“A horse never runs so fast as when he has other horses to catch up and outpace.” — Ovid
“You have competition every day because you set such high standards for yourself that you have to go out every day and live up to that.” — Michael Jordan
“If you’re a true warrior, competition doesn’t scare you. It makes you better.” — Andrew Whitworth
“Every man in the world is better than someone else and not as good someone else.” — William Saroyan
You should be comparing yourself to others.
That’s right, should.
Now, this is the opposite of what a lot of people will tell you.
Lots of people will tell you that comparisons are bad.
They say you should never compare yourself to others.
Because, comparison might make you feel bad about your life?
You might be filled with envy?
These consequences are not a result of the comparison, but are a result of your perspective.
When done correctly, there’s a lot of value that can be gained by comparing yourself to others.
Comparisons don’t work if you just let your ego take control and become envious and bitter.
But, there is another way.
Comparisons should be motivational — or, at least instructive.
Use comparisons to make yourself better — not bitter.
So, if you’re thinking that comparisons are bad, they’re not.
Comparisons can be very, very healthy.
You just need to know when and how to use comparisons to your benefit.
Why You Should Harness Your Natural Drive To Compare
You are never going to be able to stop comparing yourself to others, even if you wanted to.
As humans, we are hardwired to compare ourselves to other people around us.
In the 1950s, the work of psychologist Leon Festinger made popular the social-comparison theory, which argues that people naturally evaluate themselves against the people around them.
It’s just a part of who you are as a social being.
And, while left uncontrolled, this natural tendency to compare can become negative, when leveraged properly comparisons will have a positive influence on your life.
For example, a study in the journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science found that in races where a runner was competing against a rival, the runner finished each kilometer of the race 5 seconds faster than when they ran without a rival.
Another study in Frontiers in Psychology found that when participants knew the were being compared to a competitor, they had significantly faster reaction times.
Comparisons have the power to make you better, to improve your performance, and to help you reach your goals.
They are not always a bad thing.
3 Ways You Should Be Comparing Yourself To Others
If comparisons can make you better, why is there so much talk about not comparing yourself to others?
Why is the dominant narrative that it’s a bad thing to compare yourself to others?
Because, people are not leveraging the comparisons in a way that allows them to improve.
You need to have the right perspective and the right outlook for a comparison to be beneficial.
Here are 3 ways you can compare yourself to others and reap the benefits of that comparison…
1. Use comparison to shift your perspective and improve performance.
When someone is better at something than you, you can use this comparison to improve your performance.
But, for this to work, you must set aside your ego.
View the comparison through a lens where you are capable of improving.
Imagine you are at the gym, cruising along on the treadmill.
And then, a person *who you assume you are in better shape than* jumps on the treadmill next to you.
They crank up the incline and set the speed to way faster than what you are doing.
And they keep running… and running… and running.
Would this situation make you feel bad?
Would you feel negatively about your level of fitness?
Try a different perspective.
Think, “Wow, look how much this person is able to run —I’ll bet I can keep going too!”
“I think I have more energy to give, too.”
“If they can do it, so can I.”
“Maybe I’m actually not too tired yet.”
It’s just a switch in perspective, and the comparison becomes empowering.
Somehow, this other person is outpacing you, so get over your ego and realize that you obviously have more inside of you that you aren’t using.
2. Compare how you act around different groups of people to find out who is weighing you down.
The people you hang around with affect you.
Some people will help you grow, and others will hold you back.
So, you have to compare who you are around one group of friends to who you are around another group of friends.
You need to compare these 2 versions of yourself.
Pay close attention to how you act when you are around other people.
Do you like who you become?
Does your behavior reflect your values?
If you notice that you become a worse version of yourself around certain people, stop hanging around them.
You don’t need to be around people who make you regress.
But, when you notice the people that make you the best version of yourself, invest in those relationships.
Those are the people that will help you grow and improve.
The only way to learn who you should and shouldn’t be hanging out with is through comparison.
So, compare who you are when you’re in situation A to who you are in situation B.
Then, cut those people — who make you worse — out of your life..
3. Regularly reflect and compare your current self to your previous self.
Comparing your current self to your previous self is another healthy comparison to make.
Your past self is essentially a different person from who you are today.
Different circumstances, different thoughts, different actions.
If you compare who you are now to who you were a year ago, or 5 years ago, what do you see?
Are you better off now in a particular area of your life?
Or, are you worse off in a particular area of your life?
Don’t sugar coat, but don’t be overly critical, either.
Maintain your perspective and use the comparison to make improvements to yourself and your life.
If you feel better off in a certain area, be proud.
But, also recognize how you made that improvement and use that information to keep improving.
If you are worse off in a certain area, use that as motivation to improve.
If you were previously doing better, what is different now?
What can you change to improve?
You are in control of and responsible for your circumstances. With that perspective, comparisons are healthy. They can help you improve and grow. You should be comparing yourself to others. To leverage comparisons to your benefit, you should use comparison to shift your perspective and improve performance, compare how you act around different groups of people to see who is weighing you down, and regularly reflect and compare your current self to your previous self.
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