Author: Angela Ziegler
Pretty much everyone has compared themselves to others at least once in their life. It’s pretty natural and people do it for everything! From academics to sports to appearances. Especially if you’re really passionate about something it’s hard to not think about how you compare to others. Maybe there’s somebody in your grade who’s really good at basketball, and you find yourself constantly comparing how good you are with how good they are. Or maybe you see people in the media who always look perfect, and you wish you were like them.
While it’s healthy to have goals and role models, it can become damaging when you start to always obsess about how you “measure up” to others. You’ve probably already been told multiple times not to compare yourself to other people, and for good reasons:
Constantly weighing yourself against others can really damage your self-esteem and motivation.
I don’t like to preach about what people should and shouldn’t do, but it is important to at least recognize if you are constantly comparing yourself to others, and how that may affect you emotionally.
There are really two main reasons why comparing yourself to other people can be bad for your self-esteem:
- Comparing yourself to others drains you emotionally, which makes it harder for you to muster up the energy to work towards your goals. At least in my experience, negativity always makes me drained and unmotivated. That means that instead of putting energy towards practicing and learning, you are instead putting it towards something that just makes you feel worse about yourself, which distracts you from your goals.
- Comparing yourself to others makes you feel like you’re worse than you actually are. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people they start to seem better than they really are. Especially if you’re comparing yourself to images and people in the media, you can create unrealistic expectations for yourself. Getting caught in this obsessive cycle can really distort how you see yourself and other people, and make you feel inadequate even though in reality you’re not.
So how are you supposed to just make yourself think positively, then? Whenever somebody just tells me, “you should be more positive,” it doesn’t help at all. It’s hard to avoid thinking about yourself in comparison to other people, but there are ways that you can turn that negative energy into positive energy that fuels you instead of draining you.
One strategy is to use the successes of others as inspiration instead of feeling worse about yourself. For example, whenever I see a drawing that looks amazing, instead of thinking, “I could never do that,” I try to think, “Wow, if I keep working I’ll be able to draw something like that!” This way, instead of feeling demotivated, I actually feel really excited and inspired. This strategy might not work for everybody, because it depends on how much confidence you already have in yourself and your abilities.
Whenever I see a drawing that looks amazing, instead of thinking, “I could never do that,” I try to think, “Wow, if I keep working I’ll be able to draw something like that!”
Also, remember that everybody has different circumstances, and there are probably reasons why some people are better than others at different things. For example, I have a friend who’s amazing at violin and piano, and always gets scholarships and awards at festivals, but that’s because she spends 4 hours a day practicing and totally immerses herself in music. So of course I wouldn’t be as good as her, because I only practice piano for about an hour a day. It’s not that I’m just horrible and she’s super talented, but it’s that she does it more than me, so naturally she is going to do better than me. This might sound like harsh advice, but it is pretty empowering in my opinion because it means that I could probably be just as good as anyone else if I worked as hard as them.
If you really want to compare yourself to someone else, a good idea is to compare yourself to your past self. I think that often when we compare ourselves to other people we are trying to get a grasp on how “good” we are objectively. Comparing yourself to your past self instead is actually a pretty good way of seeing how much you’ve improved objectively, without the negativity involved in comparing yourself to others. I’m going to use my art as an example again: sometimes, when I’m feeling insecure about my abilities as an artist, I will look at my old sketchbooks. It’s actually really heartening to see how much I’ve improved when I compare my current art to my past art, and it makes me realize how far I’ve come. Comparing yourself to your past self, and seeing your improvement, is a really good strategy if you ever need a boost of confidence.
In conclusion, constantly comparing yourself to other people is natural, but it can be really emotionally draining and make you feel worse than you really are. It can be beneficial to focus on your own improvement instead of focusing on other people. I hope that this provided a little bit of insight into negative thoughts that might be eating at your self-esteem and confidence.