A Harmful Or Healthy Social Comparison?
In my previous blog “Understand Your Worth – How You Value Yourself,” I talked about the topic of how much the society places value on outward appearances when defining one’s success, whereas little consideration is given to the inner values of a person, and that certain outward appearances of success can trigger a need within you to compare yourself to others.
This outward type of social comparison is often painful and rarely triggers any real change in our lives, because it makes us feel defeated right from the start – mainly due to fear and insecurity. It’s of no surprise that we live with different paradoxes, with the most common one is failing to see our own value, while simultaneously thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought.
Though social comparisons are often seen as unhealthy, yet comparing ourselves to others can be a powerful life tool in itself. The difference lies in your motive: Are you comparing out of fear and insecurity, or out of the desire to improve?
The Harmful Type Of Social Comparison
This is when you compare out of fear and insecurity, in other words, you want what belongs to others.
There are plenty of examples, such as getting mad when someone gets the promotion instead of you, has a nicer suit and car, or it can even be a talent that you wish you had. These strong feelings that you deserve more can lead you to feel that you will never be good enough, and push you in making false assumptions that you deserve as much or more then what the other person has. This fear will only lead to great discontentment, which in turn will mature into bitterness.
Bitterness may cause you to seek faults with this person and look for reasons why they don’t deserve whatever it is that they have. Then, your thoughts start to lean towards an idea that you are never good enough so you might as well give up. You feel that you can never be enough so you do the bare minimum to keep yourself afloat. When bitterness becomes the core of one’s existence, there can be no happiness.
The Healthy Type Of Social Comparison
When was the last time you felt inspired by watching someone giving a great presentation? Or an interviewee handling him- or herself well in a tricky question and you found yourself saying, “Wow, I’ll try it that way next time.”
Watching others is one way of how we learn. If I hadn’t seen great presenters, like Simon Sinek, I’d probably still be using PowerPoint with boring bullet-point slides. Whether it’s watching how people handle themselves at work, or observing another parent managing a playground tantrum, comparing their methods to yours opens your mind to new possibilities.
From my personal experience, I look in the mirror each morning knowing that I am falling short of my potential. This may keep me humble, but the vision of people accomplishing great things is changing that image in the mirror for the better. While I’m not fearing or fretting, I am also not content to stay the way I am. I hope that’s the same for you.
How To Make Healthy Social Comparisons
Firstly, be conscious of who you compare yourself with. Don’t choose just one person, instead, choose multiple people that inspire you to become better which match with or surpass your character and judgement. Ask yourself how they would look at certain situations and solve them. This way, you can look at more options and be able to make the best decision possible.
Secondly, watch and listen to the world and understand what is going on around you. We simply write off people that we don’t agree with, whether it be politicians or religions. What a mistake this is! Take time to learn from all sources. Listen to others. You may never agree with them but something in what they are doing is a teachable moment. You learn what you might do, but you also learn what you would never do. Either way, you win because you have learned from it.
Finally, make a habit of reading. Sometimes, I walk through the aisles of book stores, not to buy anything, but to read the titles of the books to get inspiration from them. Also, reading blog posts, book summaries, watching videos, and taking courses are all means that gives us a healthy visual to compare ourselves and inspire us to do more. It’s time to stop making unhealthy comparisons with others and choose the path for yourself.
“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?” – Danielle LaPorte
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