The Antidote To Comparison & How To Benefit From It

Does comparison have to be the thief of joy?

Something we experience pretty often is the act of comparing ourselves to others. We try to understand our place in the world by comparing our looks, possessions, skills, and abilities to those of others.

But when you compare yourself to others, are you often feeling inspired and motivated? Or are you left feeling defeated and discouraged?

If you often feel down after comparing yourself to others and you could use an antidote to comparison, this post is for you.

 

This post is all about the antidote to comparison.

comparison is the thief of joy

 

Comparison is nothing new

We all fall victim to comparing ourselves to others. According to Psychology Today [1], there’s even a theory that calls this out – Social Comparison theory is “the idea that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others.” This theory was developed in 1954 by a psychologist by the name of Leon Festinger.

It’s interesting that Psychology Today’s definition of the theory isn’t “the idea that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they FEEL they stack up against others” – because let’s be real — just because we compare and make a decision of whether or not we are better or worse off than another individual doesn’t make it TRUE or real. 

We aren’t always right in our comparisons – we can be hard on ourselves and perceive ourselves as less than others very quickly, and/or our egos can come rushing in to tell us that we are better than others for one reason or another. 

And we rarely, if ever, have all the information we need to make the best comparison possible.

Take social media, for example. When we compare ourselves to people on social media, we are comparing ourselves to a fraction of who a person is, but our minds are convinced that we’ve got the full picture because that’s all the information that we have access to. 

And then, who knows if what we DO see is real or not… it’s hard to be authentic on social media, so most people don’t do it.

Even after knowing all of this, we continue to compare ourselves.

 

Good Comparison

The good news is that comparison isn’t all bad. If harnessed correctly, it can motivate and inspire us.

For example, if you perceive someone to be similar to you in a variety of other characteristics, but in one particular area they excel in something that you’d like to excel in, you might think to yourself, “we are so similar that if they can do this thing, then so can I.” 

When this is the type of comparison we are working with, it can help us instead of hindering us. This type of comparison can give us hope and inspire us to keep moving forward instead of making us doubt ourselves entirely.

 

When comparison gets the best of you

On the other hand, if we compare ourselves to others and are left feeling less-than, saddened, and/or discouraged, comparison is usually not very beneficial.

I remember running on the treadmill in an Orangetheory class when the guy next to me started running much faster and for much longer than I was able to. 

Before being next to him on the treadmill, I had thought myself to be in pretty good running shape. I was proud of the progress I had made over the last few months, and I was feeling really good about myself! But as soon as I compared myself to this guy, my self confidence plummeted.

I started telling myself things like “well, clearly I’m not in that good of shape after all”.

But as I continued to run next to him, I realized something really important. And that was that I have no idea who this guy is or what his experience with running has been.

I was comparing myself to him based on one simple metric – running ability – without taking into consideration ALL of the other factors that might make us VERY different, like: biological differences, how long he’d been training at OrangeTheory/outside of OrangeTheory, whether he was an experienced runner or not, etc. The list goes on. 

I was quick to determine that I was “less than” him and a bad runner without looking at the full picture and all of the things that could make us different over the course of our lives.

 

Who you should compare yourself to 

When thoughts of doubt start to creep in after comparing yourself to someone else, it can be helpful to train your mind to compare yourself to someone entirely different – you.

Instead of comparing yourself to someone you perceive to be far “better” , “more qualified”, or “more skilled” than you, take a quick trip down memory lane to a version of you from months or years ago.

Have you improved since then? Are you stronger? Better? If you can say “yes” (or even “kinda”) to these questions, you can feel proud of the progress that you’ve made. You are the only person with the experiences and life that you have so it only makes sense to look back on who you were before and where you’re at now to get an accurate read on your progress.

If you look back at a previous version of yourself and you feel that you haven’t made much progress since, it might be time to start changing things up so you can ensure that 6 months to a year from now when you look back again you can say with confidence that — yes, you’ve made progress.

Comparing myself to that guy at Orangetheory did nothing for me. It’s not like I’m trying to race this guy – so what do I care if he’s better than me or not? All that matters is if I’m content with the progress that I’m making.

As long as we continue to show up and put in work over time, there’s no way we won’t see progress, even if it’s incredibly small.

If when you’re comparing yourself to someone else you start to feel small, train your mind to switch that comparison from someone else to a past version of you.

 

The antidote to comparison

It may be enough to simply think back on the skills and abilities of a past version of you to overcome feelings of doubt that comparison might cause, but what if we could take it a step further?

What if we could truly see the progress that we’re making over time? What if we had tangible proof that we’re getting better?

This is where the antidote of comparison comes in: tracking.

If you really want to see whether or not you are improving, document the things you are doing and what you are capable of as often as possible. Tracking whatever it is that you care about is a great way to see if you are truly on the right path or if you need to change directions.

Take your personal finances for example. If you want to see if you are spending less over time, start tracking your purchases each day. Or, if you want to track whether or not you’re eating better, track your food intake.

Whatever it is that you want to improve on or witness progress in, track it and track some more.

When you look back one day on all of your tracking, there’s a small chance that you won’t look back with pride when you see how far you’ve come.

 

Why tracking is so beneficial

Why is tracking the antidote to comparison? Not only will looking back months or years from now be so much more impactful because you documented your work toward the thing you’re trying to get better at, but it will also be a great reminder of how intentional you’ve been and how far you’ve come.

When we compare ourselves to others, we often forget about all of the little things we’ve done to get where we are. But with tracking, there’s no way you’ll forget. You’ll always be mindful of the effort you’ve put in, and that will always give you a boost of confidence when you need it.

Tracking also helps you have perspective. When we compare ourselves to others, our brains seem to forget about allll of the time, effort, and energy it’s taken to get to where we are today. Our brains take complex comparisons and make quick and easy decisions when deciding who is “better” and who is “worse” — but we know it’s not that simple.

The next time you are feeling less than someone else for whatever reason, remind yourself what’s important to you and then start tracking the progress you’re making or look back at your notes where you tracked all the work you’ve put in.

It’s cliché but it’s true – the only person you should be comparing yourself to is a past version of you – so go make them proud.

 

This post was all about the antidote to comparison.

 

Sources:

[1] Psychology Today

 

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About Taylor

About Taylor

A few years after graduating college, Taylor made it her mission to become debt free. After paying off all $60k of debt, she began to blog about what she's really passionate about: personal development. Nowadays, Taylor blogs about the topics of Mindset, Money, Health, and Career for women.

"It's Per$onal" is a super popular and anonymous blog series about the personal lives and finances of women all over the world. Check it out!

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