Why Do We Compare Ourselves to Others?

“I worry that I am being judged.”

“I worry what others think of me.”

“It feels like what I do is never good enough.”

This is often a recurring theme in therapy. The thoughts and subsequent feelings that, when compared to others, we fall short. Why do we compare ourselves to others? Is that an innate process – something that naturally comes from within ourselves? Or do we learn it as we grow – leaning into what society teaches us about equality and status?

It would seem that the answer is linked to both. We are a relationship species and our attachment system leans us toward the need to be accepted. We also learn about our value in the environment in which we are raised, both individually in terms of our childhood homes and collectively, in terms of society. Our conditions of worth determines just how much value we place in comparing ourselves to others.

If we are told to ‘try our best’ versus being told to ‘do it right,’ we learn to strive for our personal best, not what others deem it to be.

If we are taught to value perseverance, we learn that value comes in loving what you do, not in the label society deems important.

If we are taught to seek joy, we learn the value of internal happiness and we are less likely to seek happiness in the external world.

We can’t always help the conditions of worth that came to us honestly but we can examine them now.  Gaining a greater understanding of how they lead us can allow us to challenge and make changes if necessary. We are in charge of our conditions of worth; as we strengthen them, we are less likely to default into comparing ourselves to others – rather, our internal compass helps to lead the way.

Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@cathalmacan


Leave a comment