Comparing ourselves to others is something we’ve done practically our whole lives. Remember when you were a kid and you would compare your toys to your friend’s toys? There was always someone else who had a newer or better toy than the one you had, even if yours was just as great. The point here is, comparing ourselves to others is wired into human condition.
We’re often told that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to other people, which we shouldn’t but sometimes you just can’t help it. Comparing yourself to someone else can actually be beneficial if it’s done the right way and with the right intentions. The only time it starts to become a problem is when it causes us to undermine ourselves. When this happens, it’s important to recognize it and stop it from happening again.
There are lots of reasons why we compare ourselves to others. Jordan Harbinger, critically acclaimed podcast host for The Jordan Harbinger Show, said it best, “We compare our bloopers to other people’s highlights.” In other words, we tend to compare our mishaps to other people’s successes. Social media makes this very easy for us to do. We see our friends or complete strangers showcasing their “perfect” life and we instantly compare it to ours. Just remember, that person is only letting you see what they want you to see.
Another reason we compare ourselves is to help us define where we are in life. For instance, you may compare yourself to a friend that’s your same age and it’s in a solid relationship while you’re still single and not trying to mingle. This type of comparison can happen quite frequently, especially with people in our same age bracket. In fact, we’re more likely to compare ourselves with someone who is similar to us rather than someone that is significantly different from us. For example, we’re more likely to compare ourselves with a colleague rather than the CEO of the company because there’s a significant difference between you and the CEO.
OK, so now that you know why we compare ourselves to other people let’s talk about how you can actually control it. The best way to overcome comparison is to turn it from a negative to a positive. Instead of using comparisons to make you feel bad about yourself, start looking at it as a form of motivation. When you encounter someone that’s successful, look at yourself objectively to see how you compare to what they’ve done. Use their accomplishments as a motivation to follow in their footsteps while also creating your own path.
I tend to practice this when I’m browsing on LinkedIn. I search for the job title and company I would like to work for and see who currently holds the position. From there, I look at their LinkedIn profile and review their experience and skills so I can compare it to mine. Once I know their background, I’m able to identify the key factors that helped them get the job and assess the steps I need to take to do the same.
I’m not going to tell you to stop comparing yourself to others because let’s face it, you’ll probably end up doing it one way or another. Instead, change how you compare yourself to others and the motivations behind it. If you start to have negative feelings toward yourself, practice changing your mindset. It may take some time but in the end, you’ll thank yourself for not being such a harsh self-critic.