Woman of color on couch under blanket scrolling phone with a sad expression | The Psychology of Comparison Why We Do It and How to Stop | Mindful Health Solutions

Do you ever find yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media feeds, only to put your phone down feeling unaccomplished or inadequate? You’re far from alone in this experience. The digital age has transformed the way we perceive ourselves, often through the lens of other people’s curated lives. In this blog post, we’ll explore the social conditioning behind comparison, why it’s harmful to your well-being, the rise of this habit via social media, and concrete ways to focus on what truly matters: your unique journey.

The Origins of Comparison

It’s important to understand that the habit of comparing ourselves to others is socially conditioned, not an inherent part of human nature. From an early age, societal norms and expectations reinforce this behavior. Think back to your childhood. Did your parents ever compare your academic performance with your siblings or classmates? Were you ever ranked in sports or other activities? Such experiences serve as foundational lessons, teaching us to constantly evaluate ourselves in relation to others. This early social conditioning lays the groundwork for a lifetime habit of comparison, affecting how we perceive our worth and success as adults.

Why Comparison Is Harmful

Emotional Drain

Comparison is a harmful habit that has a significant emotional drain and can compromise your mental well-being. Various research studies have shown a strong correlation between frequent comparison and heightened levels of depression and anxiety. This is especially common among young adults who are still forming their identities and are more responsive to societal pressures.

Productivity Pitfall

Constantly measuring yourself against others is a recipe for inaction and procrastination. The mental bandwidth consumed by comparison could be channeled into productive activities that foster growth and personal development. Instead of scrolling through social media feeds filled with other people’s accomplishments, imagine what you could achieve with focused effort and attention to your own goals.

Strained Relationships

The harm caused by comparison isn’t restricted to individual well-being. It also has the potential to strain relationships. Be it friendships, family ties, or romantic partnerships, the dynamics can become toxic when clouded by jealousy or feelings of inadequacy. Over time, these feelings can build up, creating emotional barriers and fostering resentment, which can be destructive to any relationship.

Reduced Self-Worth

A frequent side-effect of chronic comparison is decreased self-esteem. As you compare your life, achievements, or physical appearance to others, you may experience persistent negative self-talk. This inner critic can be incredibly damaging, affecting your confidence levels and leading you to doubt your own capabilities and worth.

The Social Media Factor

Instant Comparison

Social media platforms have turned into arenas for constant comparison. These platforms serve up a steady stream of carefully curated images and stories, making it almost inevitable to compare yourself to the seemingly perfect lives presented. However, it’s crucial to remember that what’s posted online is often a distorted reality, a ‘highlight reel’ that hides the imperfections and challenges that everyone faces.

Social Media and Depression

While the link between social media use and increased feelings of inadequacy is not new, the volume of research corroborating this is noteworthy. A number of studies, including this one, have found a strong correlation between the time spent on social media platforms and elevated levels of anxiety and depression. Despite these alarming stats, it’s important to remember that what you see online is seldom an accurate representation of someone’s life.

Practical Ways to Stop Comparison


Awareness is the first step towards meaningful change. Mindfulness techniques can be incredibly helpful in catching yourself in the act of comparing. The next time you find yourself falling into the comparison trap, take a moment to pause and breathe. Ask yourself what you’re hoping to achieve by comparing yourself to someone else. Acknowledge the emotions you’re feeling, and try to trace them back to their source.

Explore 10+ mindfulness techniques and healthy coping strategies.

Limit Exposure

Sometimes a straightforward solution is the most effective one. Limiting your exposure to platforms or environments that trigger your comparison habit can be a game-changer. Whether it’s a digital detox or unfollowing certain accounts, taking these steps can make a significant difference. There are also apps available to monitor and limit your screen time, serving as a constant reminder to engage with the real world.

Learn about digital detoxes and other ways to overcome information overload.

Cultivate Gratitude

Gratitude can be a powerful antidote to comparison. By focusing on what you have, rather than what you lack, you shift your mindset from scarcity to abundance. You could start a gratitude journal where you jot down three things you’re grateful for each day. Over time, this practice can rewire your brain to spot positives over negatives.

Get 20 journaling prompts that focus on mental health.

Work Toward Goals

Try shifting your focus from external validation to internal growth. Establish personal goals and work toward achieving them. Celebrate your own milestones and victories, no matter how small they may seem. Compete with your past self, not with others. The more you concentrate on your own journey, the less room there’ll be for harmful comparisons.

Seek Support and Community

Remember, you’re not in this alone. If you find it hard to stop comparing yourself to others, seek support. This could be a trusted friend, a family member, or a mental health professional who can provide constructive advice. Sometimes, external perspectives can offer invaluable insights into our ingrained habits and thought patterns. Also, engaging in group activities that foster a sense of community can divert your attention away from destructive comparison.

Life is too short and too precious to waste it in endless comparison with others. Redirect that energy into making your own life richer, fuller, and more meaningful. Overcome your comparison habit by trying one or two of the strategies discussed above. Your mental and emotional well-being will thank you.

Need help working through feelings of comparison? A therapist can help. Call us today at (844) 867-8444 to schedule an appointment with one of our mental health professionals. They will give you the support you deserve so you can move forward and focus on what matters most: your journey.

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