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The Comparison Trap: Impact on Self-Esteem

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The Comparison Trap: Impact on Self-Esteem


Let’s start with defining what the comparison trap is. It’s the tendency to evaluate oneself in relation to others. People often spend a lot of time comparing to others. Common comparisons are looks/ attractiveness, friends (both quantity and quality), personality, success, etc. When we fall into the comparison trap, we generally just end up creating anxiety and other negative emotions for ourselves.



• Comparisons focus on the wrong person. In order to be our best selves and reach our goals in life, we have to be self-focused. When we compare, we aren’t doing that, we are just looking at what other people have.

• You can’t compare your inside reality to someone else’s outside reality. You never know what someone is feeling and thinking; all you can do is make assumptions based on what you observe. Many people hide their pain and just put their best foot forward. From the outside, others look at them and think how lucky they are, but in reality, things are not that great. Our perception of others is therefore skewed based on our own assumptions; it’s not based in reality.

• Our comparisons tend to be biased and, therefore, unfair. Usually, one will compare their faults to someone else’s positives. Everyone has positives and negatives and some things that are good and other things that need improvement. When comparing, it is easy to forget that and miss the big picture. You end up just stuck in that one area that someone has it “better,” which ultimately is an unfair comparison.


• Remember all the things above. When you find yourself comparing, remember how unproductive it is and that it doesn’t accomplish anything.

• Look for what you do have and practice gratitude. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have and being envious of those who do have it, focus and be grateful for the good things in your life. Change the narrative from negative to positive!

• Remember life is not a competition. When you stop operating as if you are competing with others, it is easier not to compare. Comparisons often are in line with the mindset that someone else is ahead of you in life. Remember that someone having something doesn’t take away from your accomplishments or what you can achieve.

• Turn comparisons into motivation. When you find yourself comparing, stop and instead work on yourself. When you find yourself wanting what someone else has, take the other person out of the equation and turn it into a goal that is realistic and works for you. Then actively take steps towards it.

• Take a social media vacation. Social media is a huge trigger for the comparison trap. It is a forum where people generally just present the positives and make it seem as if their life is one big success and party. You don’t get an accurate view of someone else’s life, but often you think you do. When comparisons are really strong, take a break from looking at any of your social media. In general, it can be helpful to limit how often you scroll through your social media’s newsfeeds and set boundaries that make you less vulnerable to comparisons.


The bottom line is that falling into the comparison trap has no productive value and is not effective. It only causes us to feel bad about ourselves and can lead to anxiety and depression. In order to find more satisfaction and happiness in life, we need to stop letting the comparison trap into our lives. Take the energy and time that goes into comparing to others and instead use that energy to be proactive and create the life you want!

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