This is part 4 of a 4-part series on Social comparison and its effects on you. Because I want to give you the best, it is a bit longer – over 3000 words long. If you can’t finish it up now for want of time, you can save or bookmark it so you can easily come back to it later and continue from where you would stop.
1. Realize that you’re a different and unique person
Robert Zend once said, “People have one thing in common; they are all different.” It is a fact, and until you realize that you’re not the same with other people, you may never stop comparing yourself to other people. No matter who you’re – a writer, teacher, singer, doctor, preacher, parent, even a cleaner – you’re yourself and others are themselves. A caterpillar is caterpillar and a bulldozer is bulldozer. Each is unique and different from the other in that, they have unique and different functions. If you’re a writer like me for example, you’re a writer; not a singer, designer, or what have you. You are still different from other writers. You have your own life timetable, you’re in a different and separate race track. That other writers have published 100 bestselling books and you’re yet to publish a single book is not an issue. Stop measuring your worth using the standard of other writers. No matter your physique – colour, height, nose shape, lip size, etc. be proud of yourself and your identity. It is these features that make you unique and different from others.
2. Focus on your strength and not your weaknesses
From #1 above, you’re unique and different from others in abilities, looks, etc. When you find that you’re comparing yourself to others, say, what they can do that you cannot do, or what they have that you lack, quickly come to yourself and think of your strengths; the things you can do well that others cannot do. For example, when you see someone doing public speaking in such a manner that is difficult for you, don’t feel bad for yourself just because you cannot speak in such a way. While public speaking may be the strength of that person, it may be your area of weakness. So instead of envying this person talent of speaking (or any other talent), think about your own talents. Happily tell yourself, “I may not know how to speak well, but I can sing excellently.”
An anonymous once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” I hope you get the message in this quote. Never allow the thought of what you cannot do, (but which others do well) make you feel inferior or inadequate.
However, where it is necessary, you can take steps to improve on a skill you are not good at. You need not envy others or become depressed. If you desire a skill you’re not good at, make it a goal to achieve and start working towards it. Do you negatively compare your look such as height, lip size, skin colour, etc. to others’? Yes, you may have an oblong head shape, but that should not make you feel bad (not even when people ridicule you with it). Instead of focusing on your awkward head shape, think of the beautiful skin colour or average height you have. As Jennie Finch said, “Try not to get lost in comparing yourself to others. Discover your gifts and let them shine.”
3. Be grateful and contented with what you have
People compare themselves to others who appear to be doing better because they are not satisfy with where they are or what they have and this makes them feel unimportant. See, according to Lao Tzu, “When you’re content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you. If you want to stop comparing yourself to others, and be happy, be OK with what you have and where you currently are. As the Bible puts it, “…godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6). That is the gospel truth. No matter what you have, be happy and thank God for the opportunity to have them because many are out there wishing to be in your position. Gratitude is important in achieving your set goals. In a 2003 study by Emmons and McCllough, people who keep a gratitude diary showed to have higher levels of determination, energy, enthusiasm, joy, and pro-social behaviour than those who engaged in downward social comparison. The study concluded that although comparing yourself to those you appear to be doing better than may be beneficial on the surface, it should not be used as a direct route to gratitude and thankfulness, as it is only momentary, short term appraisal with no deep personal source.
4. Compete with yourself instead of others
Like I explained in part 1, temporal comparison has to do with comparison with self. It means comparing your today self or achievements to who you were yesterday or what you could be in the future. Self-comparison or temporal comparison as some call it helps us greatly in moving on to greater and better level.
Although comparing yourself to others can serve as source of motivation which is a positive social comparison, you tend to gain greater level of motivation when you compare yourself to yourself, your old self (what or where you were yesterday) and not only your old self but also your future self (what you can possibly become in the future). Using your present self, see how much you have grown, the challenges you have overcome, the achievements you have made, and the like. Then, see how much you can grow, the better achievement you can make, and greater level of success you can attain. Doing this helps you develop a sense of happiness and gratitude which in turn gives you greater level of inspiration and motivation to strive harder without having to compare yourself to other people who are more or less successful than you are.
Deborah Carr Ph.D. a professor of socioloy at Rutgers University once narrated, (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bouncing-back/201508/3-reasons-stop-comparing-yourself-others) “When I was about eight, I came home from school one day and innocently asked my mother if I was ‘the best.’ At school, we had been learning about comparative words like ‘better’ and ‘best,’ and I wondered if I was ‘the best’ at something – maybe piano or reading or spelling? My wise mother calmly replied, You’ll never be the best at anything. The world is a big place with millions of people; it’s impossible to be the best. Just do your best and you will be fine.”
To add to the advice of Deborah’s mother to her, do your best each day and strive to outstrip your yesterday’s best today. This goes to mean, the only person you’re to compare yourself to is yourself. Compete with yourself and see how high you will get each day in what you do.
So, while striving harder, remove focus from the performances or standard of others and use yourself (old and future self) as a standard to rate yourself. For example, instead of studying harder for exams because you want to top John who got the best grade last semester or session , study harder to do better than you did last semester or session and to become the successful student you desire to be. Focus on improving yourself. By focusing on yourself, you unconsciously stop comparing yourself to others.
5. Consider your purpose
On this, I want to give you an analogy. First, consider the eagle. What is its purpose? Of course, it’s made to fly. Again, look at the fish; its place is the water. Now, what would you say to a fish looking down on itself because it cannot fly like the eagle? Or, to an eagle who is feeling bad about itself because it cannot swim like the fish? The fish has its own purpose and so the eagle. The fish who wants to fly like the bird will forever remain in frustration and eventually die unfulfilled. And the eagle that wants to be like the fish will continue to wallow in self-pity and eventually die unfulfilled.
Similarly, we all have our purposes. Comparing ourselves to others will make us forever live miserably. Let us say you are a teacher for instance; why comparing yourself to a doctor and thinking he is better than you? You’re studying Animal and Environmental Biology; why thinking the engineering or medical students are better than you? Except where you’re or what you’re doing is not your life passion or purpose. Otherwise, stop that game today. And the way to stop is to start focusing on your purpose, career, course, profession, etc. If you’re yet to discover your purpose – what you’re designed to excel at, do so and focus on its pursuit. When you’re busy with your life assignment, you will be in want of time to want to compare your life to others’ because you will always be filled with the desire to accomplish your goals which is the fulfillment of your overall purpose.
6. Take time to count your own blessings and be grateful for them
Focus on what you have. In life, when we focus on the things we lack in our lives, we lose sight of the things we have. Kelly Osbourne said it right when he stated, “Women are unforgiving of themselves. We don’t recognize our own beauty because we’re too busy comparing ourselves to other people.” Just as Kelly said, comparing your life to other’s blinds your eyes to the good things you possess. And when you begin to see that those things are missing, you no longer see the many good things in your life for which you should be grateful. On the other hand, when you focus on the things you have for which you should be happy, you have no time comparing. Do you desire to stop negative comparison? Then spend time focusing on the good things you have; your health, loving parents, children, education, etc.
7. Focus on what matters most in life
You may ask, “What matters most in life?” It is simply making a positive difference in others’ lives; building relationships and doing those things that help us come alive. Ask yourself what you can do to make a positive impact in someone’s life today. In what way can I put a smile on someone’s face before the day rolls off? Rather than compare – how others are doing better than you – choose to love, respect, help, appreciate others and make them happy and better.
8. Realize that growth into perfection is gradual
In other words, accept your current position while you make effort to get ahead. Do not allow the thoughts of where others are and where you should have been place you on hold. If each of us has all we want, know all we should know, etc., there would be no need setting and achieving goals. Life will be redundant. Having a loop hole to cover and striving to cover it is what makes life interesting and meaningful. Rather than envying others, accept the imperfect conditions in your life as part of the things that make life beautiful. But beyond that, do what you can do to move you from where you’re to where you want to be without bringing others into the picture.
9. Know the difference between positive social comparison and negative social comparison
As I highlighted in part 2, there are situations and times comparing yourself to others is useful. Knowing this is also a strategy to help you overcome negative comparison. When you’re caught in the wind of social comparison, switch to positive comparison. Think of how you can positively use others’ position to better your own lot without feeling inferior, and developing the feeling of resentment towards others. E.g., using others who are doing better than you as sources of inspiration or motivation, ideas, etc. For example, as a writer, instead of feeling not-good-enough because other writers are doing better than I am, I look at their works and see what they are doing better that I’m not doing. This form of comparison is benefitting to me because it helps me improve on my own work.
10. Celebrate others’ successes.
Perhaps, the reason you feel bad when you think of other people accomplishments or the good things they have which you lack is that, you lack the attitude of celebrating other people’s successes. In addition to being grateful for your own blessings, be appreciative of other’s blessings also. Did your friend just buy a better car, secure a better job, win a scholarship, etc., thank God for/with him or her. Think of how hard they worked, the sacrifices they paid and the huge effort they put in to get to where they presently are and be happy that those efforts were not in vain. Go celebrate with him/her with good intentions. When you make this a habit, you will lack time to negatively compare yourself to them.
11. Limit your social media use
The less you you’re in contact with the people or things you compare yourself to, the less your chances of comparing yourself to them. Without argument, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the others, are the places where we see most of the people with tend to compare ourselves to. Upon checking your Facebook page for example, you see a friend’s post announcing his/her new car, upcoming wedding occasion, new published book, etc. As you overwhelm yourself with all of these, you begin to develop a sense of low self-esteem. You begin to feel they are doing better than you and soon, you become depressed. To limit this destructive comparison, reduce your time of social media usage. Are you addicted to social media usage? Here is a post on how to overcome social media addiction. Don’t waste the whole of your day reading post to post, how others are getting on with their lives. Of course, you cannot totally stop using social media. Where you cannot totally avoid this, then, focus on how these people’s lives can spur you to pursue your own goals and achieve them instead of envying them. Ask yourself what they could be doing better that you are not doing and let this motivate you to strive more for better results.
12. Always remember that we all have our own time
For every one of us, success comes at different times. Please answer, does another man’s success means your failure? Not at all. God’s best time for me may not be His best time for you. We all have our own time to shine. When you see and hear your friends, colleagues, classmates or other people achieving great success in life, maybe in marriage, business, career, ministry, take it that it is their time. Don’t allow the seemingly fact that you’re yet to attain their level of accomplishment makes you feel envious of them. When a friend or someone hits a goal – gets married, secures a great job appointment, wins a scholarship, buys a new car, gets a promotion, or something else – rejoice with him/her as mentioned in #11; celebrate with them and tell yourself, “It’s John’s time; my own time is coming.” As Moore asserted, “Remember, life is predictable – one day someone else is ahead, another day you will be ahead.” It is as simple as that. So by always remembering that you have your own time and that it will surely come, you will rarely see yourself in the habit of comparing your life to others.
13. Seek to help others
This is especially the people you’re better than in one way or the other. When you see people who are less successful than you are, you may be tempted to compare yourself to them and use their low estate as a route to feel better about yourself or remain complacent about your condition and not strive to work harder. In other to avoid the temptation of comparing, find ways to help these people. For example, a fellow student who is performing poorly. Rather than look down on him, you can teach him what you know that he doesn’t. As you do this, you get better at what you already know. If you’re enjoying a better relationship or marriage than your friends, don’t see them as unfortunate sort of people. Ask yourself, “What can I do to add beauty to their own relationships?”
14. Ignore your inner self-critic and people’s negative opinion of you
Don’t pay attention to the negative things people say to you to put you down. Ignore people who try to compare you to other people – comparing your performance to colleagues who seem to be doing better than you. Your teacher calling you names before your classmates who are scoring better grades than you are, etc. When you listen to them, you yourself fall into the same unfruitful game. You will begin to do the same, comparing yourself to them, “Jolo is brighter than me”, My colleague is smarter than me,” etc.
15. Love and value who you’re
In point #2, I mentioned focusing on your strengths rather than weaknesses. Weaknesses can be that thing you cannot do well; it can be the things you don’t have yet, it can be the look you don’t find attractive to people. See, regardless of what you think your weakness is, you’re you. You may want to read that again. No matter how short or tall you’re, you’re you. No matter your skin colour – dark or light, you’re you. Or how big your lip or head is, you’re you. You can’t change it and the beauty in this is that, these are what makes you the special and unique person you are. Why underrating yourself because others say, you’re ugly, too dark or fair in complexion, or that you have a flat head, big eyes, and what have you? Come on! You’ve got to love, cherish and value yourself. Don’t compare who you’re to others. Are you a sanguine? Don’t wish you were a choleric. Are you a melancholy? Don’t hate yourself that you’re not a phlegmatic. Whichever temperament you have, you’re the best and so love yourself. Remember what I said in part 3 (reasons why you should stop comparing yourself to others), under tip #1; you were made with a special mould, a type that has never been used for anyone since the world began and will never be used for anyone till the world will be over. Irrespective of others’ opinion of you, you’re the best you can ever be. This however does not erase the fact that, there may be an area of our personality that we might need to work on in order to be a happy better person both to ourselves and our world.
Love yourself. According to Doris Mortman, “Until you make peace with who you’re, you will never be content with what you have.” And until you’re contented with yourself or what you have, you will continue to compare yourself to others. When you believe you’re not as good as others, you’re making yourself your own worst enemy. Stop being your own worst enemy by loving yourself. Yes, until you love and value who you’re, you cannot stop participating in the destructive game of comparing yourself to other people. And this will constantly make you feel bad of yourself; losing your sense of self-worth and confidence.
Wrapping it up
Congratulations, you made it to the end of the series – social comparison and its effects on you. This is the part 4, the conclusion of the series. I hope you find it helpful. Now you know what comparison entails and how it can affect us especially negatively if engaged in. You now have at your finger tip when social comparison can be benefitting and harmful, the reasons why comparing yourself to others is unnecessary and the ways it can be harmful to us. And having got the above effective steps to overcoming the habit of negative social comparison, you will never find yourself playing the unproductive game of comparing yourself to others anymore.
Remember, knowledge is useless until it is positively applied. I wish you the best as you do your best to put to work what you have learnt in the series.
I hope you had a refreshing moment reading. Below are links to each part of this series.
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 Social Comparison
Social Comparison And Its Effects On You – Part 3: 10 Reasons You Should Stop Comparing Your Life With Others
Thanks and God bless you for your time with me here.