Updated: Sep 30
Comparisons can be good or bad for us. Like with most things, the difference is how we look at it.
What are social comparisons?
Social comparisons are simply comparing ourselves to other people. This is something we do even without thinking about it. It is an innate human characteristic. We do this to evaluate ourselves and adjust as needed. We evaluate our looks, physical abilities, traits, and attitudes. Healthy comparisons are done with people who are like us, our peers. We also make upward comparisons and downward comparisons.
Sometimes we compare ourselves to people that we believe are better than us. We may think they are smarter, stronger, or simply more accomplished than us. Upward comparisons are harmful when viewed on an emotional rather than factual level. We may see the other person as better or more deserving than us. In this state of mind, we may give up even trying, because we feel we will never be enough. However, upward comparison can be helpful if we use it as motivation to achieve our own goals.
The other social comparison is a downward comparison. This is when we compare ourselves to others who are not as well off as us. These comparisons can make us feel better about abilities. The downside of this comparison is that we can become overly confident about our own skills. With downward comparison, it’s important to realize the person usually has less than us, in terms of skills or resources.
Looking At the Big Picture
Comparison can be most helpful when we look at the big picture. When we view someone else’s success, we are only seeing a moment in their life. We may not know how long it took them to get there. And we may not know the sacrifices they had to make to achieve that success. Another part of the big picture is their skill level compared to our own. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Usually, we compare our weaknesses to the other person’s strengths. If we use this comparison to improve on our weakness, that’s great. But if we lack self-worth, we may let other person’s strength and successes stop us from trying.
How to Minimize Unhealthy Social Comparisons
The Wise Mind Center gives these quick, simple tips about minimizing unhealthy comparisons: https://wisemindcenter.com/the-psychology-of-comparison/
Count your blessings, remind yourself of your strengths and achievements.
Become More Aware of Your Thoughts
Be conscious of your thoughts when you’re negatively comparing yourself to others so you can stop and change your focus.
Spend time with people who genuinely care about you and make you feel good.
Take a Step Back
Step back from social media or anything that creates negative thoughts or self-doubt.
We can use comparisons as a healthy tool to motivate us to get going. They can be a gentle kick in the pants to help us achieve our goals. However, they can also be destructive. If you make comparisons that cause you to feel negatively about yourself, this is not healthy. It is damaging to compare ourselves with others while failing to look at the big picture. First, work toward valuing, loving, and trusting yourself, and then you can let the accomplishments of others motivate you rather than bring you down.
If you are struggling with how to love, value, and trust yourself, coaching can help. Go to Kathy Wiens Coaching to learn more.