How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (and Stop Feeling Lousy About Yourself and Your Life)

by Henrik Edberg


Image by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabiovenni/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

.“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
Max Ehrman

One very common and destructive daily habit is to constantly compare your life and yourself to other people and their lives. You compare cars, houses, jobs, shoes, money, relationships, social popularity and so on. And at the end of the day you pummel your self esteem to the ground and you create a lot of negative feelings within. And perhaps also outside of yourself.

So what can you do? How can you get a handle on this habit?

In this article I’ll share what I have done. I’ll start with two habits that I use to replace that destructive habit. Then I’ll move on to a few more general tips that have also helped me.

Compare yourself to yourself.

First, instead of comparing yourself to other people create the habit of comparing yourself to yourself. See how much you have grown, what you have achieved and what progress you have made towards your goals.

This habit has the benefit of creating gratitude, appreciation and kindness towards yourself as you observe how far you have come, the obstacles you have overcome and the good stuff you have done. You feel good about yourself without having to think less of other people.

You can make this habit stick by for instance taking a few minutes each day or just each Sunday (or any day that fits you) to use a journal to write down how you have grown, how much closer you are to your goals now, what you have overcome and learned and so on.

By doing so your thinking will over time shift and your thought patterns will automatically become more focused on comparing you to you rather than to other people.

Be kind.

In my experience, the way you behave and think towards others seems to have a big, big effect on how you behave towards yourself and think about yourself.

Judge and criticize people more and you tend to judge and criticize yourself more (often almost automatically). Be more kind to other people and help them and you tend to be more kind and helpful to yourself.

So focus your mind on helping people and being kind.

Focus on the positive things in yourself and in the people around you. Appreciate what is positive in yourself and others. This way you become more OK with yourself and the people in your world instead of ranking them and yourself and creating differences in your mind.

You are OK and so are they.

Now, a few more tips that can be helpful to move away from that comparison trap:

  • Just realize that you can’t win. Just consciously realizing this is helpful. No matter what you do you can pretty much always find someone else in the world that has more than you or are better than you at something. Yes, you may feel good for a while when you get a nicer car than your neighbour. But a week or two later you’ll see someone from the next block with an even finer car than yours.
  • Give up both sides of comparing. If you can’t stop doing the negative comparisons then stop doing the comparisons that make you feel good too. Give them both up, at least for a while. If you’re in the habit of comparing to feel better about yourself then it’s hard to just stop at that and to not also start comparing in way that make you feel worse and inferior too. So you may need to step out of that whole comparing habit because the two sides are often connected. Give up the upside to be able to move away from the downside.

And that is basically how I do it, that is how I keep those negative comparisons to a minimum in my life.

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{ 35 comments }

James- The Fitness Coach with a conscious July 20, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Excellent article. I constantly compare myself to myself. But sometimes I do cheat and compare my results to my peers :)

But seriously, I tell my clients this all the time. It’s really a complete mind shift that you have to dedicate yourself to everyday.

James- The Fitness Coach With a Conscious

Tyler J.Logan July 20, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Hey Herni, I really enjoyed this post! I really laughed at this post because the things that you speak of, you were telling the truth! Why compare yourself! Comparing yourself to somone else will lead to jealously! When you spoke, that someone is always better than you at something, which is true because it was ordained that way, nomatter how good you at something, someone is always better than you! This is where learning comes into play! We can either learn from them or be jealous of them! I desire to learn from people who are better to me, because they teach me things on where I need to improve at! Great post!

Jaky Astik July 20, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Dale Carnegie rightly said,…a man is worth something when his fight begins with himself…

Ken Wert July 20, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Great points here, Henrik!

I love the journal idea to help ingrain the habit of comparing yourself to yourself instead of to others.

If you’re a religious person, you can do the same kind of thing in prayer, giving an accounting of your day, addressing various emotional and moral bumps and bruises of the day and expressing gratitude for the little successes in personal growth and improvement.

I think having a few benchmark mentors or heroes in life is fine, as long as we don’t beat ourselves up every day for not yet being where they are or we perceive them to be. It CAN (but doesn’t always) lead to more motivation to do better. We can ask ourselves questions like the well-known, “What would Gandhi or Buddha or Jesus or whoever do in this situation?” as a way to improve our moral decision-making. That is a form of comparison, but mostly innocuous.

But you are so dead-on that comparing ourselves to others can lead to guilt and shame and a sense of inadequacy, or it’s opposite, as you say, to pride and contempt and arrogance.

Always uplifting reading your posts, Henrik! Keep up the great work you do!

sayedsmart July 20, 2011 at 8:40 pm

this is very useful to improve our life

Alaina L Lewis July 20, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Thank You so much for this!

Braden July 21, 2011 at 1:43 am

You could even take a step back from comparing yourself to yourself and abandon any comparison or judgment of yourself at any point in time altogether.

But first, at least recognize that there is a form of judgment and go from there. Recognition before relinquishment.

marc van der Linden July 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Great points!

I believe the only good place where comparing yourself with others is in a learning situation. If you want to learn something from somebody, it is very effective to compare your own behaviour with that of your role model. This is what I call ‘positive comparing’

Your 2 points to avoid negative comparing are excellent. I believe ‘comparing yourself with yourself” and “be kind to yourself” are the best things you can do. They both support personal growth.

Thanks for the inspiration!

John Sherry July 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Love the ethic Henrik. There’s millions out there to compare ourselves to but we were born an orginal so best live as one. After all no-one has the same name, skills and talents, and personality that we do and it’s our destiny to stay unique and share that one-of-a-kind soul with the world. You can’t do that if you’re busy being someone else, right?

Andrew Olson July 21, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Hey Henrik,
This is such an important concept. The habit of judging is so destructive to your wellbeing. Whether you’re judging yourself against others, or others against yourself, it create so much dissatisfaction.

I love the point about comparing yourself to yourself. In reality, that’s the only yardstick you have. And you could extend that as well, judge others only against themselves.

Loved the quote at the beginning as well, it really distills these ideas!

LeEllen July 21, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Perfect timing! I’ve been doing this alot …especially in the last few days! Thank you so much for posting this!

savannahjan July 21, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I think I struggle to compare myself to myself because I seem to be at a downsliding point in my life right now. So, when I compare myself to myself, I see that I was better off at an earlier time in my life. But, I suppose that should be the motivation to make positive changes in my life so that when I compare myself to myself, I find something to be happy/positive about.

Clint Cora July 21, 2011 at 9:21 pm

I can certainly relate to this even during my martial arts competition career. At first, I would always try to compare myself to the top competitors and whenever they showed up, I would be defeated already before we started. Then I realized that the top competition is not the others but myself. As long as I did better than before, I’ve won. I carried this attitude with me for the rest of my career and the wins started to come in. What a difference that this mindshift makes. Thanks for the reminder.

Josten July 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm

When we compare ourselves to other people it does lower our self confidence. This post truly opened my eyes up about doing so. Unfortunately there is always going to be people who compare themselves to others. Just depends on whether we choose to or not to.

Dehlia July 22, 2011 at 7:22 am

Ahh, I compare myself to others all the time. Everyone I graduated high school with has already received their Bachelor’s degrees this year, and I just received a useless Associate’s in general studies…needless to say I’m much farther behind than my peers. But one of my friends said, just make sure you’re doing what keeps you happy and who cares what everyone else does — as long as you’re doing it! I’m going to school because I love learning and I want to have a career I enjoy, so who cares how long it happens to take me to do it.

Anon July 25, 2011 at 11:28 am

You are too young to worry about what others have accomplished. Yes, a bachelors degree is nice but as long as you keep working on yours, that is all that matters. Best of luck to you.

Merly July 23, 2011 at 8:01 am

great article….luv it..excellent points

Scotti J Collins July 23, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Believe it or not your the third person to present this message to me in the last 24 hrs. The first was my 87 year old Mother. The second a Friend of my Family and Big Time Financeer from Boston. I get the message Loud and Clear!

Jussi July 24, 2011 at 8:59 am

Loved this one Henrik, thank you! Be kind to others and also to yourself!

Classier Corn July 24, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Thanks for a interesting post and a good blog!
Best Regards
Classier Corn

Henrik Edberg July 25, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Thank you everyone for your kind words and for adding your insights and tips for this common issue. I’m very glad to see that so many seemed to get something good out of this article. :)

bandageherveleger July 26, 2011 at 9:27 am

I agree with you ,I t is very important for us to know ourself in a proper way !great blog!

bandageherveleger July 26, 2011 at 9:29 am

by the way ,sometimes we need compare to others then we could get better to know our shortcoming and be a better person ,through comparing ,we could learn from each other ,we should be humble!

kurgat July 26, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Good stuff indeed.I can only win for being myself.If you try to compare yourself with someone else you can only get disappointed.That is why when you die you will take your hands,legs ,brains to your grave, not someones else.The fact of accepting this makes us happier for being who we are.Our offspring s will always know that their parents were a happy lot if we inculcate in them a feeling of self satisfaction.

Andrea July 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Hi Henrik

Thank you for this. It is so true, we cannot compare ourselves with others, we are all different and got different journeys in life. What could work for someone else could be bad for me
I like your idea that if you are judging someone else, you are judging yoruself also. It is true. We are all mirrors. The bad we see in someone else is a reflection of ourselves, so when we point fingers to someone else there are three other fingers pointing back to us.

Thank you
Andrea
A Happier Self

@marcmillan July 26, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Love the article and approach bro, Compare yourself to yourself. That’s brilliant and very well said.
M_

Dana Lightman, Ph.D. July 27, 2011 at 8:53 pm

I love this article. One of the most damaging habits is that of comparing your path to someone else’s. After all, we are each here to create our own journey. We are each unique. What a relief to celebrate my individuality.

stephen July 28, 2011 at 3:12 am

Good article, i used to always compare myself to other years ago, but eventually i realized that it was only harming myself, it did take a while to stop doing it just like anything you have been habitually doing for a long time it can take just as much time and effort to stop! But i feel a lot happier for doing it:)
Also like you said you have to also stop making yourself feel better by thinking you are better than other people, just accept who you are and work on improving yourself because that is all that matters!

Simon July 28, 2011 at 4:44 pm

This is something that you easily could have gone into greater depth with – it’s such a good topic and the more information about it the better.
- keep up the good work

Lauren @ MRS August 3, 2011 at 3:47 am

That’s true though, it would forever be a vicious cycle if you keep on stacking up your shortcomings and achievements against the people around you. It’s best to just encourage yourself in doing better in all aspects of your life for the purpose of your own happiness and achievement.

TheHappyOne August 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

I think the dominant reason of stress and stress-related diseases in today’s world is “Comparison with others”. Those who have been gifted with good looks, finances and brains are still stressed as there is always someone better to be found. Most of us are not contented with what we have and crave for more and more. I know this craving is must for personal growth but it’s a double-edged sword for it drains us as well. Personally, I feel a line needs to be drawn to attain contentment and bliss, which is easier said than done.

Thanks Henrik for this discussion.

Stephen August 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Hey Henrik,

Awesome post, this really gets to the root of one of my biggest issues, comparing myself to others. I agree fully with what you said, we all started at different places with different talents and weaknesses. We all have had different experiences, and we are all on our own unique paths so no reason whatsoever to compare ourselves to others. One thing that has helped me immensely in this area is releasing stored up chronic muscle tension in my body and body language. When you release muscle tension, usually emotional release comes with it.

A great program for this is Code of the Natural by Rob Brinded found here:

Body Language Attraction

Makus With Social Skills Advice September 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

Comparing you self to you self is something I have thought of myself, because when you do keep track of your own growth, then you can help but to get more motivated. With is an important factor of success.

Br Markus Ellek

Thomas September 4, 2011 at 9:46 am

I agree, comparing your self toward others will almost never lead to anything positive. While comparing yourself to you self will always be a very strong source of motivation – because it will force you to see your own growth.

thanks – Thomas

Kelsey September 13, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I try to appreciate what I have but being competitive can help me grow.

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