Today's world is filled with opportunities to measure your worth against those around you. Everyone is touting their success on social media and it can lead you to question whether you're good enough.

Perhaps you've found yourself thinking things like:

  • My videos don't get as many likes as my competitor's because I lack charisma.
  • That fitness guru looks so much better than I do.
  • I'll never be able to charge as much for my time as that person does.

It's hard not to categorize people as either being above or below you. But, social comparisons do more harm than good.

How Social Comparisons Hurt More Than They Help

Although social comparisons are unhealthy for everyone, there's some evidence that suggests that women draw more comparisons than men. I devoted an entire chapter to the subject in my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong Women Don't Do. It's clear that social comparisons will drain you of the mental strength you need to do your best.

No matter how well you're doing, comparing yourself to other people takes your eyes off your goals. And it can cause you to feel bad about how you're doing--because there will always be someone who looks happier, wealthier, healthier, and more successful.

But, you might try to convince yourself that comparing yourself to the cream of the crop will help you draw inspiration. After all, looking at the person who has risen to the top might remind you that you're going to need to work hard to get there, right?

Well, research shows upward social comparisons don't inspire you to do better. In fact, thinking "that person is better than me," fuels feelings of depression and envy.

Or perhaps you're someone who likes to think about the less fortunate in an effort to remind yourself that you're not that bad. But, studies show that doesn't work either--at least not in the long run.

Thinking about people who are struggling more than you can provide a temporary sense of relief. But researchers found that in the long-term,downward social comparisons fuel depression and sympathy--which aren't emotions you want to experience when you're trying to perform at your peak.

Look at People as Opinion Holders, Not Competitors

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to curb the comparisons. Then, your self-worth won't be dependent on how those around you are doing.

Rather than rank people as better or worse than you, think about what you can learn from others. Viewing people as role models--instead of your competition--will help you stop stacking yourself up against everyone else.

A 2018 study published in Computers in Human Behavior found that people who think, "This person has a view on an issue that I'm dealing with," enjoy better mental health than those who think, "This person is better able to achieve the task than I am."

Acknowledge that other people have a different skills than you or that they have knowledge that could benefit you. Then, you'll be intent on learning from them, not pitting yourself against them. The good news is, you can learn something from everyone you meet.

Questions That Will Change Your Mindset

So the next time you're tempted to think someone else is better than you, reframe the way you're thinking about the situation. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What information does that person have that could be helpful to me?
  • What I can learn from this individual?
  • What knowledge, ideas, or areas of expertise does this individual have that could be valuable to me?

Rather than judge people, stay curious. Look for opportunities to learn and you'll start to see that other people aren't necessarily better or worse than you--they're just different.

Published on: Jan 17, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.