Thriving Well


You’re told you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, yet you can’t help yourself. Here are three things you can do to turn social comparison into something constructive.

01 May 2021

Don’t Deny It, Admit It

Psychologist Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory says that we have an innate need to make judgements about ourselves and we do this is by gauging where we stand relative to others. It’s human nature to compare ourselves with those around us, a trait that lets us co-exist as a community while learning from one another. If you recognise and accept this, that helps neutralise the negative charge that can accompany social comparison and make it less likely to trigger destructive psychological responses such as deflated self-esteem and confidence.

Turn Criticism Into Compliment

You’re working up a fine sweat on the treadmill and feeling good about yourself. You glance over and the person next to you is running at a higher speed and incline, and with not a hair out of place. Suddenly, you have that sinking feeling that you are not enough. They were born with running genes, you convince yourself, or are wearing some super high-tech shoes that give them an edge. You won’t admit it but that’s jealousy making you feel inadequate, and you react by finding faults or putting others down.

It may make you feel better, but only fleetingly so and you’ll end up feeling worse because that behaviour is not aligned with who you really are. Turn things around by being honest about how you feel: Sure, they have something you don’t or they’re able to do something you can’t – yet. Then, instead of criticising, compliment them about it. Trust us, you’ll feel better about it. Plus, it’s a great way to break the ice and possibly earn you a new friend.

Convert Envy Into Aspiration

Now that you’ve come clean about what it is that troubled you about the comparison, you also know what it is that you really want for yourself. To be faster on the treadmill? To lift more weights? Whatever it may be, make it a goal to work towards. Think of the person you were comparing yourself to. Take a mental picture and use it as your muse, your inspiration, and your benchmark. You’ve actually seen someone who can do what you would like to so you know it can be done.

So then, to compare is not necessarily to despair like the saying goes. You can turn it into a constructive endeavour that lifts you up and elevate your game in every aspect of life.