Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

This is a phrase that I have heard many times from my parents, friends, mentors and even myself. We all do it. We all compare ourselves to others constantly. It’s human nature. According to Thomas Mussweiler, a professor of organizational behavior, there is actually a biological reason why we are prone to comparing ourselves to others. Mussweiler says that comparison is “one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we’re good at, and what we’re not so good at.” Most of the time, this comparison is made quickly and subconsciously, without us even realizing we are doing it. It can sometimes be positive, helping to inspire improvement, but it is too often a means to pick ourselves apart and point out everything we think is wrong with ourselves. There is no doubt that comparison can deeply affect our happiness, confidence and mental health.

We all know it’s bad. “Just stop comparing yourself to others. You’ll be so much happier!” Well, that is much easier said than done. If you’re anything like me, you compare yourself to your friends, to people you don’t even know, to celebrities, even to yourself. There have been times when I am talking to someone and only thinking about how much prettier, smarter, funnier (the list goes on and on and on…) they are than me. I am not even paying attention to what they are saying because I am so worried about how I compare to them. So much of my life has been wasted comparing myself to other people, and when I finally realized that, frankly, I was frustrated with myself. I thought, “Why can’t I be confident enough to not compare myself? I wish I had her confidence.” And yet again, my brain would devise another comparison. It was an endless, toxic cycle that was certainly not good for my mental health.

From what I have experienced, college is an environment in which comparison is inevitable. You are constantly around people that are “similar” to you, roughly the same age and have chosen the same school. As much as I love my friends, I find myself comparing what I do and how I act to them all the time. She skipped lunch today; I shouldn’t have eaten that sandwich. She studied for four hours but I only studied for two. She looks so good in that top; I wish I looked like that. The reality is, this is not a reflection of them, but a reflection of you. Comparing yourself to your friends is so common because those are the people you are around the most. It is very possible to think highly of other people without putting yourself down in return. But how do we get there?

When talking about the negative effects comparison can have on a person, I have often heard the phrase, “Only compare yourself to yourself.” While the idea of this phrase is understandable, I don’t believe we should be comparing ourselves to ourselves. This kind of comparison has actually been the hardest on me. I was so much thinner then; I wish I still looked like that. I always got straight As in high school; why am I struggling in class now? We all change through the different seasons of our lives. We are not meant to stay the same. Comparing yourself now to yourself three years ago, or at any previous stage of life, is unreasonable. Without change and growth, life would be nothing but a stagnant, boring routine.  

So, now that we have been reminded that comparison is unhealthy, how do we stop it? Well, like I said, comparison is a natural human instinct. It’s impossible to eradicate it completely. However, we can start by being aware of it. This week is my spring break, and I didn’t travel anywhere tropical or fun. I am not in Florida or Mexico but instead the lovely suburbs of Chicago. At first I was upset that everyone around me seemed to be going different places and I was just going home. But honestly, going on walks in my neighborhood, eating dinner with my grandparents and watching basketball with my family has been just what I needed. There is no shame in doing something different than what everyone else is doing. We all have different needs, and we have to nurture those needs accordingly. Honestly, if nothing else, writing this has been a great reminder to myself that I need to cut out all the comparisons. One of my favorite authors, Dolly Alderton, once said, “You know, that life isn’t happening elsewhere. It doesn’t exist in another realm.” So stop wasting your time. Stop comparing yourself, and you will reap the rewards. 

Hi! I am currently a senior at Saint Louis University studying Speech Language and Hearing Sciences and Spanish! I am from the suburbs of Chicago and love spending my time reading, going to concerts, and being outside!