Should We Compare Ourselves to Others?

The quick answer? It depends.

We are a relationship species; we seek connection and some of our most valuable experiences are those that are shared. It would be pretty difficult to not compare ourselves to others within our social circle, work place, society. In 1954, psychologist Leon Festinger suggested that people have an innate drive to evaluate themselves, often in comparison to others – he called this Social Comparison Theory. Comparison is often one way that influences our self-worth and it is a common way that we get to know ourselves.

Comparing ourselves to others can be quite positive as it motivates us to achieve. Perhaps we admire the way that someone asserts themselves at work, or a skill that someone else has mastered such as being a good cook or a talented guitar player. Perhaps we appreciate how someone in our life has completed a 5km run and we strive to undertake the same goal for ourselves. In this way, comparison can help us to identify what we deem as important in our lives and we can strive to succeed; fortifying our sense of worth.

Comparison can also prove to be damaging to our self-worth at times as it opens up a doorway to inner criticism and judgement. Think about the unrealistic body images that inundate our social media, for example. Other times, we may compare ourselves to where our peers are at in their lives and ours don’t match – if we fail to recognize that we also need to objectively examine context, we may begin to feel anxious about not being good enough.

And so, I suppose, it comes down to balance. When comparing ourselves to others, it becomes important to recognize our own skills and abilities, reach for what we are capable of, remind ourselves of our blessings, and be kind to ourselves throughout the process.

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