Avoid comparing yourself negatively to others

How to prevent feeling inadequate!

With the upcoming Summer Olympics, take a moment to consider this question: Who will be the happiest medalist on each podium?

Will it be the gold, silver, or bronze medalist?

While it might seem like a straightforward answer that the gold medalists will likely be the happiest individuals, a surprising pattern emerges when we consider who is likely to be the second happiest.

Who is happier, the silver or bronze medalist?

Your instinct will probably tell you that the silver medalist will be the second happiest, as they were the closest to winning. However, research1 has shown that the bronze medalist is often happier than the silver medalist.

How can this be?

Couldn't someone who came in second place be happier than someone who came in third?

The silver medalist is typically comparing themselves to gold and feeling inferior as a result.2 They may be thinking to themselves, "I was so close to winning gold. I wasn't good enough."

On the other hand, the bronze medalist may be comparing themselves to competitors four, five, and six, and thinking to themselves, "I made it on the podium! I did it!"

Social Comparison

An explanation for this is tied to negative thoughts and how comparing yourself negatively to others can diminish the joy from a joyful situation.

Have you ever received a passing grade but noticed the person next to you did better, which then somewhat diminished your accomplishment? Are you constantly comparing yourself to others, measuring your achievements, appearance, skills, and other aspects of your life against those you perceive as more successful or having more?

Your perspective, how you choose to see something, is powerful. This means that when you compare yourself to others, it can influence how you see yourself, others, and the world around you.

When you spend your time comparing yourself negatively to others, you can end up feeling like you are not good enough. This may result in you doubting yourself or lead you to give up on an opportunity sooner than you would have if you hadn't been comparing yourself to someone else.

Furthermore, your negative thoughts may result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, if you don't think you will perform as well as someone else, you may then feel more anxious and stressed. Consequently, this may result in you not performing well, which is what you were worried about in the first place. Spending too much time dwelling on the bad stuff can work against you.

Harness Comparison for Inspiration

Instead, when you notice that you are comparing yourself to others, shift your thoughts to focus on past versions of yourself. Think about how you've grown compared to your younger self who didn't know as much or have the experience you do now.

Consider motivating yourself to improve by comparing your performance now to your previous personal best.

  • The goal is not to belittle or criticize your past self, but to compassionately acknowledge the ways in which you have grown and evolved over time.
  • Be aware that personal growth is often not linear or equal across all areas. You may see areas you still want to improve, and that is perfectly okay!
  • Consider what you know now that you didn't know then, and coach yourself on the insights that you've gained along your journey.

Remember that you are enough and that comparing yourself to others is rarely helpful. Focus on what you have and how you can continue to work on yourself.

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