Why you should not compare yourself to others

by Henrik Edberg

“You shouldn´t compare yourself to others!”, people might tell you.

Of course, without an explanation this is about as good advice as “Just be yourself!” or “Just be more confident!”.

Most likely it will not help at all.

So, why shouldn’t we compare ourselves to others?

One reason is that there is always someone – or more likely, a bunch of folks – better than you.

If you focus your mind to compare your life to other people´s lives you will always find someone new above you. And your self-esteem will take a beating.

If you get a nicer car to feel better compared to Bill Patterson next door and you´ll feel satisfied for a while. The next day, on you way to work, you notice that the guy who´s always out walking his poodle at weekends has an even sweeter ride than you.

And if you buy a better car than him six months later then you will soon notice that the Amberson kid around the corner has made millions via some internet-contraption and now drives a Koenigsegg to school. :)

One of the big reasons we compare our lives is to get approval. And in general I think that wanting approval from others is a big obstacle in both personal growth and living a happy life. We may want the neighbours, friends etc. to think/say: “Did you see that new car/swimming-pool/shoes? It is the coolest on the block. S/he´s is moving up in the world”.

A problem with comparing yourself to others and wanting approval from them is that you let others control how you feel in life. You feel bad when you are saving for the new car. You feel great when you finally have gotten enough money to drive it home. And then you feel bad again when you see that someone else has an even finer automobile.

It´s a bit like being puppet and having other people pulling the strings. They limit you movements and your life. You might have some movement but the strings controls which way you are going.

How to gain that inner freedom

The thing about lessening your need for approval is that you have give up both positive and negative approval. They are connected because when if you no longer crave positive cheers and approval from people then you will no longer have fears of not getting that approval either.

When you really start to give it up – which might have to be done over time and with patience as your ego probably will want to snap back to seeking that sweet, sweet approval – you start to realise that neither of them are that important. They are really only as important as you decide they are. You are what you think you are and the world is what you think it is.

Another way to free yourself is to put in some massive, drastic action. Like, instead of driving your car, starting to ride a bicycle to work. This could catapult you right into disapproval and let you move outside your comfort zone quickly. When you first move out of your comfort zone it is uncomfortable. But after a while you get used to it and the discomfort starts to dissipate.

If you try this method you may discover that people don´t care as much as you feared – maybe they are busy worrying about their own problems and what others may think of them. Or you can find that you´ve had a positive effect on others. Next week maybe you are not the only one riding a bicycle to work.

A third way is one I´ve discovered recently though Eckhart Tolle´s dvd “The Flowering of Human Consciousness”. It´s a bit counter-intuitive but bear with me.

Whenever you feel some feeling you don´t want to feel, like neediness for approval from someone then don´t struggle with this feeling. Don´t try and keep it out. Then it will just be further entangled in your mind and possibly even strengthened.

Instead, accept the feeling. Say yes to it. Surrender and let it in.

Observe the feeling in your mind and body without judging it. If you just let it in and observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird but give it a try.

The funny thing is when you no longer need approval from others, when you stop comparing yourself to others you will have a greater inner freedom to do what you want. You will notice positive opportunities in your life that wasn´t there before.

And, as usual, don´t feel too bad or beat yourself up if you snap back to wanting approval. Just get back on track the next day, keep it up and gradually you will change.





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{ 31 comments }

John Wesley December 12, 2006 at 9:01 pm

I agree with you about not comparing oneself to others in regard to material possessions, but I think it can be useful to compare yourself to other people you admire. If someone has set a good model for how think and behave why not learn from it?

Henrik Edberg December 12, 2006 at 9:17 pm

I agree, it is great to model someone else so you don´t have to reinvent the wheel. And I agree, it can be good to keep an eye on someone else you admire. But I think it´s easy to get into a needy habit of comparing your life to someone elses and feel down on your own life. It´s good to compare once in a while but not to do it constantly.

Sirajudeen December 15, 2006 at 7:54 am

Wonderful thoughts Henrik. I completely agree with you on the negative effects of ‘catch-up game’.

tart December 19, 2006 at 8:50 pm

cool post!

therealdrag0 February 5, 2007 at 3:36 am

There is another way of releasing yourself from that; seeking your approval from God. This book talks about it and has made a big impact on my life. Searching for God Knows What – Donald Millar.

Brett Hagey March 7, 2007 at 7:00 am

I think Frank Zappa said it best; “You are what you is.”

Matt Merkulov July 5, 2007 at 4:00 am

> seeking your approval from God
Jumping from one trap to another? Very good choice…

William Sinclair November 22, 2007 at 9:10 pm

I’ve always had a problem with this. Someone once told me not to compare, but I didn’t listen. There are so many aspects to a persons life that you really can’t compare even if it is a sibling. Admiring and adding someone else’s positive personality traits isn’t really comparing. It is seeing something that you want and going after it. I love the article!

feng xu December 19, 2007 at 9:12 pm

good blog

Anonymous February 6, 2008 at 1:18 am

hmmm some people simply just don’t want to be under anyone, so they have no choice but to be the best and being better than everybody else.

Aerex February 6, 2008 at 1:19 am

some people simply want to be better than everyone else and not to get approval from people. I feel squimish everytime I lose to someone becuase I feel under him or her.

Anonymous March 13, 2008 at 7:41 pm

I just cannot stand ppl who compare themselves to me, I can notice that they are bragging and feeling better than me. This is sooooo pathetic… guys, dont do that…

someone March 27, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I have always admired people who didn’t compare themselves with others. They were always much bolder then I could be.

Anonymous May 26, 2008 at 11:13 pm

Of course you can compare yourself to others; you just have to stop judging yourself when you’re doing the comparing.

leader June 5, 2008 at 5:54 pm

what do you do when you have been put or put yourself in a leadership position where you are expected to set a good example for many other people? i think it’s definitely important to care what others think of you. sometimes even a small failure will never be forgiven/forgotten…

Mark June 19, 2008 at 8:16 pm

We are all in the position to be good examlpes of human beings for everyone we come in contact with. Inately, I believe, we all aspire to be better people. The problem comes when we play the comparison game and harshly judge ourselves. It is necessary to embrace the imperfection of our own humaness.

lalala June 23, 2008 at 2:13 am

yeah i used to compare myselfs to other people and want what they have. like this gurl at my skool has this purple dolce and gabbana bag and i like it cuz she has it and well i like purple. but i used to be obsessed with purses and materialistic things but now i dont really care.

Brian July 9, 2008 at 6:00 am

No one is superior to anyone else, but that’s what our society tells us– and now it tells us that our external accomplishments/appearances etc. are a show of our character as well as our station.

arvin August 11, 2008 at 11:03 pm

I agree with the fact that no one should compare themselves with others. Everyone is unique and we should accept that favour God made on us. People who compare themselves with others are in fact either jealous or not confident. These people are controlled by their lives and are not the ones who control their lives. They tend to live the life of the person they are comparing themselves to. We should love ourselves the way we are. We should destroy the ego in us. This will reduce stress and thus have a better life. When we are comparing we don’t follow our instint and thus we believe we are limited in every way. But this is not the case, we are limitless. The power to create miracles is in us. We just need some confidence in our instinct. Think positive and positive will happen. You are what you think everyday.

Quangnv August 30, 2008 at 5:24 am

John Wesley
Dec 12th, 2006 at 9:01 pm

I agree with you about not comparing oneself to others in regard to material possessions, but I think it can be useful to compare yourself to other people you admire. If someone has set a good model for how think and behave why not learn from it?

Henrik Edberg
Dec 12th, 2006 at 9:17 pm

I agree, it is great to model someone else so you don´t have to reinvent the wheel. And I agree, it can be good to keep an eye on someone else you admire. But I think it´s easy to get into a needy habit of comparing your life to someone elses and feel down on your own life. It´s good to compare once in a while but not to do it constantly.

Excuse me, I have something that I want to talk about the problem “compare yourself to other people you admire”. I don’t know what’s the feeling of others people about this, so instead, I will talk about my way when I compare myself to someone I admire.

First, I will try to identify things about that people in order to know more about why i admire him/her. After the moment I’ve already have enough information, I will temporarily forget about that people, just concentrate about the things I’m interested in. Try to find out why they succeed doing that while I’m not. This will help me to identify what I need to know/to have in order to be successful like them. Even in the case I can’t, at least I also have a clearly look about the problem, and surely I won’t bother thinking about how to do that again. Instead, do something I can do…
Please remind me if I say something wrong.
Thank you for your attention! And I’m sorry about my English.

tony May 13, 2009 at 12:23 am

many folks did not have the same obstacles as others growing up. some of us were abused or had some terrible tragic childhood. SO those folks who have have experienced the bad stuff have a lot more to plow through just to get in the game.

Aquared25 October 3, 2009 at 9:34 am

A really wonderful post that can change somebody’s life totally….Good work!!

satbir November 3, 2009 at 10:13 am

I think it has a lot to do with the childhood. If someone is constantly compared as a child with others especially someone better. The feeling of inferiority creep in and we constantly try to compare ourselves even as adults. We just need to unlearn that behavior and get grip of new positive thinking pattern. Anyway very nice post.

a needed someone December 8, 2009 at 5:41 am

Thanks that is just what I needed to hear today. seriously.

marc January 4, 2010 at 3:04 am

thanks

Pavla December 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Hey, great article, have been struggling this for a while and actually realised that it works when I accept my feelings and express myself as I want to (as long as it is not aggressive of course), it is sooooo liberating….so i no longer try to keep a smily face all the time if i dont feel like it and it feels so well internally, unbelievable…integrity is the key i think..the less i pretend or try to fit someone else’s ideal or even copy their feelings and behaviour (which i do sometimes, as i am quite sensitive), the more right it feels….I have read a book recently. it is called Fu*k it..and it summarises Buddhist approach in understandable way for westerners :)

Pavla December 16, 2009 at 9:12 pm

Cos just think about it , if i try to get approval with every single person I meet, I will go MAD…so it is not worth it!

Rodmaninov December 28, 2009 at 1:26 pm

I come from very judgemental parents, who have gone through life harshly ‘qualifying’ everyone and everything around them. As a child, it made me do the same . . . and their negative voices became lodged in my mind . . . finally focused on myself. I don’t try and be like anyone, but I do hear what I think they might be saying in disapproval . . . I know that language all too well. This article and the responses afterward helped me because it reinforced my gut feeling that I’ve got a unique and valuable thing to contribute to this world, and even if it’s rejected, I know I’ve put it out there for better or for worse. I’m overcoming fear while trying to be positive and learn a more healthy internal language . . . Thanks for the positive thoughts here, keep up the good work !!

Helen February 26, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Henrik,
Try the Sedona Method (book or CDs) that are all about “releasing” or what you and Tolle call “surrender”.
Helen

macro March 22, 2010 at 5:10 am

Of course the article is totally correct.. Im a person who has the ‘comparing illness’ within me severely. that is why i found some help from internet, and I found this.. I always think that I dont have a better identity, and I always think that people around me have lot of better things than me… then I try to achieve everything that they got.. this makes me so tired and all the time I feels like I am a looser.. No one tells me that Im a looser and according to the social surrounding here I have achieve something considerable too.. but the problem is I always want to compare myself with the people who are different(having different things) than me…
may be I should think that everyone is not the same and different people have different things.. if everyone have everything,then ohh god, the world will be a boring place… yes! I have that idea , but when I see another person it changes… ! anyway I better try out this article, I hope it will help me…

Tess August 1, 2010 at 8:45 am

This uplifts me. I am pretty manic depressive as it is. And I have a terrible case of comparing myself to others, casued more so from low confuidence, more so than jealousy. Everyone around me who knows this thinks I am crazy because people around me think I have this great life, ive traveled a lot, experienced a lot….but no matter what people say, I always compare myself to other people around me who are doing the things I want to do as a career, but only they are actually making it their profession…while I sit here and do the same hobbies, trying to make it a profession, but im sitting here in my room always questioning what they are doing better? It makes me sick to know that I do this and I wish someone could take my brain and program it to NOT do this. I try to read things like this daily on the internet to lift my spirits, othewrwise I wallow in deep depression. Thank you for cheering me up for the day. I need to realize that I dont need a million people kissing my ass, or loving how i look or what I do…I just need to love myself and who I am first…then the rest will fall into place.

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