Stop Comparing Yourself To Others In Ten Easy Steps

We all tend to compare ourselves to others too much. Follow these steps to break free from comparisons and find your own worth.
share on facebook share on pinterest share on linkedin
Comparing yourself to others
Image Source: Medium

Comparing ourselves to other people is a common occurrence. In every aspect of life, whether it be physical appearance, academic achievements, family, wealth, or talent, people tend to look to other people to find out how they measure up. While having an awareness of the people around you can be used in a positive way, if left unchecked, these comparisons can have a negative effect on your mental health. 

It's important to understand why we compare ourselves to others, how to use those comparisons in a beneficial way, and what to do when comparing yourself to other people goes too far. 

The Psychology Behind the Comparison and Social Comparison Theory

In order to change how we compare ourselves to others, it’s important to understand where this habit comes from. To do so, we must turn to what social psychologist Leon Festinger (1919-89) called social comparison theory

Put simply, social comparison theory is the idea that we compare ourselves to the people around us to measure and understand our own accomplishments and place in society. The theory was named by Festinger in 1954 but has been studied for centuries. According to The Handbook of Social Comparison, edited by Suls and Wheeler, Aristotle himself observed social comparison theory through his studies of human relationships and how they inform the concept of the ‘self’. 

There are two types of social comparison: upward social comparison and downward social comparison. If we compare ourselves to those we think of as ‘above’ us, we are doing upward social comparison. Downward social comparison happens when we compare ourselves to those we feel are ‘not at our level’. Both types of comparison have distinct benefits and drawbacks. 

Another idea Festinger put forward is that being part of a more admirable social group will have a stronger effect on one’s psyche and lead to increased awareness and desire to fit in. Additionally, someone who perceives themselves at the top of their ‘group’ will not push themselves as hard to excel as they would if they felt ‘behind’ their peers. 

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Social Comparison Theory

Like any psychological phenomenon, the social comparison has definitive attributes and drawbacks. It’s important to understand both its positive and negative aspects because everyone will likely be affected by both. 

At its best, social comparison leads us to emulate the positive attributes we notice in others. For example, a younger sibling may pick up the study habits of their older sibling and excel in school. Social comparison can also lead to competitive energy; for example, athletes continue to excel by challenging each other. This inner drive to succeed or improve is its greatest benefit. 

Still, for every benefit, there is a possible drawback. Too much comparison can lead to lower self-esteem and a negative attitude towards one’s body or mind. It can lead to feelings of superiority towards those we see as ‘below’ us or envy towards those ‘above’ us.

Finally, social comparison can deceive us by giving us a false sense of skill level or ability that won’t hold up later in life. A classic example of this is a student who was top of their class suddenly struggling to keep up in their college courses. While social comparison can give us information about the world around us, the information is not always beneficial or accurate. 

Understanding the way social comparison works and choosing to utilize its benefits while also building self-esteem on your own terms is the best way to change the way you see yourself. 

Understanding and Overcoming Envy

Image Source: Synergy Merchants

Envy is defined as “a feeling of disconnected or resentful longing”. It’s a social emotion that arises when a person is dissatisfied with some aspect of their life and longs for what another person has. Some companies capitalize on envy, using it to sell makeup or promote workout regimes so their customers can become more like the models or influencers they see. In extreme circumstances, feelings of envy can lead to sabotaging someone else’s success.  

According to Psychology Today, scientists have begun to theorize that there are two types of envy: benign envy and malicious envy. Benign envy guides us towards emulating those people we envy while malicious envy leads to putting others down. The emotion of envy does not change; rather, the distinction lies in our own active response to that emotion. 

Just like social comparison theory, envy can be unavoidable. What we do have control over is our choices. There is always a possibility to grow. 

Understanding and Overcoming Self-Criticism

self critic
Image Source: Mind Mastery

GoodTherapy calls self-criticism a way of pointing out your own flaws. Self-criticism, like envy, can be helpful in small doses but harmful in excess. There are two types of self-criticism according to The Levels of Self-Criticism Scale. Internalized self-comparison comes from a perceived failure in comparison to some ideal or personally held belief. Comparative self-comparison, which we will focus on here, comes from social comparison.

I used to be very self-critical when I was young, especially when participating in theater. It started as a way to improve my acting skills. By noticing my weaknesses, I was able to work my way up to larger roles. Still, the longer I remained in theater, the more I compared myself to all the other actors. I became so self-critical it made me insecure and unable to enjoy participating in those performances. It also had a huge negative impact on my self-esteem that took years to overcome. 

Self-criticism is something we all do, but it’s also something we all need to keep in check. I should have balanced out the critique by appreciating my own growth as an actor and letting myself enjoy every show I was a part of no matter what role I was cast in. My own drive to become the ‘best’ robbed me of the joy of performing. I had to relearn my own worth and work hard to gain my confidence back. 

Ten Easy Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Self-comparison has psychological and evolutionary origins, but it also comes from insecurity. If we find fault in ourselves, we turn to comparison and use it to justify and feed into those negative feelings. These ten tips help to shift the focus away from comparison and encourage self-acceptance and growth. 

1. Focus on your own goals

It can be easy to envy others for achieving ‘success,’ but success looks different for everyone. Success can mean getting a high-paying job, pursuing higher education, getting married and building a family, making a difference through charity work, growing spiritually, writing a book, or a million other things that bring fulfillment. Nobody can do it all, so focus on what you can do and what you want to accomplish. 

Going on social media used to be overwhelming for me. Seeing so many of my peers continuing school and getting married made me feel inferior like I was failing in some way. In time, I came to realize that what I envied was the idea of ‘success,’ not the specific milestones my friends were hitting.

Through understanding myself and what success will look like for me, I was able to let go of that envy and feel true happiness for others. Defining success on my own terms instead of society’s took the pressure off, and I am much happier for it. 

2. Reach out for validation from those around you

Just reaching out to express how you’ve been feeling to your friends and family members can help reduce negative thought cycles and make you feel more secure in your own worth. There’s a reason talk therapy is one of the most effective forms of therapy; through talking, you are given the chance to rationalize your thoughts and regain perspective on different situations. 

It’s safe to assume that your loved ones have high opinions of you, and there is nothing wrong with asking for their reassurance from time to time. The confidence that my loved ones have in me always gives me the courage to take on new challenges. Having that courage makes me less likely to compare myself to others and more likely to focus on my own goals. 

3. Be mindful when interacting with social media

Social media allows us a measure of control over how we are perceived. By curating an online ‘persona’, we highlight the accomplishments and victories of our lives while covering up our hardships. At the same time, celebrities and influencers are paid to promote a certain image that rarely reflects their true appearances or personalities. 

It can be so easy to use social media in a negative way. But it isn’t fair to compare your reality to someone else’s highlight reel. Just staying mindful about the truths of social media- how much is fabricated- can stop those negative thoughts before they spin out of control. 

4. Value the process, not just the end results

Social media is a great way to display your accomplishments to the world. However, it often omits the hours (sometimes years) of effort that precede those accomplishments. Somebody posting about a new job title will likely not mention the rejected applications that preceded it. A person showing off their fitness transformation doesn’t always mention the number of hours they spent working towards that result. 

Always keep in mind that everybody we look up to had to overcome their own obstacles to get to where they are now. Start giving yourself credit for every step of your journey instead of feeling frustrated that you’re not achieving results ‘fast enough’. Great things take time. 

5. Change your perspective of yourself

There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve your life, nor with being aware of your own shortcomings. These things are instrumental for growth. However, it can be all too easy to fall into negative cycles of thinking. Constantly putting yourself down can damage self-esteem and make it harder to excel in the long run. 

Start building a better relationship with yourself by paying attention to your thoughts. Try talking to yourself in the same way you would talk to a friend or family member. Although it can take time, learning to forgive yourself for mistakes and to be proud of yourself for accomplishments leads to a healthier mindset. 

By working on self-care and building up my self-esteem, my mental and physical health have both improved. I also found the confidence to take on new challenges and the tenacity to deal with setbacks in all aspects of my life. 

6. Change your perspective of the world

It can take time to find your place in the world. Being in a competitive job market or trying to succeed in a creative career leads to the belief that we have to be the best at what we do to have any chance of success. When that belief becomes overwhelming, it’s important to take a step back and reassess. 

When I participated in concert band, I was always frustrated not to get the first chair. What I should have realized was that an orchestra needs many players in order to sound its best. Even though I wasn’t at the same level as our first chair clarinet, I was still able to improve enough to get a music scholarship at university. 

There will always be room for musicians, writers, and teachers in the world. Being the best isn’t always realistic, and it isn’t the only way to achieve success. 

7. Think of yourself as multifaceted

Everybody has strengths and weaknesses. We perceive ourselves to be particularly good at one thing or another, whether it’s in work, hobbies, or even personal characteristics. However, when we only think of ourselves as being talented in one thing, it’s easy to feel insecure. 

Always remember that you are a multifaceted individual; you have hundreds of skills and admirable qualities. Facing setbacks in one area of life can be devastating, but it doesn’t detract from your inherent worth. Remembering this can help you find balance in life and feel more secure around people you might normally be threatened by. 

8. Identify and appreciate what makes you unique

This tip is especially useful when working in a team-based environment, whether it be participating in an after-school activity or having a job that requires close interaction with coworkers.

Every individual has specific strengths and weaknesses. While being part of a team can be overwhelming, one way to ground yourself is to remember what makes you unique. The best teams are those which are diverse and know how to find balance with each other. 

While working in a team-teaching environment, I use this tip to stop myself from trying to compete with my fellow teachers. I don’t attempt to be as loud and energetic as my other employees. Instead, I draw on my quiet nature to balance out their energy and work with the students who respond better to a calmer approach. Working together helps all of us excel in our own unique ways.

9. Practice gratitude 

Comparing yourself to others is all about longing for something you don’t have. To combat this, take time every day to give thanks (to whomever or whatever makes sense to you) for every good thing in your life.

The more you practice, the easier it will be to notice the blessings you already have. This doesn’t mean you can’t move forward; just take the time to also appreciate where you are now. Building a positive mindset will also make you appreciate those future accomplishments and blessings so much more. 

10. Look back at how far you’ve come

Finally, if you still struggle with comparing yourself to others, try comparing the person you are now to the person you were in the past. Take stock of how much you’ve done, the good experiences and happy memories, and all the personal growth you’ve already experienced.

It’s far too often that we sell ourselves short while building up the accomplishments of others in our heads. Being proud of yourself for everything you’ve done doesn’t make you vain; in many cases, it’s just the validation needed to keep things in perspective and truly feel content.  


We have so much more control over our minds than we think. When we choose to understand where different thought patterns and behaviors come from, we become capable of making positive changes. Social comparison is something that everyone does, but having an understanding of why it occurs and how to make positive changes can help us move forward and feel better about ourselves.

share on facebook share on pinterest share on linkedin
A twenty-something writer trying to find her place in the world. I love my dog, mugs of hot tea, and all things make-believe.

No Saves yet. Share it with your friends.

Write Your Diary

Get Free Access To Our Publishing Resources

Independent creators, thought-leaders, experts and individuals with unique perspectives use our free publishing tools to express themselves and create new ideas.

Start Writing