Get Out of the Comparison Trap
By Seth J. Gillihan, PhD
We all let comparison get the best of us sometimes—I’d bet that even people you most admire wish they were as smart, rich, beautiful, or funny as someone else. And I’ll admit I’m prone to my comparisons, too; what starts as admiration of a colleague can easily morph into wishing I could write as well as they do, or that I had an Instagram feed like theirs.
- Ask yourself whether you’re being too narrow in your comparison. It’s easy to find one area where someone else seems better than you, but are they person superior in every way? Or do you have strengths they might wish they had?
- Make a downward comparison instead. Bronze medalists tend to be happier than silver medalists because they compare themselves to the rest of the competition that didn’t make the podium; silver medalists do an upward comparison to the gold medalist. So if you think you should own a bigger home, for example, consider the countless people who are homeless.
- Practice gratitude. Upward comparisons are a close cousin of envy, and the antidote to envy is gratitude. Don’t try to make yourself feel grateful since it’s hard to directly change our emotions, and certainly don’t criticize yourself for a lack of gratitude. Instead, invite gratitude by thinking back to a younger you and imagining what that person would be excited to see in the life you’ve created (a technique I learned from my colleague Rachel Hershenberg, author of Activating Happiness).