0

MCLEOD: Why comparing yourself to other people is a good thing

Lisa McLeod

Lisa McLeod

Do you ever compare yourself to other people?

Of course you do. We all do.

People are always telling you not to compare yourself to others, but it's part of human nature. Humans are called the comparing creatures. It's not always a bad thing.

Here are three ways comparing yourself to others will improve your life:

  1. Comparing shows you what's possible.

Have you ever watched someone give a great presentation, or handle themselves well in a tricky situation and found yourself saying, "Wow, next time I'll do it that way?"

You're not alone. Watching others is how we learn. If I hadn't seen great presenters, like Steve Jobs, I'd probably still be stuck behind a podium using boring bullet point slides.

Whether it's watching how successful people handle themselves at work, or observing another parent managing a playground tantrum, comparing their methods to yours opens your mind to new possibilities.

  1. Comparing makes you competitive, in a good way.

Competitiveness gets a bum wrap. Being competitive doesn't mean you want the other person to fail. It just means you want the same level of success for yourself.

For example, one of my best friends is another author. We're both highly competitive. When one of us lands a deal, or books a big show, it spurns the other one to action. Over the years, it's helped us both advance because we give each other something to shoot for. We call it happy jealously. I can be happy for her and jealous at the same time. I don't want to take it away from her; I just want the same thing for me.

I have another friend who I have an even more blatant competition with. We have an actual bet. Whoever gets their business to the million-dollar mark first has to fly to the other person's city and take their whole family out to a hugely expensive dinner. We compare numbers on a regular basis, and trust me -- we both REALLY want to win.

But notice, the loser doesn't have to make the payment. The winner does. Best-case scenario, I win and fly to San Francisco to treat my friend and his lovely family to a fabulous meal. Worst-case scenario, I'm toasting his success but he's paying for the wine.

  1. Comparing makes you more grateful.

In "The Happiness Makeover," best-selling author M.J. Ryan, who also wrote the "Random Acts of Kindness" series writes, "Scientists call looking at those less fortunate downward comparison, and it is remarkably effective at boosting our happiness."

Be honest, don't you feel better when you compare yourself to people who have it worse?

Who hasn't watched a tragedy and gone home to hug their family?

Lest you feel it's wrong to boost yourself up on the backs of others suffering, take heart. Ryan writes, "Studies now show that people who do are actually more likely to help others, to volunteer or work toward alleviating social injustice because of their awareness of their blessings."

Ryan says, "It's useless to tell ourselves not to do it -- it's part of the function of the brain to compare."

So forget what your mother told you -- it's more than OK to compare yourself to others, it's great. It helps you improve in the future and can make you happier about where you are right now.

Lisa Earle McLeod is author of "The Triangle of Truth," a "Top Five Book for Leaders."