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Interrupting Comparative Thoughts

Many of us have heard the saying, “comparison is the thief of joy,” but what does that really mean? Is comparing ourselves to others really that bad? While there can be some benefits to comparison, it actually does have the power to negatively impact our mental health: here’s what you should know.

Comparison is a biological, human habit. We make comparisons as a way to judge ourselves or to see how we measure up to others in certain areas. Some people may even feel pressure to be part of a collective group which can lead them to seek approval in order to feel accepted by the group. While some comparison is normal, too much comparison can negatively affect our mental health if it results in poor self-esteem, depression, or anxiety. “Often times when we compare ourselves to others, we are looking for things that we do not have, causing us to lower our value and worth,” says Katie Grace-Linnehan, Therapist at Centerstone. Comparison can be harmful to our sense of self if we are striving to be exactly like someone else if we see them as being an “ideal” person.

One major, and sometimes misunderstood, benefit to comparison is that it can actually serve as a motivator to work toward a certain goal. “Comparison can also be helpful if we are using it in a positive way to identify things that we actually want for ourselves,” adds Grace-Linnehan, “not because they have it, but because we genuinely want it for ourselves too.” For example, if you are working on remodeling your home, you may compare your vision to someone else’s home that has the same style that you hope to achieve.

However, if comparison results in negative feelings about yourself, it can be helpful to identify any insecurities you have that may trigger comparison. Feelings of envy or jealousy may make you feel that you’re lacking something. When you are able to recognize areas in your life where you may want to improve or grow, you can start building your confidence and sense of self-worth.

It can be challenging to stop comparison entirely, but those thoughts can be interrupted. A helpful strategy Grace-Linnehan suggests is “create a list of your own individual strengths, or create daily positive affirmations to work on embracing your own identity so that you will start to see your differences as strengths instead of weaknesses.” Focus on your strengths and what makes you unique, and be proud of them!

Interrupting these and other thought patterns can take time and effort. If you need support, Centerstone can help. To learn more, visit our counseling services page or call us at 877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123).

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