We’ve probably all fallen into the trap at some time or another of comparing ourselves to others. We might see a picture of someone on social media or in a magazine and wish we looked more like that. We will then spend a while beating ourselves up before promising ourselves a new diet, a haircut, or a shopping trip for new clothes. We think if only we could be more like that person in the image, we could be happier. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Instead, our self-esteem takes a beating. As a result, we end up taking less care of ourselves, as we stop feeling like we deserve to spend time or money on ourselves.
Alternatively, we might look at someone else’s business, and think how much better they are doing than us, and wish that we were more like them. They might have more likes for their social media posts and it might look like they’re more successful, making more money, and doing much better than us. We then we end up feeling down about our business and can lose our motivation. As a result, our sense of self-worth diminishes, we spend less time pushing ourselves and we enter a downward spiral.
There can, however, be good reasons for comparing ourselves to others. If it’s done in a positive way, it can be really motivating. We can see how well others are doing it in the same field as us and realise that if we put the time and effort plus a good strategy in place, then we can do as well as them. However, It has to be done with care because we don’t want to start putting undue pressure on ourselves. If it’s done as a guidance, and with a motivational aspect, then it can be very positive. It can also help generate new ideas. Of course, we must not copy others, but seeing what other people are doing can be very inspiring. It can create some new ideas, which encourage us to start thinking about doing things in different, more inspiring ways. If we want to use comparison to others in a positive way, then we need to make sure that we are using it for motivation, rather than comparing ourselves in a negative way. We want to use comparing ourselves to others as inspiration, rather than as a stick to beat ourselves for not doing as well as others. If we want to look at it for new ideas, then we need to focus on the fact that we’ve got our own strategy and we just want to use the work of others for flashes of inspiration. We don’t want to copy what other people are doing and take ourselves on the wrong path.
While there are some good reasons for comparing ourselves to others, there are plenty of negative consequences as well. By comparing ourselves to others, our self worth can diminish. It can lead to a lot of negative self-esteem issues. Plus, we can feel our motivation diminishing as we see how well others are doing and comparing ourselves unfavourably to them. This means that we can lose motivation for what we’re doing. We might start to question the point of continuing if we’re doing so badly compared to everybody else. The problem is, we’re not being fair on ourselves as we don’t know the true picture. Instead, we’re comparing our whole selves, the good and the bad, to their highlights, not the whole story. If we just concentrated on our highlights, we would be much happier, but we don’t, we look at our whole story. We see the mistakes that we’re making, the areas that we need to improve on, the difficulties that we’re facing and we can be incredibly harsh on ourselves. Plus, we’re not very forgiving. In fact, we are our own worst critic. This means that we are comparing the negatives in our story to the highlights of their story because nobody puts on social media what they’re struggling with or what they’re failing at. On social media, everybody shows their best face, what they’re doing well and how successful they are. We never know the true story. And by comparing ourselves negatively to other people’s highlights, we’re really doing ourselves a great disservice.
Additionally, we might not be comparing like for like. We might be comparing ourselves to somebody who has been in business for many more years than us. And we see that they’re getting more likes and that they’re much more successful. But it might not be the true story, if they are much further down the line. It takes many years to set up a business and to run it successfully. And if we’re comparing our first year to their fifth year, then we’re not comparing like for like. We also have to bear in mind that they might have a completely different life to us. They might not be dealing with chronic illness, they might not have a family that needs their time. They might not have a household to run and they might have enough money to be able to employ people. We’re not comparing our life to their life in a fair way and that puts us at a huge disadvantage. We never know the full story. And so we must not compare ourselves to other people in such a negative way. Instead, we need to show ourselves some self compassion and some self kindness. We need to make sure that we’re not negatively comparing ourselves and putting such high expectations on ourselves to be as good as them. Instead, we need to remember the difficulties and the struggles that we are facing in our daily life, and not see it as a weakness, but see it as a strength when we overcome them.
Another issue with comparing ourselves to others, is that we may distract ourselves from our own path, we might see that somebody has had a great idea and is doing something completely different. And decide to copy that. We think that they must have chosen that path for a reason and feel that we should be doing the same. However, that might not be what our strategy is, it might not be what our goal is. So, it is important to remember to keep to our own lane and focus on what we want to achieve. We need to remind ourselves often of our goals, our strategy and not be distracted by what other people are doing. It’s so easy to get pulled off in another direction when you see somebody else doing it, but that might have a very negative consequence on our business. Our customers might not like it, we might not feel comfortable and aligned, and it might be bad for business. It really is important to keep to our path and keep on going in that direction.
One thing that can be useful is to compare ourselves to earlier versions of ourselves to see how far we have come and how much we have progressed. For example, we might look at where we were this time last year, and see how much further we have come and how much we have developed. I say this with a caveat, that we have to be careful, because if there have been issues that we’ve had to deal with in the past year, for example, health issues, family demands, or a global pandemic, then it’s not fair to compare ourselves in those circumstances to earlier versions of ourselves. However, if it’s done in a positive way, where we can see that, despite those difficulties, we have still moved our business forward, then it can be positive.
If we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others, that we need to accept that we are in different places, that we only use that to spark ideas or to motivate us. I think we also have to promise ourselves that if we keep comparing ourselves negatively to somebody that maybe they are not somebody we should be following.
As President Theodore Roosevelt said: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It really is. We need to hold that in mind when we next feel that negative tug of thinking that someone is better than us.