The tendency to compare oneself with other people has been haunting humanity since time immemorial – long enough to learn to distinguish the harm and benefit of this habit.
As psychologists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands confirm, the “white envy” that we usually feel for our friends and family works for good. The success of others (an upward social comparison is responsible for its evaluation) helps to identify desired goals, to recall what you are capable of, to inspire action and motivate. A downward comparison teaches you to be more grateful for what you have and to consider the possibility of negative developments.
The problem is that we are terrified by the upward assessment of the situation – when we compare ourselves with those who seem to be living better and more successful. This process is directly sucked up like a craving for gambling, where we are obviously unlucky, eventually driving us into sadness and inactivity. Why? Because usually we compare the worst we know about ourselves with the best we know about others.
The upward comparison is a recipe for bad luck, a persistent reminder of what you don’t like about yourself. Position, appearance, income, family, success, likes in social networks – the number of categories in which you can measure with others, endlessly. And here are a few important reasons why it’s time to quit:
- Comparisons are always unfair because, by default, they involve the evaluation of quantitative indicators. But is everything good counted or weighed? How do you measure someone’s ability for love, empathy, selflessness, generosity? Or, for example, happiness – how to understand that others have more than you, if it is a feeling that everyone experiences in their own way?
- Each of us is unique, and therefore it is unrealistic to expect a fair comparison. Your talents, successes, contributions and values are absolutely unique for you personally and for your destiny in this world. It makes no sense to envy others or try on yourself in their place – who will take yours then?
- Avoiding comparisons is the best tactic, because this habit is difficult to overcome, even if you succeed. And there will be something (or someone) worthy of jealous thoughts.
- Comparisons are focused on the wrong person. You can only control what happens to you. Constantly comparing yourself with others, you spend precious energy, focusing on someone else’s life, not your own.