Social Comparison And Its Effects On You – Part 3: 10 Reasons You Should Stop Comparing Your Life With Others

Comparison

Do you feel or think others are better than you? Here are 10 reasons you should stop comparing your life with others.

Before we get started, this is the part 3 of a 4-part series on social comparison and its effects on you. You can read the previous parts through these links:

Social Comparison and Its Effects On You – Part 2: Understanding Comparison and Its Different Forms

Social Comparison and Its Effects On You – Part 2: Negative Vs Positive Comparison

Now, if you are feeling that you are not as good as others, carefully read the following 10 reasons why you should stop comparing your life with others.

  1. You’re created different and unique

We are created different from one another. Each of us is unique and no one is exactly the same with us. As I write this, the world population clock called Worldometer is reading over 7 billion people. That’s, more than 7 billion people are currently living on earth (exclusive of those who have passed on). You can check it out here to see the current number. This is a huge number. But do you know that as great as this number is, no two individuals are exactly the same? Yes, no two persons have the same fingerprint, genetical make-up, etc.; not even identical twins. By way of illustration, building blocks are made using a single mold. This makes them one in shape and composition. But unlike building blocks, God, the one who made us, used different mold in making each of us. That is to say, after making ‘X’ human being for example, he removed the mold and took up another for ‘Z’. As a result, X is totally unique and special, and Z is totally different and also special. Having this understanding; that you’re not the same with others, comparing yourself to others becomes a moot exercise. Another example; think of an orange and apple as fruits. An orange fruit is different from an apple fruit. You cannot compare both. You can’t say one is better than the other because each has its own uniqueness. So it is with you and others. All about you – your body shape, height, skin colour, race, talents, etc., are special and unique to you. So you need not use others’ body shape, abilities, etc. to judge how good or bad you’re.

2. Everyone has their own weaknesses/challenges

Another reason why you should stop comparing your life with others’ is the very fact that everyone has his/her flaws or challenges. Do you know that some of the people you compare your life to are not even happy with their own lives? Regardless of their placement or accomplishment, they have issues eating them up and wishing they were better.  When you look at others, for example, their financial status, academic level, etc., you think they’re at the top of the world. You feel they have everything working for them. In reality, this is not usually true. The one you envy and wished you were in his/her position might be going through a challenge which he/she is struggling to overcome and might even be looking at you as the better person.

3. It’s a continuous game you will never win

Would you love to participate in a game that never comes to a close? Quoting a popular Chinese saying, “For every high mountain, there will always be a higher mountain elsewhere.” Whether you like it or not, there will always be someone who is seemingly doing better than you and also, someone you’re better than. No matter your status, there will always be someone who speaks, sings, acts, plays, writes, etc., better than you do. There will always be someone whose academic, professional, or financial level is higher than yours. This covers all areas of life. So if you choose to compare, you will continue to compare and compare and compare and forever compare. And when you do, what is the reward? That takes us to the next point.

4. You continue to lose

It is not only that you continue to play the game of comparing without winning, you continue to lose in it. That is, the more you use others’ standard to measure your own standard and feel inferior to them, the more you lose.  In what way do you lose? Here are some of the things you stand to lose when you refuse to quit the habit of comparing your life to others.

  • Happiness. “I generally find that comparison is the fastest track to unhappiness,” said Jack Canfield. Accordingly, Mark Twain, the great American writer, said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” When you begin to think that you’re not as good as others, you become sad. By the time your joy or happiness starts going down, the next thing you lose is…see the next point.
  • Passion/motivation. A man who is depressed finds it hard to work for lack of passion or motivation. When you use others’ life as a yardstick to live yours, you lose your zeal to work towards the achievement of your goals. This is because, as I pointed out above, you cannot measure up. The more you try to, the more work you have waiting to be done.
  • Self-esteem/confidence. The next thing you lose as a result of making constant comparison with others is your sense of self-worth and confidence. When you believe that you’re below a person’s standard, your level of self-esteem begins to drop. You no longer see yourself as one who is as important as others. For example, when you think that Adam is better than you because his grade in a subject or course is higher than yours, you begin to feel inferior before him. You don’t have to compare yourself to a friend whose job pays more than yours. Don’t feel he is better than you because he is earning more, or because he has a car which you do not have. When you do, you lose your sense of self-worth and confidence in yourself. When you no longer believe in yourself, it becomes difficult to succeed in what you do as no one will support you. People believe in and support those who believe in themselves.
  • Your life. My life? Yes, it is as serious as that. There is something called suicide ideation. “Suicide ideation can be defined as the constant thoughts about suicide and suicide attempts. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life” (Taylor & Lobel 1989 pp. 569-575). Quoting Garcia, Song & Tesser, “suicide ideation can occur due to social comparison bias because people that compare themselves to people that are seen better than them gets mentally discouraged because they believe they cannot perform or look a certain way which causes them low self-esteem. Low self-esteem is one of the main factors in suicide ideation” (Garcia, Song & Tesser 2010, pp. 97-101). As seen, when you become depressed because you feel you’re not measuring up to standards compared to others – maybe all your friends are happily married and you’re not, your course mates you graduated with are now gainfully employed and are doing well in life but you’re still struggling to make ends meet – you may be tempted to commit suicide.

5. We have unique purposes

As learnt in point #1, we are unique and different in our abilities and make up. This is because we have unique purposes in life. Meaning, we are on planet earth for different goals or assignment. Just as Myles Munroe taught, purpose is a function of potentials. God gives a man the talents or abilities he/she needs to fulfill the purpose he/she has be created for. For example, a man whose purpose is to change lives with singing is given the talents to sing. Your own purpose may be in a different area; not singing and so may not have the ability to sing as those wired in that manner. Now, no matter how much you desire to sing like the man with the gift, you can never measure up. So why compare yourself to him? Why run yourself down because you can’t perform like him? That someone can sing, speak, teach, or do something better than you never means that he is better than you. It only means that you’re not designed to excel in that area because your purpose is different.  Stop comparing yourself with another; you have a different and unique purpose.

6. Comparing your life to others breeds animosity

This is known as social comparison bias. According to wiki, it is having feelings of dislike and competitiveness with someone that is seen physically, or mentally better than yourself.

When a person focuses on how others especially close persons like friends, colleagues, course mates are doing better than him/her, a feeling of hatred, anger, and envy towards the people may start building up within him/her. And where care is not taken, this may lead to violent actions or in serious cases, crime. I remember watching a movie where a young man murdered his colleague who was receiving more promotions than himself, though he has higher academic qualification than the friend. He felt his colleague was receiving better treatment from the company, and saw him as an opposition or threat to his own promotion. This feeling kept on rising and finally led him to kill the young innocent colleague. Yes, this is what unnecessary comparison can do.

7. Everyone has their own challenges/flaws

Upward social comparison can be misleading. The feeling that others are having a more fulfilled life than you is not always true. Unless they sincerely and totally open up (which they may never do), how can you know what (the pains, challenges, frustration, etc.) others are going through in their own lives? Ms. Halvorson said, “There is a lot of imperfect comparison going on. We never see the whole picture.” When we compare, we only see the idealized aspect of the person we make comparison to. In simpler words, we focus only on the things that are working and don’t think of the challenges and pains the people are going through in their own lives. Just as Ms Halvorson said it above, when you look at others’ lives, you don’t see their whole picture. You only can see a part (and because it is a negative comparing), it is the bright side you usually see. That they are doing well in one area does not mean that the whole of their life is pleasant. See how Susie Moore said it,

“Have some perspective. Good fortune in one area of someone’s life does not necessarily translate to all areas of their life. We don’t know what is really going on with people and often, the truth can surprise us.”  That is just it. Chances are that, those we think are enjoying life more than we do might even be going through pains greater than ours. Many of the people you compare yourself to and feel discouraged because you believe you’re inferior to them, have their challenges, problems, flaws, difficulties, they are struggling to overcome. It’s even possible that, you’re in a better position than they are. Only that you have failed to recognize the good things you have in your life. Let me give you an example. P who has a beautiful family is comparing his life to Q who is more financially buoyant. P is thinking that Q is enjoying life better than he, himself is doing. This thought of inadequacy constantly brings P sadness and depression. Meanwhile, unknown to P, Q is facing a serious family challenge that is eating him up and wishing that he has the kind of lovely family P has. You see the irony? You see how it is such a useless thing to compare yourself to others?

Because of unhealthy comparison, many have become bedmates in relationship instead of seeking to be soulmates first. You can read more about that here

8. Unnecessary spending

When you compare, you struggle to be like others, and in the process of doing this, you’re likely to go beyond your reach and ability. Because you compare yourself to others, you want to get everything (the latest smart phone, the new car, shirt, wristwatch, etc.), you see them use to measure up to their standard. I will give you some examples. Your friend Jude just got a flashing new car or whatever. You so much covet it that you begin to feel inferior to him. Now, you know that your income is not as high as Jude’s. That notwithstanding, you gather all your savings to get a similar car as Jude’s. This is destructive to your future. Another example: Chaka is in a relationship where she has everything going on well. But suddenly, her attitude changed because she felt her friends are getting better treatments from their partners than she is getting. Comparing herself to the friends, she points them to her boyfriend saying, “Look at Jessy, her boyfriend buys her this and that; but me, you don’t.” Now, in a bid to satisfy you, Jones begin to spend what should have been saved, invested or channeled into more important needs. As this continues soon, you get yourself in financial struggle or stress which could have been avoided.

9. Comparing your ability or success level to others limits you

When you compare yourself to others, you lose focus of your strength and focus on your weakness. This limits your potential. You are not able to fulfill your own potentials because you are pursuing another man’s purpose. We cannot be our best when we focus on others. That is, it is difficult to become all we can when we focus on what we are not.

10. Comparing yourself to others can breed pride in you

This happens when we engage in negative downward social comparison. When you compare yourself to those you seem to be better than, you may become proud and be filled with the sense of superiority. This is harmful because pride brings nothing good other than downfall. Illustrating this, Jesus gave a parable in Luke 18:9-4. In the parable, two men went into the temple to pray. While one, a republican focused on himself and did not compare himself to others, the other who was a Pharisee engaged in a downward social comparison. He looked at himself as more righteous than the republican. At the end, the republican who did not measure himself with others went home justified but the Pharisee was disqualified because of his pride. And Jesus concluded that the man who exalts himself above others will be brought down and the one who humble himself shall be exalted. Having considered the above reasons why you need to stop comparing yourself to others, the next is how can you make this possible? How can you quit playing the unending sabotaging game of negative social comparison? That leads us to the final part of this series. In the part 4, I will give you some effective tips on how to stop comparing yourself to others and keep on moving towards the achievement of your desired goals.

Social Comparison and its effects on you – Part 1: Understanding comparison and its different forms.

Social Comparison and its effects on you – Part 2: Positive Vs Negative Comparison.

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