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Why you should not compare yourself to others

“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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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • tony May 13, 2009, 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, 9:34 am

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

  • satbir November 3, 2009, 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, 5:41 am

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

    • marc January 4, 2010, 3:04 am

      thanks

  • Pavla December 16, 2009, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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.