Compare Yourself To Other People? Here’s A Better Solution!

by Karim Saleh

comparison is the thief of joyGrowing up I experienced so much anxiety it stunted my self-confidence.

This caused me to feel so frustrated at my perceived failures I continuously beat myself up about it. I would look around at other people and think, “Why couldn’t I be like them?” Why couldn’t I be smarter? Why wasn’t I better looking? Why did I have no friends? Did I fit in? Will they like me? These are the types of thoughts that lead you to a whole lot of pain and suffering. This type of thinking does not need to happen, and I’m here to show you how to change your perception.

Changing this can help you develop yourself to the point where you have little or no social anxiety, you are able to come up with realistic creative solutions to the problems you face, you can learn to see yourself as a fluid person and not a static being.

The History of Comparing Yourself to Other People

the condensed version

Where did we learn this behavior?

We learned it from our parents, our friends, tv, advertising, the media, seeing other people do things that we can’t do, failure, taking things personally, etc. What we learned is that we are not good enough or that we don’t measure up.

What is so bad about comparing yourself to other people?

There has been research completed which identifies the effect on performance of those who maintain an internal comparison versus those who use external factors to manage themselves. In the research, it showed that in stressful settings, those who were internally managed were found to “perceive less stress, employ more task-centered coping behaviors, and employ fewer emotion-centered coping behaviors than externals.” In high stress situations, those with an internal comparison performed better than those who used external factors for a comparison. (Locus of control, coping behaviors, and performance in a stress setting: A longitudinal study by Anderson, Carl R)

So what does this mean for you?

First off, you aren’t somebody else. You are you. You may wish you were someone else, but you are still you. By comparing yourself to other people, you automatically tell yourself that you aren’t good enough and that you can be compared to other people. This leads to all kinds of anxiety, self-loathing, anger, hatred, and generally all kinds of nasty behavior which is unnecessary.

I’ve lived it. Occasionally, this kind of nonsense will return into my head. Even after all the years I have worked at this, I still face my demons… But, now I’m smarter.

Important note: realize that shaming yourself further cements you in this destructive pattern. Those emotional anchors are there, but you don’t have to feed them.

So, what can we do about this when it happens? How do we ‘fix’ it?

Start comparing yourself to yourself!

What I mean by that is that instead of comparing yourself to other people compare yourself to how you were in the past.

Say for e.g. if you were trying to learn a new song on your guitar. You get really frustrated because you are having trouble learning a specific part of the song, or even the whole song entirely. Your mental process kicks in about how you are not good enough, how you are not as good as your friend Jack who can play this song as well as a hundred more difficult songs, and then you start comparing yourself to Jimi Hendrix who could literally play this song with his teeth. Ah, the misery!

The alternative?

Think about when you never played the guitar. Think about when you learned your first chord. Think about the first time you ever put two chords together and the experience you had. Maybe it was damn easy for you or maybe it was difficult.

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But the fact is, you have gotten yourself to the point that you can even consider playing a song. That means you have developed your interests, you have motivated yourself to locate/buy a guitar, you have found someone/something to teach you, you have learned your first chord and so on.

Do you see how much you have grown? Do you remember how it was not always easy? Did you somehow think that it was easy for everyone? Other than the rare exception, things don’t come easy to people. It takes hard work, dedication and persistence.

If you don’t play the guitar or have never played the guitar, have no fear! This situation can be applied to literally anything you do. If you think you aren’t as smart as someone else, you start comparing yourself to other people who are way ‘smarter’ leading to the same process. It all comes down to not being good enough.

What if you were good enough? What if there was no such thing as good enough?

What if you decided, instead of comparing yourself to other people, you would accept yourself as you are and go from there?

Let’s say that within your personality lies something that you can do incredibly well, and also even better than someone else.

Impossible!!!! You say…

Consider this:

jimi hendrixJimi Hendrix wasn’t born with a guitar in his hand, and I can guarantee you it wasn’t always easy. His first guitar was actually a one string ukulele which his father gave to him after he saw him running around with a broom pretending to play Elvis Presley songs.

It took him time to figure out what he wanted as he became interested in football in his teens. It wasn’t always easy for Jimi, but he stayed on his path certain that he would find his calling.

After the loss of his mother he was given his first acoustic guitar and Jimi was hooked. He fell in love with playing the guitar… when his “something that [you] can do incredibly well, and also maybe even better than someone else’ showed up. It became a pleasure to learn and play the guitar.

Do you think Jimi Hendrix really gave a #$$% what other people thought of him playing guitar? In his younger years, he was actually very insecure… but when he realized his passion, it didn’t matter so much anymore…

I guarantee you he would never have experience the success that he had if he continued to care so much about what people thought about him. He was focused on expressing his self and his love for HIMSELF. Other people just got to enjoy it as a side bonus.

It was his passion. He felt that he was good enough, and felt secure enough to pursue his love.

Wouldn’t you feel free doing that? If you realized that every person is a sum of all their parts. Each person has strengths and weaknesses. If you consider that some people literally don’t understand math, some are bad at math, some are good at math and some are incredible at math, you can consider that people are made in all shapes and sizes.

Consider that if you feel that you are not strong in one area, you can improve in that area, or work to improve in that area. You can also choose to look for the thing which you love. Every step you take on this path, you can reward yourself because you are moving towards what moves you. Even if you take the time to work on your weaknesses (which I highly suggest), and you are struggling you can still reward yourself for working on your weaknesses even if you have seen no tangible gains yet.

Eventually you will make progress and you can look back on yourself and realize how far you have come. It feels great!

Doesn’t this sound a lot better than comparing yourself to other people? Recognize that while other people may have their gifts, you have yours. There are people who write way better than me, but that doesn’t change how much I love to write!

There are people who are better than me in probably everything that I consider myself to be good at, but I’m not living for them I’m living for me. I know that I own what I have and I can appreciate that. I may or may not be the best at something, but I can follow the path that I love and see where it takes me.

When I start comparing myself to other people, I think… uh, that actually makes no sense. Take 100% responsibility for your life. If you don’t like something, go out and change it about yourself. And if you can’t, accept it and start focusing on what you control instead of what you don’t.

Aim to express instead of aiming to impress.

If you have any questions or parts of the article which you don’t understand please let us know so we can ensure to give you the answers. We love trying to provide value to you and we want to be a part of helping you be a happier, more fulfilled and successful person personally and socially.

– Karim

About Karim Saleh
Karim Saleh is a multifaceted medical student living in Ireland who is passionate about social ethics and personal change. His main goals in life are meeting extraordinary people and sharing his knowledge and experience for the benefit of others. He lives his life by "Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own." (Bruce Lee) He has big hopes and plans for the future, and big hopes and plans for YOU. Contact Karim at karisaleh@rcsi.ie

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

David September 11, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hey Karim!

This article is just AMAZING! You really are a talented writer!
I love your style, it’s very clear and also some sentences were short, but so full of energy.
I especially like the sentence: Aim to express instead of aiming to impress. This involves so much like expressing your talents and passions making you feel incredibly happy, but also a way to impress others at the same time (Win-win).

I have one question. Often I see other people having certain things I would love to have too (especially on a social level) and it makes me feel sad and worthless, asking why I can’t reach that. How to change those negative, depressing feelings into motivation and postive energy, willing to change it as soon as possible?

Karim September 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Hey David!

Thanks for your kind words! I love that this article was helpful for you and I hope that the next article we are releasing is going to give you a lot of value :)

So, to answer your question: I think it is healthy to develop an image of yourself that you love. What I mean by that is developing a vision that excites you of a capable and talented ‘future you’. Make it detailed and make it feel as real as possible when you imagine it. Write it down. Get it as clear as possible. Envision you having those traits right now as unrealistic as that may sound.

Revisit it many times a week, developing the vision more and more. To motivate you, imagine how it would feel to have those things. To be that person. Start to view yourself as on the path towards that and taking individual actions will move you towards or away from it. So in this way you are comparing yourself to yourself. You will eventually get a sense of whether the actions you are taking are moving you towards your vision and the person you want to become. In that way, taking actions which move you towards it will feel good, and actions which you know don’t move you towards it will feel negative. This will be self-reinforcing over time. But, the key is to ensure you keep your vision our front all the time.

You’ll be surprised how this changes your life. I became the person I had in my vision without even realizing it because I eventually stopped revisiting my vision. I had written it down and found it when I was moving houses. When I wrote it, I didn’t think it was even realistic that I could be that person. I hoped I could be.

Anyways, when reading it I was blown away. I was reading about myself at that current moment. Probably 95% of it was true.

I challenge you to do that. All clear?

Thanks for commenting David. Always great to hear feedback.

Sebastian December 30, 2013 at 5:28 am

I loved the Jimi example! One of my role models…

And I had the same anxiety problem you had as a child…

Cam December 30, 2013 at 9:18 am

@ Sebastian – Thanks for commenting dude. Cool site. :)

Karim December 31, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Hey dude!

Thanks for the feedback! Checked out your website and loved that you still managed to compete in your bodybuilding competition in spite of the challenges! Unbelievable man, keep it up! Also, your vids are pretty jokes! ;)

Jimi is the man, what a legend

Wan February 12, 2014 at 3:37 am

Hi Karim,

Great insight you have here. It is a matter of choosing our measuring stick.

Although, I think that we can compare ourself with others BUT the purpose is not on really comparing on who’s the better ones, but it is for getting a sense of what we aim to achieve. That’s it.

It’s not about comparing values. Only as a measuring stick to help guide us on what we aim to be someday.

PS. Glad to see that you’re studying in RCSI. I have some friends studying there. :D

Karim February 14, 2014 at 10:38 am

Hey Wan!

I actually graduated from RCSI now, but really cool to hear that you know some people in the school! It was a great experience, and I have a lot of great friends in Ireland from my years there :)

I totally agree with you and you seem to be doing really well based on your statements. This is a tough thing for most people and to get a handle on it is really freeing! Hope that’s what you’re feeling :)

Anyways, great to hear from you! Thanks for checking out the site. Hope you find value in some of the other articles here!

Wan February 14, 2014 at 4:03 pm

“I totally agree with you and you seem to be doing really well based on your statements. This is a tough thing for most people and to get a handle on it is really freeing! Hope that’s what you’re feeling ”

Haha, yeah, it’s tough and definitely not completely freeing. I still have problems with comparison sometimes and I don’t think I can avoid comparing to others in the future.

The root of all the problem of comparison is exemplified in your article – people need to start changing their belief about their inadequacy and one of the method is to compare with their own self because that’s what matters; it’s their life after all. My suggestion is just a temporary workaround for those finding it extremely hard to stop comparing.

One of my favorite ideas about stopping comparison and envy is the ones by Ramit Sethi. He said that he was envious of others at first but when he’s successful, he forgets about comparing himself with others.

I think this is because when he’s successful, he starts to believe in himself. I felt like that sometimes. When I succeed in something, I stopped comparing and instead focus on the great thing that happened.

But my only failure was to not feel grateful of that success hence the temporary halt in comparison.

Believe in yourself(however trite that advice is) and gratitude – good stuff.

PS. I see…Are you Dr. Karim now? LD

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