It is a part of human nature to compare yourself to other people. You’re not alone in this. It can be anything. Your appearance, wealth, jobs, families etc. Social scientist Leon Festinger developed a theory of ‘social comparisons’ which states that there is a natural drive within people to evaluate their own attributes by looking at others.
I want to emphasize and remind you to not do that. “Everyone has their own pace”. You probably heard this many, many times. And yes, it is true. Everyone has their unique journey. Don’t compare your story to someone else’s. This is so important and you have to keep reminding yourself.
You Don’t Know the Half of It
Just because somebody has more stuff, if that’s what you’re comparing, it doesn’t mean that they are satisfied with their lives. It doesn’t mean that they are happier and more fulfilled. Maybe they want something somebody else has? Why do you think they are happy? You don’t know what’s somebody has been through to get where they are, and you don’t know what they are going through. You must realize that you’re not getting the whole story.
So, what does that mean? It means that you’re comparing yourself to a story that you made up about that person, a half-true story because you don’t see anything other than what’s obvious. Just like they don’t see you, your stuff, and all the crazy things going on in your head, in your life, around you, you don’t see them – vice-versa. Simple as that. What I’m trying to tell you is that if you follow that path you will surely condemn yourself to fail. It will deprive you of your own happiness. It is said that comparison is the ‘thief of joy’.
Comparing Upwardly and Downwardly
Festinger also hypothesized that people compare themselves either upwardly to people of greater status (however determined) or downwardly to people less well off than themselves.
Imagine this situation. Your kid comes home from school with a bad grade, not a failing grade, but bad enough for you to start lecturing him. You might say something like: “How could you let yourself get such a poor grade? And the other kids? What did Bryan get (knowing yourself that Bryan is seemingly the ‘best’ boy in class)?”
Your child says that Bryan got the highest grade.
And then you say: “Well, why couldn’t you be more like Bryan?”.
Now your child might compare himself to a kid who got the lowest grade. Either way it is counterproductive. Our view of how favorably (or unfavorably) we compare to others is often a contributory factor in our level of self-esteem.
When Can a Comparison Be Good?
And when can a comparison be good? Use comparison to help yourself. Do not use it to hurt yourself. I’m not saying that every comparison is necessarily bad or self-destructive, but you have to evaluate which comparison will lead to a better you and which one will leave you hating your life. If it makes you try harder, if it makes you work harder, if something/someone inspires you to achieve a goal and work on yourself, then that’s when a comparison has a constructive purpose.
What to Do
The goal is to just be fulfilled and create the happiness and joy for yourself and other people.
Think about what you are grateful for. I’m sure there are so many things to be grateful for. That’s the key, that’s how you get out of it. You have no need to compare yourself to other people.
So stop comparing, and start living. Start enjoying each and every moment and living to your greatest potential. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy so stop comparing so that you can get your joy back!