Comparison or comparing is the act of evaluating two or more things by considering the relevant, comparable characteristics of each thing and then determining which characteristics of each are similar to the other, which are different, to what degree and why this is the case.
Mainly seen within an AltanaESP and Assessor context, comparison's sole purpose and goal is to enhance - by choice - awareness and - subsequently - to tweak, change or adapt one's perspective to gain a deeper realistic and balanced understanding of the context and dynamics of our personal umwelt.
We are constantly evaluating ourselves - and others - in many areas of our lives such as attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, success, sociability, …etc. According to research done, as much as 20% of our thoughts, involve comparisons of some kind or another. Since comparisons occupies a significant portion of our daily thoughts, it is necessary - actually essential - that we approach the how“ and 'what-with' when we compare ourselves in a realistic and balanced manner, because we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others. This - in itself - isn't such a negative thing as most people tend to think. It all the depends whether we do comparisons mindfully or just ”unconditionally“. When we to others, we might find the motivation to improve ourselves (i.e. a mindful approach), but when we do ”unconditional-comparing“ it - more often than not - result in experiencing feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt, resentment and/or remorse, which have the nasty consequence of many derailers that impact negatively on our current performances and zest for life.
Benefits of Comparison
The benefits of comparison derive from mindful comparison when we compare ourselves to ourselves and/or others as a way of evaluating our personal development or to motivate ourselves to improve and - in the process - also develop a more positive self-image. However, it takes lots of self-discipline and plenty of self-understanding to avoid the many traps of negative comparison. In large part, how we respond to comparisons depends on who and what we are comparing ourselves too. When we just want to feel better about ourselves, we tend to engage in comparisons to people worse off than we currently are, although this can become an unhealthy habit.
We normally engage in either upward or downward comparisons. In upward comparisons, we compare ourselves with those we believe are better than us in some way; in downward comparisons, we do the opposite. Downward comparisons make us feel better about ourselves, but there are dangers attached to each approach…
- insecurity and jealousy (upward), or
- overconfidence and arrogance (downward).
When we want to improve, though, we should compare ourselves to others roughly similar to us, but higher achieving in one trait or another.
Dangers of Comparison
Quite often comparison is labeled as “the thief of joy and impulse control to keep their standards for comparison to themselves, and not to act on any envy, jealousy or resentment spurred by comparison-making. But - unfortunately - this unhealthy and repressive social accepted way of dealing with comparison, tend to bubble to the surface and may manifest in other ways.”, which is especially in the case of ”unconditional-comparing“. Comparison can motivate us to improve, but it can also promote judgmental, biased and overly competitive or superior attitudes. Fortunately, most people have the competency and
Why can comparisons make us feel bad?
Comparisons are likelier to make us feel bad when we make the error of only comparing ourselves to paragons of certain traits. For example, many individuals belief they have a less active social life than others. But when making such comparisons, they tend to compare themselves only to the most social people that they know. Being aware of and understanding this bias, can help us to make more realistic and motivating comparisons.
Can social media result in harmful comparisons?
Constantly checking social-media feeds full of images from parties, concerts or other aspirational events can diminish our self-esteem and contribute to depression. However, some research studies have found that such risks primarily affect those individuals with high and unhealthy fixations, and others suggest that social-media use can reinforce self-esteem. For example, when people review their own images of good times with friends and family.
Comparison and Bias
Many people fall into the trap of positional bias, comparing ”up“ more often than ”down“ relative to their own standing. A fascination with celebrity culture and the prevalence of carefully-manicured social-media feeds, merely exacerbates the effect by exposing people to an endless stream of others’ seemingly perfect images, homes, jobs, skills and families.
The 'better-than-average effect'…
It's been widely proven that individuals tend to believe that they are above average, when it comes to desirable traits such as intelligence, for instance. But this belief may not be so stable. For example, people are generally quick to report that they are smarter than average, but somewhat more humble when asked to place themselves in a specific percentile or to rate themselves on specific skills.
How can comparison help us?
Social comparison can be highly beneficial when we use social networks to push ourselves. In a research study conducted, it was found that friendly competition was highly effective in pushing people to exercise more, as peers pushed one another to keep up and do more. In such a ”social ratchet effect“ each person’s activity generates more activity among others. Social networks in which people simply offered each other positive encouragement, were far less helpful.
But - in the end - the question still remains…
Is it better to compare ourselves to those doing better or worse than we are? Unfortunately, this is something that you can only decide for yourself, because there is no right or wrong way of doing it, only a more effective or less effective comparison.