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Why do we want to compare ourselves to others? Or even to ourselves?

Why do we want to compare ourselves to others? Or even to ourselves?

“But last year we won every game!”

“Last year you were in an easier division.”


The 10-year-old basketballer didn’t quite get it. Last year, they were the best, they won the championship. Life was good.

The first game this season and we got slaughtered. The other team was just plain better. Maybe this year we are “out of our league.”

Of course, a 10-year old cares about winning and could care less about the name of the level they play in. But what about adults? How often can we catch ourselves comparing ourselves to others who we really have no business comparing ourselves to?

No, my 11-year old doesn’t shoot three-pointers with as much accuracy as Steph Curry. But, I remind him:

  1. He’s older,
  2. He’s a professional,
  3. He’s been doing this for many years,
  4. You’re 11.

What if you work in the town post office but you compare yourself to the post office worker who works in the big, downtown building? Or you compare your first year as a teacher to a teacher who’s done it for 40 years? A casual swimmer versus an Olympian?

Of course, it just doesn’t seem to make so much sense. But we do it anyway.

If you really must compare, at least compare the you of today with the them of when they were at the same level as you are today. So my son can try to dig up what Steph Curry was doing when he was 11 … chances are, he was playing basketball.

If you’re a starting actor, dig deep into the history of the actor you admire so much and find out what they were doing when they were at the point you were.

Try it. It’s refreshing. It’s fun. It makes you feel better.

But it also reminds you that everyone started somewhere. Your somewhere just happens to be today.

  • A Helpful Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others from Becoming Minimalist. I’ve lived most of my life comparing myself to others. At first, it was school and sports. But as I got older, I began comparing other metrics: job title, income level, house size, and worldly successes.
  • Why You Should Stop Comparing Yourself to Others from by Daniela Tempesta. If you are like me, you probably catch yourself frequently falling into the ever-alluring yet emotionally-dangerous trap of comparing yourself to others. According to social comparison theory, we do this in an attempt to make accurate evaluations of ourselves. But at what cost?
  • How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others—and Feel Happier! from Psychology Today. When we wish to look, be, or have like others, we’re not really wishing for everything about that person, but only the idealized aspects of the individual.

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