The right way to compare to others

compare-to-others
We all compare. It’s human nature. We look at other people’s lives and notice the differences. We are younger, older, smarter, wiser, more or less attractive, healthier, richer or poorer. We have or don’t have something others do. There is so many ways and so many things we can compare.

Our whole society is built on comparison. And competition. And even though it is a very natural thing to notice our differences – it’s the way we interpret them that counts. And most of the time, we do it the wrong way. We see other people as better, more successful and accomplished, more good-looking. And then we feel bad about ourselves. Insignificant. Unworthy.

When it comes to love, dating and relationships – comparison is one of the biggest reasons for feeling miserable. When you are single you compare yourself with those who have a partner, which makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you. When you are in a relationship – but you’re not happy with it, you look at your single friends and wish you were in their place. Or you see a seemingly happy couple and you wonder why you can’t have what they have.

The way we compare is usually harming and unproductive, and I am certain that if we stopped comparing and competing so much, we’d be much happier in our lives, right here and now. But I am also aware it’s almost impossible to stop doing it. So the only way to feel better about ourselves is to start comparing smarter.

I used to compare myself a lot with others when I was a teenager and young adult. Some of my friends were more attractive and slimmer than me. Some had nicer parents (or so I thought). Some had more money and more beautiful clothes. Some did really cool things, traveled the world, had interesting jobs and hobbies. I wished I was like them. It mostly made me bitter, unhappy and envious.

As I grew older, I gradually realised it’s not so bad to be me after all. But I also found out that the things I had or did, and the way I looked, didn’t make me very happy. And I began to see that what those other people had didn’t really make them very happy either. We all had something different, but nobody was satisfied with their particular package.

It’s because most of us don’t know how to happy where we are, and we always think that we need to get something else or more, and then everything will fall into place. And we only see the surface of other people’s lives – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real life troubles and struggles are hidden under the water.

I still compare today, but I do it in a way that makes me much happier in my own skin – and much better at comparing. Here are some of my tips for better comparing:

1 – COMPARE TO GET INSPIRED, NOT DISCOURAGED

Comparison should serve to give you ideas and inspiration to improve your life. If you see someone who is happier and more accomplished than you, ask them how they do it. Study and observe them to see what is it they do, feel or think. What makes them feel good? How did they achieve that?

Comparison should only serve to help you feel better, not worse. And it should inspire action – if you see something you like and want, you should look for ways to get it yourself.

Of course, this doesn’t always work – if you want things like a completely different body, a marriage proposal from a prince or your own island, for example – but those are not things that will make you truly happy either. The ones that truly matter are always within your reach. Always.

2 – COMPARE YOURSELF WITH YOURSELF

The best and most useful use of comparison is when you compare your today self with your old self. Thinking about all the silly and immature things you used to do when you were younger should make you feel good. To see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown as a person can be truly empowering.

However, try not to have regrets for the things you did or didn’t do when you were younger. It’s all part of your life path, and you would have done better if you had known better. So forgive yourself and look on the positive side – be grateful and proud of yourself that you feel much better and wiser now.

If you feel you haven’t changed or improved when you look back, or you feel your younger self enjoyed and loved life more – that is a sign that should motivate you to rethink your life now, and prompt you to action.

Don’t dwell on the lost opportunities of your past, there is plenty of them right now, right here! And those are the ones you can actually do something about. Looking back with regret doesn’t do anything, except make you feel worse.

3 – DON’T JUST COMPARE WITH THOSE WHO ARE BETTER

And when you do compare with others – be realistic. Don’t just compare yourself with people who are better than you in some way. Look at the whole population, or your whole group of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Try to see where you are relative to everyone – not just the high achievers.

That will give you a much more grounded and positive perspective – you are worse off in some ways, but you’re also better and more advanced in others. And in return, instead of always feeling less successful – you’ll get much more personal satisfaction out of the comparison.

If there is something that you truly want – you can look up to people who did it already, but also look around you to see how many are there who are struggling just like you. Give yourself some compassion, just like you’d give it to someone else in your situation. It’s very toxic to just compare to the best, or the ones who have something more than we do.

It takes away our personal power. The power to change, improve, make things better. But most of all – the power of making you feel good just as you are, right here, right now. And there is so much to you already that can make you feel good – all you need to do is just take notice of it.

YOUR THOUGHTS…?

How do you usually compare yourself to others? Does it make you feel good or bad?

Do you sometimes look back on yourself and think about how you’ve changed? How does that make you feel?

Share it in the comments below! Thanks.

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7 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    I enjoy reading these post . They really do help. Thanks

  2. Tins says:

    I’m new to this site, but I suspect it will help me a lot in my journey. I’m a single mum, freshly out of a relationship with someone who I feel was holding me back. In the end I had the courage (yes that is the right word) to end it and find myself on my own again, more tired but much happier than before.
    When I sit and compare myself honestly with the person I was, I now smile. Materially I have very little at the moment, but I’m on a path to a new career that I think will bring me great happiness. And I need to remember to pat myself on the back from time to time as I’m doing this whilst being a full-time Mum.
    Thank you for a great post.

    • Petra says:

      Thank you for sharing your story. I know it takes a lot of courage and strength to move away from people and things that are not good for us. It’s never easy and there’s a lot of fear and doubt to conquer on the way. But once we are on the other side, life truly gets better and even if we feel we lost something, we always get new and better opportunities. If we take care of ourselves, life does take better care of us too 🙂

  3. Adam says:

    I enjoyed reading this, and agree wholeheartedly with it. It is easy to get locked in destructive status competition with others, never being satisfied and always wanting more, only to end up frustrated and burnt out. I think happiness can be achieved by easing back a little, and making/spending time for those people in our lives that we enjoy the company of and make us feel uplifted (assuming those people are also willing and able to make time to spend with you as well).

  4. Ms Jones says:

    Hi Petra –

    Thank you for this interesting and relevant post. I see and hear a lot of “comparing” going on and a lot of it is not for the best.

    I think comparison for the purpose of buying a piece of furniture or a car or which foods to buy in a supermarket is extremely logical.

    We are all unique individuals. To learn from others and be inspired by others is worthwhile. To reach out to others to help and inspire them is worthwhile.

    Sometimes when I feel particularly low I “compare” myself to where I aught to be in life. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances and I do my best. I think some of this “comparison” is the result of judgements coming from the outside as well. People love to gossip and seem to feel free to comment on every possible aspect of another’s life. If I took it all in I would never walk out of my front door! It is a big obstacle that is really not too helpful. Then I think of all the positive things I have going for me and what I can do. I know I am just a regular person with the normal ups and downs in life. I remind myself of my inner reserve and the difficulties I have moved through in life. Sometimes I am worn out, but this also gives me confidence to know it will all work out.

    I believe that comparison and judgement on the whole is a very slippery slope.
    I have worked very hard to cultivate relationships with open minded people who are comfortable in their own skin.
    When people are constantly comparing themselves to one another it erodes the self esteem of all involved. I do not have to substantiate my “value” to others as they do not have to do so to me. There seems to be a lot of this going on and I think it is very harmful.

    My life is no “better” or “worse” than others. I can admire someone who has accomplished something fabulous – say a cure for a deadly disease.

    In our society we place such a premium on superficial matters it is no wonder people have so much difficultly finding love in relationships or good relationships in general. Am I good enough? is he/she better? Is the place that I live good enough? Am I okay? People are confused, and they confuse those around them.

    The essence of the individual is the most important thing. It is not quantifiable.To me that shows a real lack of intrinsic understanding of value of human beings and our purpose on Earth as spiritual creatures with souls. Not to sound too preachy here, but I think we are so overloaded with materialism that many have lost sight of basic human worth and diversity. Respect for individual differences in ourselves and others is the only healthy way I can see of relating to others.

    I remember once many years ago thinking that if I waited for all the pieces of my life to be in order before being “good enough” to start a relationship, I would probably wait for ever. So I just went ahead because we all need love.

    We are not cars, pieces of furniture or items in a grocery store.

    Thank you for opening this line of discussion.