Social comparison theory states that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others. People sometimes compare themselves to others as a way of fostering self-improvement, self-motivation, and a positive self-image. As a result, humans constantly evaluate themselves, and others, across domains such as attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success.
These evaluations can promote judgmental, biased, and overly competitive or superior attitudes. Most people have the social skills and impulse control to keep their standards for social comparison to themselves, and not to act on any envy or resentment spurred by comparison-making. But one's true feelings may manifest in other ways.
Social comparison theory was developed in 1954 by psychologist Leon Festinger. Subsequent research shows that people who regularly compare themselves to others often experience feelings of deep dissatisfaction, guilt, or remorse, and engage in destructive behaviors like lying or disordered eating.