Dr Judith Orloff's Blog

How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

Judith Orloff - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Adapted from Dr. Judith Orloff’s NY Times bestseller “Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself From Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life” (Three Rivers Press, 2011)

As a psychiatrist, I realize that comparing is a natural tendency we all have. It can be absolutely neutral, as when you merely evaluate similarities and differences. Such comparison is essential for astute reasoning. It’s also productive if you’re inspired to emulate another’s impressive traits. However, it becomes dysfunctional when it stirs envy and jealousy, if you judge yourself as better as or less than others. Think about it: without comparisons jealousy and envy couldn’t exist. Interestingly, it’s more common to feel inferior to those with “more” than to feel grateful compared to those with “less.”

We’re a society of comparison junkies. It starts from day one. Babies are compared to each other. Who’s smarter, cuter, more precocious? Then comes grammar school. I remember a hideous game some of my king-of-the-hill classmates would play. They’d pick a target, usually the shy, insecure student. Then, in a taunting tone they’d sing in unison, “There’s a fungus among us. Her name is (fill in the blank) fungus” until the poor kid, totally humiliated, slunk away. So, at school, there were basically the funguses and the non-funguses. Not so different from the breakdown of our comparisons in later life, interpersonally and politically. Shiites and Sunnis. White Supremacists versus Jews and Blacks. Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. Comparing yourself to others can preclude a bond of common fellowship and is a disservice to finding true worth. Either you’ll end up with the short end of the stick, or, if you deign to put yourself above anyone, you’re nowhere. (No one is above anyone else.) Self-esteem must come from simply being you.

In my book “Emotional Freedom,” I emphasize that comparing ourselves to others can come from low self-esteem and lack of belief in the integrity of our own unique life path. In a spiritual sense, comparing your path to another’s is comparing apples and oranges. Why? Your life is explicitly designed for your own growth. Every person you meet, every situation you encounter challenges you to become a stronger, more loving, and confident person. Try to appreciate the grace of both the hurdles and the joys you’ve been given. This is life’s legacy to you. Self-esteem comes from embracing this, working with what each day brings. How you spend your time here is up to you. Why squander it by comparing? Realistically, you’ll probably still do it. We all will. Even so, let’s strive to keep our eyes on ourselves to build self-esteem so we can become more emotionally free.

The following exercise will help you to turn jealousy and envy around. The more you practice it, the easier it will get.

Stop Comparing, Build Self-Esteem

  • Choose a person you feel jealousy or envy towards. Perhaps a coworker your supervisor favors. Or a cocky, well-off relative. Make this person your test case before you go on to transforming these emotions with others.
  • Behave differently. Practice dealing with jealousy and envy by mindfully using humility and avoiding comparisons, even if the person irritates you. For instance, rather than automatically bristling or shrinking in your seat when your supervisor praises this co-worker, second her good ideas, a collegial gesture. Try not to feed into feeling “less than.” Instead, as an empowered equal, add your own good ideas, not letting their rapport or your wobbly self-esteem deter you. Although you have the right to be upset about your supervisor’s favoritism, a humble but confident approach will begin to improve things. In that instance and the situation with your well-off relative, practice the commandment “I shall not compare.” Shift your mindset to concentrate on what you do have, what makes you happy. Let that be the tone of your interaction.
  • Give to others what you most desire for yourself. If you want your work to be valued, value others’ work. If you want love, give love. If you want a successful career, help another’s career to flourish. What goes around comes around, an energetic dynamic you can mobilize.
  • Learn from a rival’s positive points. Get your mind off of what you perceive you lack and towards self-improvement. Yoko Ono says, “Transform jealousy to admiration, and what you admire will become part of your life,” an inspiring credo to live by.
  • Wish a rival well. Even if it’s hard to do this, try. It helps you to turn negativity around to something more positive.
  • Enlisting these methods helps you take your eyes off of other people and back to yourself. The point is to appreciate what you have rather than focus on what you’re lacking. A big part of emotional freedom is developing self-compassion rather than beating yourself up. Praise yourself. Gain self-esteem from your efforts to deal with jealousy or envy positively. Showing humility and avoiding comparisons let you build self-esteem. It fosters a loving versus defensive posture in relationships.

    Click on link to read the Italian version of How to Stop Comparing Yourself with Others.


    Judith Orloff, MD is author of The Empath's Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, upon which her articles are based. Dr. Orloff is a psychiatrist, an empath, and is on the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty. She synthesizes the pearls of traditional medicine with cutting edge knowledge of intuition, energy, and spirituality. Dr. Orloff also specializes in treating empaths and highly sensitive people in her private practice. Dr. Orloff’s work has been featured on The Today Show, CNN, the Oprah Magazine and USA Today. She is a New York Times best-selling author of Emotional Freedom, The Power of Surrender, Second Sight, Positive Energy, and Guide to Intuitive Healing. Connect with Judith on  Facebook and  Twitter. To learn more about empaths and her free empath support newsletter as well as Dr. Orloff's books and workshop schedule, visit her website.

    Rhonda Bryant commented on 28-Apr-2012 02:38 PM
    This is really helpful when you start to think that the grass is greener on the other side. It makes you instead focus on what you are grateful for.
    Tropical Holidays commented on 29-Apr-2012 02:56 AM
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    Holistic Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy - Los Angeles commented on 10-May-2012 03:58 PM
    I have had to deal with this personally, once I became aware of it. With some of my clients it has become so intense and pervasive, it deserves the slang name bestowed upon it, "Comparisonitis". hypnohotshot.
    Sue Murthi commented on 10-May-2012 04:07 PM
    I've heard of all kinds of junkies but not "comparison junkies" - I like that term. This is so true of almost all of humanity - we are always wanting what someone else has- this stems from a lack mentality! I want to share a little rhyme that a friend
    of mine from high school shared which till today stays etched in my mind: "All men (women included) are fools; always wanting what is not. When it is hot, they want it cold. When it is cold, they want it hot. Always wanting what is not!"
    Anonymous commented on 10-May-2012 10:06 PM
    I agree with your suggestion Judith to "second your colleauges good ideas and not to let your own shaky self esteem get in the way of bringing forth your own ideas. I tried it at work and it lessened my harsh self -judgment to a certain extent. At least
    i felt that i was putting my voice in the room and that i wasn't invisible. However, there are times when it's important for a person to move out of a situation where they are made to feel less than or if they can't, then at least to give thenselves credit
    for the postive qualities that they do bring.I know that I will never be as quick as my colleaugue in formulating ideas but I also know that what I have to offer in terms of emotional sensitivity is greater than what she can offer,despite it not really being
    appreciated in my setting. I often tell myself that we're all different with our unique strengths and areas that need improvement and this helps me to not think of them or myself as better or lesser than.,We need all kinds of talents to make up the world,
    to make whole of the parts.It's also so important to learn self-compassion for our foibles and vulnerabilities.
    debra commented on 11-May-2012 06:15 AM
    this takes daily practice, especially if you where raised by a parent who used this technique of comparison for control, to redirect your thinking and habits. you will have the most wonderful results, but it takes time and patience with yourself to accomplish
    Anonymous commented on 11-May-2012 10:39 PM
    I have been struggling with this for some time with a past relationship that did not work out, and a co-worker that I have never experienced so much frustration with in my life. Intresting to see this topic in writting now. I will have to investigate further.
    I do try the approach of working with adversity, and not walking away from it. It's really in my face though on a daily basis. I love the comment about "what I have to offer in emotional sensitivity not being appriciated in the setting."
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    Angelie commented on 03-Sep-2012 12:02 AM
    What about when other people are competitive and copy you? My sister-in-law copies me: things I wear, say, do, am interested in. Most of the time without giving me credit, and it annoys me to no end. You said in the article to emulate others you admire
    - apparently she admires me and wants to emulate me. But it feels more like she is trying to be me, like she is trying to take my identity and make it her own, to be me even better than me. I do a lot of work with the triggers being around her brings up, and
    I feel so angry and uncomfortable around her. I've wondered if this is some kind of psychic vampirism?
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    Anonymous commented on 19-Mar-2013 11:45 AM
    Very useful advice to counter a very human, and debilitating, habit!

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