whether it was an activity, a time, a situation or even a person. Becoming aware of my triggers allows me to be pro-active and avoid them or limit them as much as possible.
You can’t judge a book by its cover, so don’t do it with yourself and others
You can be a much better person on the inside and you end up comparing yourself to someone who doesn’t have a heart. You never know the true reality of someone’s life unless you’re really close to them. You can end up envying someone who may look the part, but their life is falling to pieces.
I have envied those that have been incredibly financially stable and often compared their successes in finance to my own. This often pulled me down, to get me out of that negative habit, I began reminding myself that ‘money doesn’t buy happiness’. This helped to reassure myself that I don’t need the income of that person to truly be happy.
When you are constantly reminding yourself of the good in your life and being grateful for it, you stop comparing yourself to others. I found this to be one of the most important steps for me. I started appreciating what I had and began forgetting about what others had that I didn’t have.
Remember we are own harshest critic
We will often compare unfairly. Only seeing the worst in ourselves and the best in someone else. If you become aware that you are harsher on yourself than others, you can recognize that the comparisons you make are biased and irrelevant.
Women’s Empowerment Coach
Comparing ourselves to others can be exhausting. For the first forty-five years of my life, I found myself comparing or sizing myself up to others expectations of me. I worked really hard to measure up to these unrealistic expectations, even though they were not based on how I perceived myself, but rather by how others ‘thought’ about me.
For example, I was always artistic as a child and therefore I was given the role of artistic/creator in whatever classroom I was in. Often, I was pushed into a situation even when I was uninspired and resisted. This pressure took away my artistic drive and I began judging my forced work against the creative work of those around me.
Unfortunately, this process went on for many years and by high school, I had stopped pursuing any artistic opportunities that were presented to me. I turned to sports instead, and although I loved competing on the soccer field, competing in the creative field was not only something I hated, but it stopped me from ever wanting to share my art with others for fear of judgment. And so I stopped.
It wasn’t until my mid-forties when I rediscovered my love for art and creativity.
I had recently sold my business that I had spent fifteen years building, due to an unhappy partnership. I was devastated and was unsure of what my next career would be.
I began walking the beach each morning trying to figure out my next direction. One walk turned into two and before I knew it, I began walking every morning, because I enjoyed the solitude and it provided me with a clear space to think.
I began thinking about what I had done before I started my business. And this is when it hit me. I lost both of my parents in my early twenties. My mother to breast cancer and my father to a massive heart attack. Rather than taking the time to grieve, I filled my life with having babies and building my business. I hadn’t taken the time to grieve their loss. Keeping busy was my way of moving on.
So as I walked the beach seeking direction and insight, I began having conversations with my parents. I would look up into the heavens and ask for a sign or a message to let me know that I was on the right path. Miraculously, almost every time, I would look down and find a heart-shaped rock or a rare piece of sea glass on the beach.
I saw them as signs and they made me happy. It was around this time that I also noticed that many other people who walked the same beach seemed lost in thought as well. I wondered if they too were contemplating something and if maybe I could create a sign for them.
I began writing uplifting messages on rocks and leaving them on the beach for others to find. I thought that they might help people during a challenging time. One rock turned into two rocks and then I began creating inspirational gardens with a sign that read, “The Kindness Rocks Project…Take one if you need one, or share one with a friend, One message at just the right moment can change someone’s entire day, outlook, life“.
My personal hobby went viral, and my messages turned into creative designs and images all with the purpose of making someone happy. I rediscovered my joy in creating and for art while helping others. Now, my art is created without concern for perfection or in comparison of others work. What I also discovered is that simple acts of kindness can help us get out of comparison mode and into a place of gratitude. The comparison is the thief of joy and kindness is the key!
Nearly everyone falls into the comparison trap, because we all want to be better, do more, achieve greatness. And we don’t realize that we are allowed to be content with the greatness we already have, so we get stuck on trying to keep up with everyone else in the hopes that we will be happy.
Here’s the main problem with comparison in the age of social media: what you see on Instagram is not the whole picture. You can’t compare 100% of your life, artwork, interior design skills, or Target bargain prowess to the 1% of what you can see from someone else.
I promise you, every person has doubts and looks up to somebody else as a measure of success. I really encourage people to find mentors, look up to people who are working toward similar goals, and associate with a social system of people that help them grow — but you can’t get your validation from outside yourself and you can’t expect that your life will look exactly like anyone else’s.
When you let go of perfection, achievement, and comparison, you make space for your inherent talents and joys to grow. You’ll find yourself drifting to new hobbies or interests to explore, and you’ll probably feel a lot more satisfied with goals that suit you and your individual life instead of chasing someone else’s dream.
Accept that no one has a perfect life
With the buzz of the internet, social media, and peer pressure, it is easy to fall into comparison with other people. The pictures on the screen tell the story of a stronger and smarter person out there. Next comes jealousy, envy, and low-self esteem. It is important to stop this cycle by accepting that no one has a perfect life. Everyone is going through a battle, some are able to mask it better than others.
The first step is to focus on your own growth
A gratitude journal is essential to celebrate the small things in life that we take for granted. It could be as simple as having a roof over your head, food, clothing, a stream of income, a family, a child, etc. Shifting your focus to yourself is the first step to recognizing the beauty in your life. Additionally, creating an accountability structure helps to track wins and focus on growth. Seeing where you started and your present situation brings back your focus on progress and not perfection.
The second step is to celebrate small wins
Don’t wait for a grand event to give yourself a tap on the back. Perhaps you are prepping for a marathon, award your efforts while training – for getting up early and showing up daily – a night out in the restaurant, going to the movies, or taking an art class.
Don’t spend endless times scrolling past pics after pics. Use a timer anytime you are on social media. It has been suggested to restrict to only one hour a day.
The next time, you are feeling down and it might seem easier to look at your phone or a computer to justify that people are better off than you. Shut off that small voice and celebrate the progress and the beauty in your life.
Author | Former Child Actress
Start a dream of your own and work towards it
I have an identical twin sister. We look exactly the same. She was born a minute and a half before me and she’s an inch and a half taller. You could say I’ve been trying to catch up with her my whole life. Growing up I never felt that I could measure up—in school, sports, with guys, but mostly that she had this confidence about her. Confidence in whatever she was doing or saying or working towards.
You think I would have eventually grown out of it, but even as an adult, married with children of my own, in my mind every move was measured with my sister’s yardstick. The comparison is a lie that takes place in our minds.
That all changed three years ago when I woke up from brain surgery. I don’t know how but something happened when my surgeon cut a long straight line on my scalp. I woke up feeling for the first time that I had a story, one that had nothing to do with my sister. For the first time, I was free.
As my incision healed, a dream began to form in my heart. The dream of becoming an author and a speaker of stories. I realized that was the key—I’d never had a dream of my own. Chasing my sister’s pursuits and accomplishments only left me in a game of comparison. A contest I would surely never win. I realized that comparing ourselves to others silences the extraordinary stories we are living. When I’m not dreaming, I start comparing. If you want to put a comparison behind you, start a dream of your own and work towards it.
Passion and Mindset Coach
Be aware of exactly where you are right now
The first thing people who often compare themselves to someone else need to realize is that everyone is unique. There are no two people who look, think or feel the same, and have exactly the same skills and environment. This makes it impossible from the beginning to become just like another person. Of course, you can take others as your role model and decide to develop in that direction. You should never compare with the role model anyway.
It is best to compare yourself with yourself. Before you take the necessary steps, you should be aware of exactly where you are right now. If one then wants to compare his progress, one can do this simply with his past-self. So you see, what was successful and should be pursued and what should perhaps be reconsidered. So you can adapt your path to your own progress and set the appropriate next goals.
To set high goals is good in itself, but you should always remain realistic in order to achieve them.
Senior Sales Rep, Lessonly
Cut the noise out and figure out what’s important for you
One of the biggest things that’s helped me cut down on comparing myself to others is simply cutting out the noise around me and the visibility I have into what other people are doing. What this means, is I cut down on Slack (our workplace communication tool) and how plugged into I am, since I can see updates on how others are performing in it, Same goes for Salesforce where I can see myself ranked next to everyone else.
My goal is always to be better than I was in the past. Comparing myself to others where we all have different variable factors determining our success isn’t fair to myself, whether I’m doing better than everyone or worse. Just a 1% improvement every day is all it takes to become truly extraordinary!
Another thing that’s helped me immensely is to audit how I’m declaring whether or not a day is ‘good’ or not. In sales, it’s easy to classify a day as good when we have a bunch of people tell us yes in a day. This backfires, however, when there are days when you’re doing all the right things and nothing is coming your way.
It was during one of these downswings that I had to take a good hard look at my definition of a good day because it was becoming non-functional for me. I ended up coming up with a few different ways that I would classify my days as good and I’ll share them with you here. Am I doing all that I can on my end to set myself up for success? Am I being a good husband? Am I being a good son? Am I being a good sibling? Am I being a good co-worker? Am I being a good employee?
Those things are all more important to me than whether or not I close a deal or not and there what I want to be known for.
My advice for someone struggling with this? Cut the noise out and figure out what’s important for you. Once you know this, it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Cause they have different goals and you know you’re working on your own goals.