Comparison, Good or Bad?

How many times have we been told not to compare ourselves to others? For me, countless times and it is also something I frequently say to others as well.

But new research suggests that HOW we make comparisons may give us an unbiased account of our own skills and experiences.

Research has found that people believe they spend more time alone and are part of fewer social circles than other people. However, this is partly because people often compare themselves to highly visible and social people. The same thing happens in other domains as well. For example, when looking at fitness levels, people typically compare their fitness to the fittest person they know. This suggests that our units of measurement are unrealistic when making these comparisons.

Comparison operates inversely in the same manner. Social cognitive psychologists have long known that when we want to feel better about ourselves, we will make comparisons to people that are worse off than us. This can be uplifting for our spirits when we are feeling low. In contrast, when we want to improve, we compare ourselves to people that are more skilled than we are. This suggests that comparison can be used to motivate us to improve ourselves and our skills.