You’ve probably heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. Yet from the time we are young elementary students, we are taught to compare and contrast. We identify similarities and differences. Where we allow ourselves to get tripped up is when we let ourselves feel “lesser” than or envious of others rather than allowing it to motivate us toward learning and excellence. Rather than throwing comparison out the window, what if we looked at the pros and cons of comparison to accelerate our wellbeing instead of harming it?

Pros of Comparison

  1. Propels us toward excellence. When we observe excellence, we have the opportunity to move closer toward excellence ourselves. Whether we see an individual achieving their goals or an organization succeeding, we gather information about what’s working. By expanding our frame of reference and applying what we learn from this observation, we make progress toward our personal and professional goals. 
  2. We see what’s possible. Organizations that thought remote work was possible were in the minority heading into 2020. The year of forced adaptation opened our eyes to new ways of working and living. By learning from organizations that were already doing it, companies shifted quickly to a new workplace and benefited from one of the pros of comparison. As one of the pros of comparison, seeing new possibilities brought us through a difficult year in work and life.  
  3. Motivates us to grow. It’s easy to get stuck in our same patterns of behavior and dial in the status quo. When we see others who are changing, whether it’s in their physical, emotional, social, or financial wellbeing, we sense that own possibility lurking inside of us, too. One of the pros of comparison is the ability to tap into motivation we might not have on our own when we harness the power of community to move toward our preferred future.  
  4. We build empathy. Comparing our life to the life of someone else can be a powerful opportunity for gratitude. As the pandemic impacted people across the world, we had a unique opportunity to view life through a global lens. While some people may have fared better than you, others did not. By comparing how we made our way through this individually and corporately, we built our empathy and gratitude muscles. 

Cons of Comparison

  1. Creates division. One of the biggest cons of comparison is the division it can create when we allow it to seep into our experiences. When we look for ways we are different, we invite jealousy, envy, anger, and discontent to settle in. We fall prey to an us vs them mentality and create division instead of unity. Comparison robs us of reconciliation.  
  2. Poor self-esteem. Social media is a breeding ground for comparison. FOMO leads to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues when we become discontent with our own life compared to someone else’s. We mentally beat ourselves up and put ourselves down. As one of the leading cons of comparison, it’s important to use social media positively
  3. Leads to arrogance and pride. On the flip side of comparison creating poor self-esteem, it can also lead to an overinflated ego. If you find yourself putting others down, whether it’s in your own mind or with your words, you may be struggling with this con of comparison. Notice your thoughts when you look around the room and recognize when your ego is getting the best of you. 
  4. Giving up. Discouragement can quickly settle in when we don’t perform as well as we’d like. We tell ourselves that we’ll never live up to our own standards or someone else’s expectations. This self-defeating behavior is common with comparison and its impact is something to be aware of if you find yourself not accomplishing the things you’d like or not becoming the person you’d like to be. 

This short list of the pros and cons of comparison provides insight on how to be more mindful of comparison’s role in your life. Make necessary adjustments so that you can harness it’s positive impact on your wellbeing.