A Helpful Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

stop-comparing-your-life

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” —Theodore Roosevelt

I’ve struggled with it most of my life. Typically, I blame it on having a twin brother who is five inches taller with much broader shoulders. But if I was being truly honest, more likely, it is simply a character flaw hidden somewhere deep in my heart.

I’ve lived most of my life comparing myself to others. At first, it was school and sports. But as I got older, I began comparing other metrics: job title, income level, house size, and worldly successes.

I have discovered there is an infinite number of categories upon which we can compare ourselves and an almost infinite number of people to compare ourselves to. Once we begin down that road, we never find an end.

The tendency to compare ourselves to others is as human as any other emotion. Certainly I’m not alone in my experience. But it is a decision that only steals joy from our lives. And it is a habit with numerous shortcomings:

  1. Comparisons are always unfair. We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others.
  2. Comparisons, by definition, require metrics. But only a fool believes every good thing can be counted (or measured).
  3. Comparisons rob us of precious time. We each get 86,400 seconds each day. And using even one to compare yourself or your accomplishments to another is one second too many.
  4. You are too unique to compare fairly. Your gifts and talents and successes and contributions and value are entirely unique to you and your purpose in this world. They can never be properly compared to anyone else.
  5. You have nothing to gain, but much to lose. For example: your pride, your dignity, your drive, and your passion.
  6. There is no end to the possible number of comparisons. The habit can never be overcome by attaining success. There will also be something—or someone—else to focus on.
  7. Comparison puts focus on the wrong person. You can control one life—yours. But when we constantly compare ourselves to others, we waste precious energy focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than our own.
  8. Comparisons often result in resentment. Resentment towards others and towards ourselves.
  9. Comparisons deprive us of joy. They add no value, meaning, or fulfillment to our lives. They only distract from it.

Indeed, the negative effects of comparisons are wide and far-reaching. Likely, you have experienced (or are experiencing) many of them first-hand in your life as well.

How then, might we break free from this habit of comparison? Consider, embrace, and proceed forward with the following steps.

A Practical Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

Take note of the foolish (and harmful) nature of comparison.

Take a good look at the list above. Take notice of comparison’s harmful effects in your life. And find priority to intentionally remove it from the inside-out.

Become intimately aware of your own successes.

Whether you are a writer, musician, doctor, landscaper, mother, or student, you have a unique perspective backed by unique experiences and unique gifts. You have the capacity to love, serve, and contribute. You have everything you need to accomplish good in your little section of the world. With that opportunity squarely in front of you, become intimately aware of your past successes. And find motivation in them to pursue more.

Pursue the greater things in life.

Some of the greatest treasures in this world are hidden from sight: love, humility, empathy, selflessness, generosity. Among these higher pursuits, there is no measurement. Desire them above everything else and remove yourself entirely from society’s definition of success.

Compete less. Appreciate more.

There may be times when competition is appropriate, but life is not one of them. We have all been thrown together at this exact moment on this exact planet. And the sooner we stop competing against others to “win,” the faster we can start working together to figure it out. The first and most important step in overcoming the habit of competition is to routinely appreciate and compliment the contribution of others.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

Gratitude always forces us to recognize the good things we already have in our world.

Remind yourself nobody is perfect.

While focusing on the negatives is rarely as helpful as focusing on the positives, there is important space to be found remembering that nobody is perfect and nobody is living a painless life. Triumph requires an obstacle to be overcome. And everybody is suffering through their own, whether you are close enough to know it or not.

Take a walk.

Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, get up and change your surroundings. Go for a walk—even if only to the other side of the room. Allow the change in your surroundings to prompt change in your thinking.

Find inspiration without comparison.

Comparing our lives with others is foolish. But finding inspiration and learning from others is entirely wise. Work hard to learn the difference.

Humbly ask questions of the people you admire or read biographies as inspiration. But if comparison is a consistent tendency in your life, notice which attitudes prompt positive change and which result in negative influence.

If you need to compare, compare with yourself.

We ought to strive to be the best possible versions of ourselves—not only for our own selves, but for the benefit and contribution we can offer to others. Work hard to take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Commit to growing a little bit each day. And learn to celebrate the little advancements you are making without comparing them to others.

With so many negative effects inherent in comparison, it is a shame we ever take part in it. But the struggle is real for most of us. Fortunately, it does not need to be. And the freedom found in comparing less is entirely worth the effort.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

    • pari says

      problem is wat if we find our own friends living heavens life and we live like hell..we see there is not even a single problem in their lives..watever they wanted they get everything so easily..and we have to struggle for the same thing most of the time…how can we stop comparing..if we fall in the situation like this.

        • Trinity says

          “I feel like nothing”…well you are far more than nothing so stop telling yourself that you are nothing!!!

      • Debbie says

        My sister is like that, no matter what happens “BabaLoo” (not her real name) always comes out smelling like a rose…she has a big house, lots of money, and everything works for her. You just have to make small steps. Every time you find yourself comparing what they have to what you have, tell yourself…”if I want to have a better life, then how do I get that from my current situation. I think alot of time we don’t think about the smaller goals of these circumstances. Its like the opposite of cant see the forest for the trees. Well when we are in this kind of dilema we see the forest but dont see the trees. The problems seems so much bigger than it may actually be. I think to that you have to think about how you want this to work out. Dont look at the long range goal of the forest, but more to which path to take through the trees do get to the actual heart of the forest. Set small goals and work on them…Life may never be as great as other peoples seems to be but we have to learn to be grateful with what we have and to find happiness with in our own context…I wish great strides of success!

      • says

        Our perceptions of the success of others are from snapshots of their lives. We perceive it is easy for them, but we don’t see their inner struggles or efforts. Never assume that someone is “living heaven’s life” just by looking, or listening to their stories. Things that come easy are not always appreciated. We are all human – we all have inner obstacles (fear, laziness, etc) to overcome. Find peace by being happy for the success of others, be grateful for your life, and really figure out what YOU want (and how hard you are willing to work for it).

      • Trinity says

        No one lives “without a single problem in their life.”

        Also what you perceive as heaven could indeed be ‘hell.’

        Nothing is as simple as it’s exterior and — struggle is what makes us the best that we can be.

        *attitude + gratitude define your LATTITUDE friend.

      • james says

        that is comparison. what you said. one friend lives in heaven, the other lives in hell. this is an actual comparison. don’t do that.

        that’s the problem he’s talking about.

        see all the problems that came over you just from making a single comparison?

        don’t ever do that (never say never though)

        once you make that comparison of his life’s heaven, and mine is hell..

        actually you shouldn’t even let that enter your mind to begin with. the concept of heaven and hell and one thing being great and the other bad.

        don’t even define things.

  1. Brett Landry says

    Thank you so much for posting this. It’s exactly what I needed to see today. The way you described yourself is exactly how I grew up. I live the live of comparison almost everyday and often it brings me to depression.
    I have printed this and will be reading it often. Than you again.

  2. shipra mukherjee says

    All my life I hv just encountered nasty comparisons wid my twin sister. Even if we don’t compare its d world around us who keep on comparing us relentlessly. Sometimes d comparisons r so brutal that I am left wounded for months. I took drastic decisions in my life to run from all comparisons… I changed school.. Changed my field of career…but still d comparisons follow me everywhere..Ur article though is great I can totally relate to u. I hope to improve my life from dis point. Thank you :)

  3. Derek says

    Joshua really gets it! I think the problem is, this applies to both women as well as men, is that when we look at someone who’s got a great appearance, we assume, I do, anyway, that they have “no flaws”, which is not true, even though I think reversely. That’s what causes my own resentment to men who are more good looking than I am. I feel “threatened” by their good looks as I compare myself to them EVERY DAY so I tend to be very stressed and anxious around those people. No person can live a happy life like this and sadly this is my life. I can’t enjoy life anymore; this consumes me; it eats me up inside.

  4. Overthinking and under appreciating says

    I have just had a walk to clear my head and in fact done just the opposite, as is often the case, and have done nothing but think. Thinking about all of the insecurities and negative thoughts that I’m currently experiencing. My overall analysis was that I compare myself to others too much and this is leading to insecurities and making me miserable. I got home, googled ‘comparing yourself to others’ and found this article.
    I wanted to comment as the article focuses on life achievements and successes and at the moment I’m finding that my biggest comparison issue is comparing myself to my partners past – or more importantly the people in it, whom I have never met and have somehow created a world of scenarios that may or may not exist. As a result I have started to avoid situations where i may start to compare myself.
    This is pathetic and I realise it, and me posting this comment is somehow my own self therapy as I accept the ridiculousness of what I’m doing to myself, here a just a couple of examples of what I mean:
    I love photography and used to self teach by trial and error, taking good and bad photos and learning from the mistakes. I found out my partners ex was a photographer and instantly I have put my camera away. “I’ll never be as good as him, me showing her my pictures will be stupid and she’ll just think they’re amateur compared to her ex’s work” is what my mind thought.
    Another, my partner is Spanish and I thought I would try and learn a bit of the Spanish language, but rather than ask her to help me, I’m almost doing it in secret, so she doesn’t see how bad I am and laugh at my efforts – so here I am comparing my Spanish efforts to someone who is actually Spanish – I read that back now and see how ridiculous it is, but in my mind that makes perfect sense.
    I’ve realised that I’ve started to avoid experiences that she has had before and never understood why, but now I can see it is this deep rooted self comparison. I don’t like going to the same places or restaurants or doing the same activities as she has done before, I like us to try new things and places together – realistically this is just me trying to avoid a new comparison triggering in my mind. It can be torture if you don’t control it.
    There are many many more examples, and this article got me thinking about all the times I have needlessly compared myself to others and made myself miserable in the process. Hopefully now I have identified it, I can start to work on changing my thought processes and become much happier in myself.
    Thanks for reading.

    • says

      Great article. I believe one of the root causes of this comparison disease is not knowing our self-worth. To a large extent the society, education system and parenting reinforce the comparison behavior. Essentially, if every parent lets their kid realize his or her self-worth, it should influence the society’s attitude as a whole.

  5. Di says

    It completely depends on how one views blessings. Jesus’ beatitudes in scripture teach that the ways of God are the opposite of the ways of man. I believe that suffering is a blessing in disguise which helps Inez’s soul to grow and strengthen. Blessings are oftentimes not physical but rather, spiritual.

  6. Lauren says

    To all of the people responding to this article, you are already making positive decisions for yourself simply by taking the time out of your day to expose yourself to this type of information. Society today has been structured in such a way that feeling inferior to those around us is basically the norm. Very few people have genuine high self esteem and those that do have undoubtedly had times of fear, failure, and self-loathing. We need to focus more on self-healing and loving ourselves so that we can also love others. Practicing self-love and self-healing reduces that impulsive need to compare ourselves to others. We need to remember that an external virtue of another human being does not devalue us in any way. We often look at how someone appears to be so successful, so beautiful, so handsome etc. and then compare these features to our internal doubts and insecurities. We need to stop doing this to ourselves, I see beauty in most people I meet – so why do I always think all they see in ugliness in me? It is very sad that we hurt ourselves by constantly comparing ourselves to other people. We are all special, we are all strong in our own way, and we have people in our lives that love us because we deserve to be loved, NOT because we have fooled others into loving us!

    Love to all of those reading this comment – I wish you all the best and hope I am able to remind you of how strong you are simply by reading up on this type of information, you are already on the right path.

  7. Losing my mind says

    I have stumbled upon this article while doing the same as others. googling ” comparing myself to others”. Most days the comparing is a constant threat to my happiness and sanity. My mind just never seems to stop. Mainly it is in regards to one particular person who unfortunately I must encounter everyday, morning and afternoon, at my daughter’s bus stop. She is younger than I am, by 8 years, beautiful, fit, and perfect in every way. I find myself looking up her pins on Pinterest daily. Just to see what she is interested in at the moment. Crazy, I know. I just recently joined Facebook and now it’s worse. I am in a battle with myself on whether to friend her or not. Instead I just stare at her photos. She seems to have the perfect husband. He does everything for her, cooks, cleans, you name it. They just seem so perfect and it eats at me. I wish I could stop. I don’t know how it’s possible when I have to seem her everyday. Any suggestions? I would love some help on this one. I fear I will drive my husband away with my constant worrying and self-loathing. In the summer I get a break, but I still find myself checking on her. I can’t shut it off. I hate to say this but it’s like an obsession. I am obsessed. HELP!

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