The Comparison Effect

Let’s take a look at what’s fundamentally important to the majority of us – how to dodge those irritating negative emotions and replace them with more confidence, happiness and success. 

I’m writing about something called “The Comparison Effect”.

This is about comparing yourself to others, which you should NEVER do…..but it does happen.

The results that it gradually chips away at your subconscious mind and shapes your beliefs about yourself and the world. 

Before we go any further, let’s play a quick game of “Have You Ever?”

  • Have you ever flipped through a magazine or watched TV and felt a twinge of envy for a celebrity’s body or success?
  • Have you ever seen a celebrity trip up (literally or metaphorically) and felt a tiny bit of glee?
  • Do you ever spot your family, friends, or colleagues at work making fashion faux pas or having bad hair days and silently critique them?
  • Do you often find yourself judging others and comparing them to you?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, congrats! You’re human. But, we hate to break it to you – this habit might be raining on your happiness parade. 

Here’s why:

  • Your mind loves consistency. If you’re busy noticing others’ flaws, it assumes others are equally eagle-eyed about yours.
  • If you secretly celebrate others’ missteps, your mind thinks others are waiting to do the same to you.
  • If you focus on others’ mistakes, it believes others are honing in on yours.
  • If you’re judging others harshly, it figures others are judging you just as harshly.

This habit of constant comparison and judgment starts in childhood when we look to others to figure out how to behave. 

Unfortunately, we drag it with us into adulthood, and it turns into an unwanted cocktail of fear and shame. Because we judge others in specific ways, our subconscious concludes others will judge us just as harshly. 

So, we strive to avoid mistakes, dress impeccably, and never be seen without makeup. This causes us to shy away from situations where we might face rejection or judgment.

But don’t worry, recognising The Comparison Effect is the first step to kicking it to the curb and reclaiming your confidence and joy!

Comparing yourself to others is a bit like playing a game of hide-and-seek with your self-esteem, magnified by what we call ‘The Paradigm Effect.’ 

This nifty little law states that whatever you believe is true, your mind will hunt down evidence to back it up and completely ignore anything that contradicts it.

So, let’s say you’re feeling a bit fluffy around the edges and constantly comparing yourself to those super-fit celebrities, your mind will zero in on the gym bunnies and fitness fanatics, making you feel like everyone else is an extra in a workout video, while completely missing the fact that there are plenty of people who are also carrying a few extra pounds.

You might start thinking, “Is everyone here auditioning for a fitness magazine?” because your mind is only spotlighting the evidence that supports your belief. This constant comparison chips away at your self-esteem, little by little.

Now, flip the script. If you started noticing just how many people are actually in the same boat as you, you’d feel less isolated and miserable. Sure, it won’t magically make the weight vanish, but at least it won’t be like pouring lemon juice on your self-esteem paper cut.

Here’s the kicker about comparison: we almost always compare upwards. We look at those who seem to have more—better looks, better bodies, more money, fancier clothes—and place them on a pedestal. This is why comparison is such a slippery slope. It tricks us into believing that everyone else is better, and that we must never make mistakes.

Let’s be honest. If you walk past a homeless person, do you ever think, “I’m better than you”? Probably not (and, frankly, good). But stroll by someone who seems to have it all together, and what do you do? You mentally crown them King or Queen of Awesome and start feeling like a peasant in comparison.

This habit of always comparing upwards digs a hole in your self-esteem and confidence. So, here’s a little challenge for the next week, for your own benefit:

Each time you catch yourself judging others or comparing yourself to them, jot it down in a notebook or on your phone. Keep a tally chart of each time you do it. 

By the end of the week, you’ll probably notice two things: you’re either spotting the mistakes other people make and thus feeding your belief that you must be perfect, or you’re comparing yourself to others you think are better than you, feeding the belief that you’re not good enough.

Give this exercise a shot. You’ll be surprised at how often you do it without even realising. Bringing this into your conscious awareness will show you just how much these comparisons poison your self-image, and you’ll soon find you no longer want to keep up the habit.

Once you notice how it poisons your self image, you’ll no longer want to continue it. 

For the next week I’m inviting you to do this…..for your own benefit.

Seriously. Do the exercise.

Dr. Elmar Jung
Dr. Elmar Jung

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