How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others*

January 25, 2022

It’s really hard to be on social media and not compare yourself to others. Your body isn’t good enough, your wardrobe isn’t trendy enough, and your house isn’t Pottery-Barn enough. It might even make you feel like you aren’t enough.

Comparisons steal our joy, our paychecks and our sanity. If we don’t stop comparing ourselves to others, we will constantly spend money and mental energy just trying to keep up! We need to break the comparison cycle because it’s a game we’ll never win.  

The Root of Comparison

There’s actually a biological reason we’re prone to comparing ourselves to others. Our brain uses comparison to figure out how we measure up to other people.

Thomas Mussweiler, a professor of organizational behavior, describes comparison this way: "It's one of the most basic ways we develop an understanding of who we are, what we're good at, and what we're not so good at.”

Most of the time, this calculation is made in a split second in the background, and we don’t even realize it. But when we dwell on the highlights of other people’s lives, it can quickly become toxic. We’re wired for connection and belonging, but if we constantly compare ourselves to others, we’re putting our happiness, confidence and mental health at risk.

Real-Life Effects of Comparing Yourself to Others

There are so many negative effects of the comparison trap, and I’m sure you’ve felt them before. Here are a few that I’ve seen time and time again:

  • Negative and anxious thoughts that are hard to come out of (known as rumination)
  • Higher rates of anxiety and depression
  • Overspending in effort to keep up with the Joneses

Study after study has shown that people feel worse about themselves after spending time on social media. And all that negativity is taking its toll on our mental health and our bank accounts.

A recent study found that keeping up with the Joneses causes financial distress. And they discovered that, in neighborhoods where someone won the lottery, their neighbors were more likely to make large, visible purchases and—this is crazy to me—go bankrupt!

You guys, these bankruptcies were 100% avoidable. This isn’t a money issue—it’s a heart issue. Those people saw their neighbors get an upgrade in lifestyle and, all of a sudden, they thought they needed one too—even though they couldn’t afford it.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a little luxury as long as it fits into your budget. However, when you pile up a bunch of stuff and go neck-deep into debt to buy it all just to impress your neighbor (in person or on Instagram), you don’t even really own your stuff—it owns you. The debt takes over and steals all your income, and you suddenly become a servant to the things you thought would make you happy.

I don’t want you to form decisions out of comparing yourself to others. So, if you’re ready to put the blinders on, stop comparing yourself to everyone else, and focus on your life, I want to show you how.

8 Practical Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

1. Practice gratitude.

This one habit changed everything for me. Several years ago, I opened the Notes app on my phone and typed out three things I could be grateful for right then and there. I wrote:

Early, quiet mornings before anyone is awake. My health. Coffee.

Those were the first three things that came to mind. I didn’t spend much time analyzing or dwelling on the goodness of my life. And I certainly didn’t shed a tear. This was not a Hallmark-movie moment! I’m not sure I even felt much change at the time.

But now? That Notes app is my lifeline.

What started as a simple gratitude experiment has grown to encompass every kind of joy—both big and small—that floods my life. I add to the list each morning, and I revisit the list whenever I need a reminder of God’s care and blessings in my life.

2. Unlock the power of contentment.

Gratitude leads to contentment, which allows you to be in a state of joy and satisfaction no matter what your circumstances. You're happy with where you are in life and aren’t worried about what other people are doing.

That doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future or that you aren’t working toward being a better person tomorrow than you are today. And it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re stagnant or that you’re choosing to sit around and do nothing new, exciting and challenging with your life. It just means that you develop a peace about your life and a sincere enjoyment about what you have today without basing all your happiness on what you hope to achieve tomorrow.

3. Don’t compare your life to everyone else’s highlight reel.

Are you ready for my most shocking observation yet? Social media doesn’t always reflect reality. Boom. (I know you know this, but have you ever really thought about it?)

It’s usually not the complete picture of someone’s life—it’s just the highlight reel.

We’re spending all this money and emotional energy just to keep up with a life we think everyone else is living and we’re missing out on. And that is ruining not only our mental health, but our financial security as well.

Once you take your focus off of them and put it back on your own life, you can start to turn things around with your life and money.

4. Focus on your strengths.

You can be humble and still recognize your strengths, talents and accomplishments. You don’t have to beat yourself up to be humble. In fact, that’s a pretty unhealthy approach, and it’s one of the biggest dangers of comparison living. The more we compare ourselves to others, the worse we feel about ourselves. That’s a dangerous trap we’ve got to avoid.

Try writing down three things you really like about yourself—things you can identify as strengths. Don’t just write “good people skills” like you’d put on a boring resume. Make them personal! Here are a couple of mine:

  • I’m proactive. I like accomplishing things, so whether it’s responding to edits on my next book or making dinner reservations, I’m always looking ahead and taking action.
  • I love people. I may or may not have won the “friendliest” superlative of my senior class but I really have always enjoyed being around people! Embracing this strength gives me the ability to make people feel loved and cared for when they hang out with me.

5. Celebrate other people.

Constantly comparing ourselves to others leads to us not cheering on the people who are working hard to get somewhere. And it makes it hard to celebrate with the ones who’ve accomplished something!

So, here’s my challenge to you: When a friend tells you about their new job, be happy for them. If someone buys a new house, take part in their enthusiasm. If someone shares some great news with you, keep the focus on them instead of turning it back to yourself. Find big and small ways to celebrate other people’s accomplishments!

The Bible says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15, NIV). Don’t feel like you’re losing just because someone else is winning. Their success has nothing to do with you, so celebrate their success sincerely while you keep working toward your own success.

6. Learn to compete with yourself instead of others.

Instead of focusing on where you are compared to others, focus on your own goals. Where are you compared to where you were at this time last year? Or five years ago?

One of the reasons I journal is because it does wonderful things for my sanity. It gives me clarity and perspective about God’s blessings in my life. Plus, it’s just a lot of fun to go back and thumb through the pages of old journals to see how much I’ve grown.

In the past year, you’ve learned, stretched, improved, accomplished and created. Think about how much of that you’ve done in your lifetime! If you’re like me and you’ve kept journals, go back through them. If you haven’t, there’s no better time to start journaling than today. 

7. Have boundaries around how much time you spend on social media.

As we’ve been talking about, comparison through social media can have a massive effect on our mental well-being. Here are some boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself:

  • Unfollow any accounts that tend to make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Set a timer and allow yourself to scroll for 30 minutes. When time is up, step away from social media.
  • Turn off your phone when you’re having dinner with your family and friends (Unfortunately I am sometimes still guilty of this!). Being fully present with them will make everyone happier!
  • Don’t feel obligated to reply to every comment and message—ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • When you feel a pull to check social media, ask yourself why. Are you bored, uncomfortable or seeking affirmation? What can you do to feel better instead?

8. Take a social media fast.

I can tell you this from experience: It’s almost impossible to be satisfied with your own life if you’re constantly looking at what someone else has.

If you’re struggling to appreciate the blessings in your life, and if you’re constantly distracted by the #blessings of other people, it may be time to put some serious blinders on for a little while.

So, here’s my biggest challenge for you: Shut off all the social networks. And while you’re at it, unsubscribe from all those email newsletters that show you how much you’re “missing.”

Spend that time and energy focusing on how much you truly have. Look at your family, your friends, your home, your job, and all the things in your life that really matter. Find things in your own life that someone else may be jealous of. Remember, if we’re all looking at each other, that means plenty of people are comparing themselves to everything you have. Figure out what those blessings are and rejoice in all you have.

Some final thoughts:

Does Comparison Affect My Daily Life?

Here are some questions to help you figure out if comparing yourself to others is a problem for you:

  • Have you ever made an impulse purchase on Instagram?
  • Do you get FOMO (fear of missing out), or even anxiety, after spending time on social media?
  • When something good happens to someone else, is your natural reaction to be annoyed?  
  • Have you ever deleted something from social media because it didn’t get the response you wanted?
  • Do you check who’s viewed your Instagram story or liked your Facebook post several times a day?

If you answered yes to a bunch of these, no shame here! I’m just as prone to falling into the comparison trap as anyone. I’m guilty of worrying what other people think about me too.

But you and I were made for more than that. We were made for more than stressing and spending and feeling like we’re failing! I want us all to live life on our own terms.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others Anymore

Focus on the quality of your life, not the quantity of your likes. 

Keeping up with the Joneses shouldn't be the motivation behind why you do anything—on social media or otherwise. Stressing over likes will cause you to spend time, effort and money for approval you don't need. I know comparison will always be a struggle, but we don't belong to other people who like our pictures. Let's be happy and proud of who "we" are.

* This article was largely reprinted based on a Personal Growth column written by Rachel Cruze for Ramsey