“Why can’t my life be like that? What do they have that I don’t?”

Self-comparison, especially in the new age of technology, is a constant presence in our daily lives.

Social media, television, film, and magazines all contribute to the practice of self-comparison, pitting us against those who seem to have it all. It is no wonder that Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) syndrome and the practice of sharing our life moments for others to ‘like’ has taken a toll on our self-esteem.

What is Self-Comparison?

Self-comparison is a mode of interaction that operates primarily by way of coping or assessing threats. We might be able to cope with a negative incident by saying to ourselves “at least it wasn’t as bad as what Linda did last week.” Additionally, we might be able to recognize threats through comparison, such as recognizing a suspicious behavior in another person by comparing their actions with our own.

However, a more detrimental side of self-comparison occurs by way of determining our own self-worth and capabilities. Typically harmful types of comparison are:

  • comparing yourself to another person
  • comparing who you used to be to who you are now
  • comparing yourself with the expectations you have developed surrounding the idea of “success”

Self-Comparison Can Seriously Damage Self-Esteem

There are several side effects of self-comparison that directly impact our self-esteem. These side effects not only contribute to our mental and emotional states, but also deter our ability to make and achieve goals, form relationships with others, and view the world.

1. Self-comparison leads to a state of discontent.

When we compare ourselves to others, we often look for what we don’t have and not what commonalities we share:

“Sally makes more money than I do.”

“Chris has the kind of relationship with his partner that I desire.”

This kind of comparison can create the persistent sense that our needs and key desires are not being met.

2. Our thoughts, actions, and future become driven by comparison

Self-comparison can be helpful in the sense that we may become inspired by the triumphs of others. Regrettably, what often occurs instead? We abandon our essential self and seek another’s life or lifestyle:

“What would Kim K do?”

“She’s happy because she lives upstate.”

We adopt thoughts, actions, and make plans based on what others are doing rather than feeling confident in our wants and needs.

3. We get stuck in the past


One form of self-comparison results from holding onto who we used to be rather than focusing on the future. Maybe you were skinnier ten years ago. Or once enjoyed a loving relationship but are single now.

It is easy to indulge nostalgia but we often idealize the past. The past is impossible to regain and thus proves to leave us continually disappointed with the present.

4. Self-comparison determines how we measure our worth

That feeling of not being ‘good enough’ comes from an internal ideal we measure ourselves against. The idea of success or worthiness that holds you hostage to a certain salary, job position, body type, or possession is no friend of yours. These symbols are often determined by an ideal of ‘perfection’ or importance which is unrealistic and has little to do with our authentic selves.

5. Procrastination is born from self-comparison

Not being able to live up to the impossible standards can also lead to not wanting to attempt your goals or seek deeper connection. Knowing that we can’t measure up, many of us become discouraged. Rather than try at something, you may procrastinate in order to avoid feeling failure.

Comparison, having damaged your self-esteem, keeps you from dreaming, from being motivated, and from establishing productive work habits.

6. Self-comparison keeps people away

When we are constantly comparing ourselves to others, we are less able to enjoy others or invite genuine interaction. People tend to gravitate towards positive, confident individuals. They are less likely to engage someone who is never happy with themselves. In addition, when our self-esteem is low, confidence meeting new people is hindered.

7. Self-comparison can make us settle

Self-esteemComparing oneself to others can ultimately lead to misinterpretation of your own needs. As a result, you may find yourself settling for something (or someone) less authentic and less “you”. If you compare yourself to someone who appears to be in a perfect relationship, rather than mindfully considering your own wants and needs, you might become impatient and choose a partner poorly. Similarly, you may settle for a lifestyle or career that doesn’t feel like yours because we are just imitating an ideal.

Undoubtedly, self-comparison and self-esteem are closely linked. Challenge the self-comparisons you make. Question the automatic inner critic that tells you don’t quite measure up. Once you recognize how self-comparison operates in your life, you can learn to manage your internal responses and expectations. What a gift it will be to free yourself and embrace life and others without feeling your self-worth is always on the line.

Take the Next Step…

For more information, please take a look at my specialty page on today’s woman and stay tuned for my next post about self-limiting beliefs that can discourage and disempower you. Or, contact me now to begin resolving issues connected to low self-esteem. Let’s start determining what’s next for you!

Until the next Opening the Doors post.

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