- When you compare yourself to others, instead of feeling bad about yourself, look for the attributes you admire that you can develop.
- Don't make yourself into someone you're not; look at what triggers your envy and decide what goals will help you get a similar result.
- When you envy someone, also acknowledge what traits you have, ones they don't have to balance out your measurement of self-worth.
For years, I taught that the difference between low and high self-esteem was how you measured self-worth. When you have low self-esteem, you measure your worth as either better or less than the others, including appearance as well as achievements. This measurement still holds. But then I thought that when you have high self-esteem, you measure your worth based on your own accomplishments, measuring your value against the level of pride you feel when you achieve something important. This measurement is only partially true.
I now realize that I put comparing ourselves to others in an unfair, bad light. We all compare ourselves to others as a matter of survival. Comparison is a skill we master as children and practice most of our lives. You might be harder on yourself if you have low self-worth, but even people with high confidence compare themselves to how other people are doing. The difference is that people with high self-esteem use comparison more to drive themselves to do better than to beat themselves up for not being good enough.
Making Comparison More Inspiring Than Defeating
No matter where you are on the self-esteem scale, you can choose to make comparisons more inspiring than defeating. You can feel envious and curious at the same time by noticing the attributes you would like to have more of and actions you would like to incorporate when you measure someone as better than you. Comparison can inspire growth.
Start today noticing when you feel inferior to someone. If you feel inferior, what specifically is making you feel that way? Instead of feeling bad about yourself, can you give yourself time to work on a goal that will bring you closer to being like the person you envy? Instead of feeling jealous, can you name what you admire about the person that you can develop?
Don't try to be someone else; learn from what they do that would be helpful for you.
At the same time, do you see something in yourself that you are grateful for or proud of that the person you envy doesn’t display? You might have a greater sense of humor or kinder heart than the perfect-looking person you may never be. Acknowledge what makes you beautiful when you sink into comparison.
Questions for Self-Awareness and Insight
Using envy in a positive way starts with self-awareness and insight. Answer these questions to get you started on using comparison for good:
- Whom do you envy? What do they possess you would like to have more of?
- Can you translate your desire to “have what they have” into a tangible goal or plan you can work on over time?
- Who can you see yourself being as you work on developing yourself?
- How can you focus on even the little steps you are making instead of the missteps that inevitably occur?
- What resources or people could support you on your journey?
- Don't forget to celebrate your successes. What will you do to acknowledge your growth?
You can use comparison to love yourself more when you focus on gaining what you want more of for your life instead of feeling bad about what you don't have now. Remember, your intention is not to be perfect; it is to know you are improving with each courageous step you take.