Comparison – we’ve all been there. One minute you’re happily perusing the interweb, marvelling at how the world is quite literally at your fingertips. Next minute you’re three years deep in your ex-boyfriend’s new gf’s IG account and wow, 2017 really was an excellent year for her.
Yet now you feel terrible. Worse than terrible. You’re considering a career change, googling hair extensions and just generally hating your own existence. This feeling is exactly why we’re told to not compare ourselves to others. ‘To compare is to despair’, I’ve heard people say. Or maybe I just made it up.
But if it makes us feel so bad, why do we do it?
It turns out that we’re hardwired to compare. It comes part and parcel with being human. In fact, ‘self-other mergence’ lives in a brain spot called the frontal cortex. According to psychotherapist Manna Maniago, comparison is a tool we use to evaluate ourselves.
“Measuring ourselves is one of the processes of the human mind. It may be harmful when it leaves you feeling inferior or not good enough, but it can also be helpful at times. Especially if the comparison motivates you to improve,” Manna says.
Hold up, so comparison can actually be a good thing?
Yep. Comparison is not all bad. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, if you will. In fact, it can be super useful because it provides us with a way to determine if we are ‘on track’. It can inspire us, motivate us, teach us lessons. It can give us the kick we need to smash goals.
It’s only when those comparisons make us feel shitty, that they serve no purpose. “Our mental health can be seriously compromised if we are prone to negative comparison,” says Manna. “When we rely on others to validate our sense of self, and only feel good if we get positive feedback, we can be at risk for depression.”
Comparison is GOOD when it teaches you a career lesson
Ever not get a job? Missed out on a promotion? It burns, right? It’s the worst burn. It sears all the way to your soul. But even though it’s brutal as hell, there’s always a lesson in there somewhere. This kind of comparison can show you where your weaknesses are, how you could upskill or what you should work on to interview better. It helps us be better.
Comparison is BAD when it makes you crazy envious
Envy is one of the seven sins and it’s a direct result of negative comparison. This kind of comparison makes you super jealous of all the things you supposedly lack. Your neggy internal monologue might go a bit like – he earns more cash than me. She has a fiance. They have a bigger house. He has an easy life, yada yada yada. We ain’t go no time for this kinda comparison. Quit this comparison.
Comparison is GOOD when it sets an inspiring benchmark
Comparison can be muy bueno when it relates to an achievable benchmark or a realistic role model. It can help us assess our current abilities, recognise how far we’ve already come and then push forward toward our goals. When comparison is used as a benchmark, it sets us up to conquer our PB’s rather than running a competitive race. If there’s someone out there you idolise, let their journey inspire your own dreams (rather than crush them).
Comparison is BAD when it makes you self-doubt
Comparing beauty is a good example of this, it will only ever wind up making you hate the skin you’re in. Comparing yourself to photoshopped influencers or unrealistic supermodels will be incredibly detrimental to your self-confidence and almost definitely affect your mental health. But you know what? Life isn’t a beauty contest. In fact, who’s to say who or what is beautiful? It’s all a ruse! Beauty is on the inside!
Taryn Williams is someone who knows this all too well, working with models every day as founder of WINK. Check her journey below.
So what can we do to curb the neggy comparison feels?
Manna recommends remembering that we’re all different. We’ve all got our own strengths, capabilities, limitations and weaknesses. It’s a you do you, moment. “When we run this race called life, we can’t expect everyone to be the same,” Manna says.
“We are all entitled to run at our own pace, as fast or as slow as it takes us to reach our goals. When we compare ourselves to others, we lose focus and tend to look for things we don’t have instead of being grateful for what we do have.”
Deep, right? So practice gratitude. Remember that you’re a bloody beautiful individual human. And back yourself with a supportive gang who lift each other up, rather than steal each other’s joy.