People compare ourselves with others almost without realizing it. Social comparison is a common human dynamic that first appears when children are very young, at the time when they want any toy that is in the hands of another child.

This gains momentum in elementary school when kids follow fads, and it shows when someone isn’t watching the same shows or playing the same games as everyone else. High school, branding, popular music, friend groups, and “fear of missing out” is when social comparison really takes hold. This never goes away when people focus on getting into the best universities, getting better jobs, marrying someone their friends might envy, and building a perfect life with them. Once we have children, we rejoin the cycle through them.

When we are adults there are also social pressures : buying physical appearance, social status, material elements and even relationships. It is a natural human behavior and in principle it serves to live together as a connected group and help us learn from each other and prevents us from becoming too distant. It also helps us define ourselves, define our life, and feel good. Although, on the other hand, it can also be very stressful and become competitive people without having to be.

The social comparison

There are two types of social comparison:

-Upward social comparison. People who consider themselves better than us are observed in an attempt to inspire us and have hope.

– Downward social comparison. Downward comparisons are also made where people believe they are worse off than we are in an effort to feel better about ourselves and our situation.

These comparisons are not always bad, but sometimes they can be less helpful than you think they will be, and sometimes they are really bad for happiness and stress levels. Some of the factors that affect whether social comparisons are helpful or harmful are self-esteem, existing stressors in life, and whether the comparisons are upward or downward.

People who have higher self-esteem and fewer stressors in their lives tend to do better with social comparisons. For example, generally speaking, when we make downward social comparisons and compare ourselves to those who are less affluent, it generally makes us feel better. 

However, those who are already high in self-esteem experience a major hurdle. Those who have lower self-esteem or who are experiencing greater threats or stress in their lives tend to use downward comparisons more often and this can lift their mood, but not as much as it does in those who are already doing better in these areas. .

Bottom-up social comparisons – comparing ourselves to those who are better off as a way to get inspired – can make us feel just that: inspired. If you want to diet, putting pictures of people with good bodies can motivate you. Or if you want to improve your business, you will follow people who have a clear path that is similar to yours.

If you have a lower self-esteem or if you have experienced a setback in life, you may feel worse if you make upward comparisons, since your mood will worsen and your stress will increase as you do not feel able to achieve your goals.

You get too tense if you compare yourself

Social comparison comes in many different forms. When you meet with other people, you may tend to compare yourself and almost unconsciously form a kind of hierarchy, whether formal or not. These comparisons either up or down can make you feel bad and competitive, something that will cause added stress in your life, unnecessarily!

Social networks

Social media has taken social comparison to an extreme level in recent years. You see the best part of other people’s lives and you may wonder if what you do is right or wrong … if your life doesn’t make so much sense because you don’t travel so much or because you’re not the ‘perfect father or mother. ‘. You compare your life to other people’s (edited) best memories … Either way, many people find that social media exacerbates social comparison in the worst ways, making many of us feel worse about ourselves.

If you compare yourself with others, become aware of this to avoid doing it more and above all, to enhance your self-esteem and realize that everyone has their own lives and that yours does not have to be worse or better than others. .

Remember that life is like a ladder

It is worth remembering that life is like a ladder and that you are on the step that corresponds to you today. The circumstances of your life may be specific, your experiences have led you to where you are today. No more no less. Your learnings are in one way or another thanks to that, to what you have lived during the years of your life.

There will be people who are above you, and it is normal. But it does not mean that they are better than you, far from it. If you look back on that ladder, there will also be people who are below you, but that does not mean that they are worse or that you are a higher being next to them. Not to mention that! People are people, and lived experiences are what mark us, what define us. Our friendships, beliefs and values ​​also say a lot about us. But the comparisons, if not done correctly, can hurt as much or more than a hard slap.

In this sense, every time you see people around you, that you watch television or that you see your social networks, do not feel envy for others. Do not want at any time to compare or feel more or less than other people. No matter the money , no matter the status … what always matters, will be the quality of the people. 

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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