Why You Can’t Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

The smiling faces you see only tell part of the story. When highlights of others’ lives and their accomplishments surround you, it’s natural to compare yourself.

Sometimes comparing yourself to others can inspire self-motivation and change, but it’s a slippery slope. Once you start, it can be hard to stop.

Why You Compare Yourself to Others

Why
 do you compare yourself when you see someone dressing in designer clothing,
 sporting a pleasing physique or getting a promotion? Scientist Leon Festinger
 described the phenomenon as the theory of
 social comparison
, which says comparing yourself to others is part of human nature. Here
 are three reasons why:

1. You Compare to Learn

Humans
 learn how to act and define themselves and the world by comparison. To learn
 how to speak, you compare how others are forming words and adjust. Likewise,
 you learn how to behave from others. It’s how you know to greet someone by
 shaking hands or to say please and thank you.

2. You Reflect and Evaluate

Just like tests in school evaluate our knowledge and have us reflect on what we can do to improve, comparison invites us to reflect on and evaluate ourselves.

However, most comparisons lack an objective, like improving behavior or learning conversational skills. When we compare ourselves in unobjective ways, we fail to measure up, leaving us feeling inferior and depressed.

3. You Fear Missing Out

Whether
 others have a large circle of friends or the latest fashion trends, you
 interpret that as being successful and happy. Being social creatures, we want
 to feel accepted, not like we’re missing out. When you compare yourself to
 others and feel like you’re coming up short, you feel lonely and alienated.

Is It Possible to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others?

You
 may not be able to stop the comparisons, but you can change how you approach
 things.

In
 a study of culture
 and social comparison-seeking
, the culture a child grew up in influenced the
 attitude and use of social comparison in their adult lives. It showed that
 Asian Canadians put more emphasis on social comparison as opposed to European
 Canadians. However, the social comparisons of Asian Canadians tended to be more
 self-improving and positive in nature.

How social comparison is used and perceived is also a factor in stopping its negative effects. A study looking into the culture of social comparison found that within certain cultures, mental, emotional and physical relationships are factors in developing healthy comparisons.

When people feel connected to others and valued for their individuality, social comparison is positive and used for self-improving.

Both studies show changing your perception and attitude makes it possible to choose happiness, accept yourself and banish feelings of inadequacy.

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How To Stop Negatively Comparing Yourself to Others

These
 guidelines will keep you from beating yourself up:

1. Engage in Positive Self-Talk

Positive
 self-talk changes the negative voice in your head into an affirming one.

Instead
 of saying, “I’ll never be as pretty as her,” say, “I’m pretty in
 my own way.” Have a mantra that you repeat whenever a negative thought
 threatens to bring you down. There are many ways to engage in
 positive self-talk
and be kind to yourself.

2. Focus on Improvement Over Perfection

Nothing
 and no one is perfect. When we achieve perfection, we stop growing and
 learning. If you focus on being just a little better than you were yesterday,
 you’ll always improve and your self-confidence will grow.

3. Limit Time on Social Media

According
 to a study analyzing
 comparison and social networking
, social media comparisons caused greater feelings
 of low self-esteem and symptoms of depression.

The
 best way experts say to stop social media comparison is to limit the time you
 spend on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram and to unfollow
 influencers and bloggers whose posts foster negative self-comparisons.

4. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle

Exercising
 and making better choices in the kitchen show increases in positive self-esteem
 and body image, too. Plus, it lowers blood pressure, anxiety and depression
 through better weight control and increased endorphins from being more active.

5. Practice Gratitude

Practicing
 gratitude provides benefits like better sleep, more opportunities to form
 relationships and increased resiliency. It will put you on the way to
 appreciating yourself and better enjoying what others take for granted.

Conquering Comparing Yourself to Others

Self-acceptance is the crowning achievement when you conquer negative comparisons. Accepting yourself changes your perceptions surrounding comparisons and boosts your self-confidence and overall health.

When you stop comparing yourself to others, you open yourself up to a happier and healthier life.

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Originally published at Productivity Theory.