Why You Should Be Careful About Comparing Yourself To Others
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Health and Wellness

Why You Should Be Careful About Comparing Yourself To Others

We all do it, but perhaps a more honest approach to this dreaded habit can give you a bit of insight.

Why You Should Be Careful About Comparing Yourself To Others

Let's have a talk. And it might get a bit personal.

We've heard it time and time again: "Don't compare yourself to him/her." "The grass is always greener on the other side." "Everyone is different and unique."

Oh, how it is so much easier said than done. The comparison epidemic prevails. It continues to grow, even, and is arguably one of the most self-destructive habits one can have. I know I personally struggle with this obsession, if you want to call it that, and at times, it almost consumes me. So why do we do it?

I'm not here to preach "three scientifically proven reasons why we compare," or anything of that matter. I'm not an expert on the topic except for how it affects me and applies to my life. However, perhaps it may give you a little more insight into things you probably already know but usually disregard.

What I've noticed is that our need to compare often stems from being unhappy or dissatisfied with something in your life. Maybe this is obvious, but even when you're content with most aspects of your life, you will often find a way to compare the parts of your life that you may feel are lacking to those of another person's. Moreover, you may even perceive some of the great things in your life as inferior to someone else's. Sound like you? Because it sounds like me. I have done this, and definitely continue to do this at times. I could even colloquially name this "Perfectionistic Comparison (PC)," where perfectionistic isn't a word, but I just made it one anyway.

Take this example: you've been working out really hard, eating well, and getting a ton of sleep. Your body is looking its best, and you feel extremely energetic and motivated by your progress. Then you go to the gym. In walks an extraordinarily fit and attractive guy/girl who has muscles and/or curves you've always dreamed of having. I'll never look like him/her, no matter how hard I try, you dejectedly think, and contemplate giving up right there.

Okay, no. We idealize a certain type of look, or definition of success, or whatever else, and then we just get so stuck on that image that we lose sight of not only what we already have, but also what we can realistically obtain. Don't belittle your successes, no matter how little; acknowledge and congratulate how far you've come. Always wanted to be petite but stand at 5'9"? It would be pretty unreasonable to compare yourself to your 5'2" friend. Below is one of my all-time favorite quotes discussing this very idea.

Another type of comparison isn't as direct as, say, placing your and another person's physique side-by-side and tearing apart everything you hate about yourself; however, it is just as, if not more so, destructive. Let's call this "Vicarious Comparison (VC)." Ever been really close with someone, created this strong bond, and been supportive of them emotionally, only to feel hurt when they suddenly complete a great accomplishment? What is this strange pang? Is it jealousy? Anger? It could be either of those, but it's likely coming from, you guessed it, all the comparing you've already done between the two of you. Just because s/he got an awesome new job or aced his/her hardest final or can do 100 push-ups in a row doesn't lessen your worth in the slightest. It can be difficult to be happy for him/her, but maybe think about taking a step back, reminding yourself of this, and imagining how you might feel if the roles were reversed.

It's common courtesy to practice what you preach, so that's exactly what I've been attempting to do recently. If you've ever found yourself down thanks to PC or VC, please try to remember that you are enough, and believe it or not, there's probably someone out there comparing him/herself to you.
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