Why do we compare ourselves to others?

Why do we compare ourselves to others

Have you ever felt bad comparing yourself to others and wondered why do we compare ourselves to others? We all constantly compare ourselves with our peers and with those who are not our peers. In some periods of our lives, such as adolescence and early youth, this normal and unavoidable behavior becomes more pronounced because we are still in an evolutionary period where the goal is to build our personality. We must forge our first relatively elaborate opinions on a multitude of issues, find our tastes, define our identity as future adults or budding adults… We cannot carry out this task in isolation. Why do we compare ourselves to others? Perhaps because we need to take a look at our environment.

The teenager’s brain is no longer childish, but their reasoning is becoming more and more like an adult’s. The difference with the “full-fledged” adult is that the teenager, or young person, lacks (much) biographical content. They do not yet have many experiences or references to process the information that is coming to them about the different issues of life. They are precisely building that reference, that background from which they will interpret themselves and the world. 

One method of creating this layer is to observe their peers and compare themselves with them because they are also their main reference figures. During childhood, that role is played by parents, but in adolescence and later years parents take a secondary role and it is peers who become important. It is one more way to rehearse adult life -the other basic task of adolescence- and this cannot be done if one does not begin to experience a certain disengagement from one’s parents. 

Why do we compare ourselves to others

Give up: comparisons are inevitable

Why do we compare ourselves to others? Because comparison is a mental method to reach a conclusion about something or to make a decision. We decide or conclude what we want, what we like, what suits us, what we need, what feels good, among other ways by observing what others do in similar situations. We ask ourselves what they would think, what they would do in our place, what they have.

That is to say, others are a source of information and it is important we have them as a reference to adjust our behavior or our opinions because they are the ones we have to deal with. We live in a society, we have to integrate and fit in and we cannot do that if we act one hundred percent on our own. 

In reality, no matter how free and “authentic” a person may be, no one has 100% absolute and autonomous criteria. We all build it from multiple references, although to a certain extent -especially the more autonomous, mature, and determined we become- we also end up doing “what we think” or “what we feel like”. 

In short, comparing ourselves to others is necessary, but we also have to build the capacity to have our “own” criteria and make decisions even when there is no one to ask or no one to look at. After all, our life cannot be halted while we find someone to examine and then decide. We must have our criteria about things to feel that we are people with a solid identity, not mere executors of other people’s opinions, or reproductions of other people’s styles as if we were mirrors or puppets. 

Why we shouldn’t compare ourselves… negatively?

What we post on our social media have so many filters that, without realizing it, generate a lot of confusion about what is true and false when we look into someone’s life. 

By using them we do not get to build a false identity as such because in the end reality ends up pushing through. However, it does generate confusion about what is real and what is not, about what is desirable or beautiful and what is not, through what we convey and observe on social media. 

People are the way they are and, no matter how much we see a certain image on Instagram, when we look in the mirror, go out on the street and interact with the rest of the world we analogically see what we see. Then it becomes clear what faces look like, what bodies look like, and what are the tricks to make faces and bodies look a certain way, not so much be a certain way. 

However, the manipulation of the image creates ideals of beauty or aesthetics, standards that are presumably real, authentic, and desirable when, in reality, they are unattainable. They are based on tricks, so why should we consider them realistic and achievable?

Why do we compare ourselves to others

Although it may seem very modern to us, in reality, this fact is not a new phenomenon. Every era has had its standards, that is to say, its ideal models to have resembled. What varies from one era to another is the model itself (one thing is worn now, another was worn a hundred years ago) and the channel through which the members of society access this information and communicate it to each other. One of the fundamental channels today is certainly social media

This distorts the judgment we make about our image and leads us to think that others look better than they really are. Or that they are as they appear, as they look when in reality there is a lot of trickery. Meanwhile, we think we fall far below those standards. 

It is then when we have to remember that most of the time neither others are so beautiful nor we are so ugly, to put it in a very simplistic way. If we do not properly contextualize the aesthetics we observe on social media, we can judge ourselves with unjustified harshness and others with unjustified admiration. In other words, everything with inadequate criteria.

When we are not able to harmonize all this and we become obsessed with the lives of others while we see how our self-esteem deteriorates, we must take action. Maybe it is time to stop asking ourselves why do we compare ourselves to others and ask for specialized help from a professional psychologist who can help us understand how to compare ourselves better. 

Sign up to our platform and we will explain how you can start your online therapy today. 

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