Comparing yourself to others can be a slippery slope — it might make you feel sad, defeated, or envious, especially when scrolling through social media feeds that make it seem like everyone has a perfect life. While learning how to quit the comparison game is important when it comes to being and doing your best, there are a few instances when stacking yourself up against others can actually be useful for your own growth. Not convinced? Read on for five reasons why paying close attention to others can be totally transformative.
1. It can show you what’s possible. Therapist and licensed master social worker Kimberly Hershenson says that while it’s always healthy to focus on yourself, your goals, and your needs, comparing can be helpful. “If you feel stuck in your life, and someone else is doing something you wish you could do, making an admiration-based comparison can be a good way to motivate yourself to take action.” Hershenson points out that most people feel stuck in areas like personal wellbeing, their jobs, or their relationships. “If you see someone is taking initiative to improve their health, advance their career, or put themselves out there to find love, you might find new ideas about what you’re capable of too.” Hershenson wants you to remember that you should never get down on yourself though — especially when you’re stuck, as that’s when comparing can take a dangerous turn. “Keep yourself safe by taking action,” she advises. “Simply looking at what others are doing and beating yourself up over what you aren’t doing isn’t helpful; it’ll only lead to low self-esteem and negativity. Come up with an action plan or reach out to others for help and support in order to move successfully toward your newfound goals.”
2. It can fire you up. Caring enough to be kind of competitive isn’t always a bad thing: In fact, feeling a little fired up might be just what you need to finally break free from a job you hate, boldly ask your crush out, or pursue something new you’ve been afraid to try. Whether you start a friendly competition with a coworker or challenge your BFF to a healthy “get fit”-style challenge, you can use someone else’s progress as ammunition to keep yourself pushing for your own.
3. It can inspire you. “I think comparison can be a healthy thing when you try to shift your energy from jealousy and coveting someone else’s situation to giving the other person a mental high five and treating it as evidence you’re gathering of what’s possible for you,” shares plus-size model Melinda Parrish. “For example, instead of thinking, ‘Ugh, she has such a good body, I hate her,’ try to shift to, ‘I love how she takes time to take care of her body, and I want to do more of that too,’ or ‘I love the results she’s getting through strength training, and that’s available to me too.'” Parrish explains that the two fundamental components of the shift are moving from jealousy to celebration and switching from a worldview of scarcity (like “there’s only so much, and she’s taking my share”) to abundance. According to Parrish, abundance calls for teaching yourself to think, “There’s more than enough, and what she has is available to me as well.” So powerful!
4. It can make you feel more grateful. Some people might appear to have it “better” than you do, but comparing yourselves to others can also serve as a super-powerful reminder that you have tons of awesome things happening too. Whether you’re noting someone else’s health struggles, bad career luck, or recent breakup, you’ll surely feel thankful for what’s going right in your life.
5. It can teach you. “Upward comparison can be punishing and make you feel terrible,” social psychologist and author Heidi Grant Halvorson notes in The New York Times. “But you can also look upward to learn.” Halvorson cites losing a sports game as a good example of a solid learning opportunity, providing you with a chance to take notes about what the other person did well. The same applies at work, where you can observe how a teammate communicates and meets milestones to try a similar approach. Make the mental switch, and you’ll be on your way.
How has comparing yourself to someone else helped you? Share your story on Twitter @BritandCo!
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