Instead of comparing yourself with others, try comparing yourself with where you were a year ago. Focus on how far you’ve come, not how far you have to go, and you’ll realize how successful you already are.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all done it. We’ve all compared ourselves with others. We look around and see the success of other authors, or we read a great book and feel as if we’d never be able to write that well. Thanks to social media and global connectivity, the success of others is more visible than ever before.
We are ultimately designed to understand ourselves, to reflect on who we are and where we fit into the world. Social psychologist Leon Festinger first explored this drive in 1954 and identified two main reasons why we compare ourselves with others: first, to reduce anxiety, and second, to learn how to define ourselves. He recognized that we can only define ourselves in relation to others.
Social comparison has its benefits as it helps us to keep our behavior in check, e.g., remembering our manners and knowing it’s wrong to kill someone. It’s in our DNA and traces back to a time when being part of a tribe and fitting in was the key to survival.
Usually, we have a bias toward comparing ourselves with people who are ahead of us, and because our brains are hardwired to have a negative bias, we focus on areas that we feel insecure about.
Social comparison can be a powerful motivator but can also undermine your self-esteem. If you’re always looking at people further up the ladder and focusing on closing the gap between you and the next person, you risk becoming dissatisfied and never feeling quite good enough.
As we progress with our goals, the goalposts also tend to move. Therefore, we can easily forget how far we’ve already come. By learning to focus on what we’ve already achieved rather than on what others have, we can shift our mindset toward gratitude and find our own version of success.