How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

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Photo Source: Joan Marcus

The drive to compare yourself to others is natural, but ultimately harmful—especially if your work involves being in the public eye. To stop comparing yourself to others, it helps to shift the lens to focus on how uniquely awesome you are, remember that everyone has their struggles, and talk to a professional.


Why do I compare myself to others?


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The social comparison theory posits that people compare themselves to others so they can better evaluate their own ideas, feelings, and behavior. Comparing oneself to others seems to be an innate part of the human experience, since we grow into ourselves as individuals by responding to the people around us. 

Actors and other creatives might find themselves particularly inclined to comparing themselves to others since performance is, well, performative. Actor Tony Rossi remembers watching the 2016 Tony Awards and seeing someone he performed with as a teenager accepting an award as part of the “Hamilton” sweep. “I watched from my studio apartment,” he recalls. “I was broke as a joke and heading to my free internship at an acting school the next day. I’ll admit that while I normally loved this internship, I mopped the floor the next day feeling absolutely miserable.” This career comparison made him undervalue his own accomplishments, seeing them only as not up to par with being cast in “Hamilton.”

Small comparisons can quickly turn into a comparison crisis. “I’m sure you do it all the time, looking at their Facebook posts and seeing them onstage in another Equity show, all while you realize that you’re nowhere near quitting your day job,” Rossi points out. “You can easily find your way in a big comparison spiral.” 

Even if you’re not actively comparing yourself, your talent, or your looks to other actors, it’s likely that agents, casting directors, fans, and randos on the internet do. Learning how to reduce the impact of these comparisons is vital to feeling fulfilled and moving forward in your career.

How does comparing myself to others affect me?

Mean Girls

“Mean Girls” Courtesy Paramount Pictures

While the occasional healthy comparison can make you appreciate your uniqueness and give you motivation, unhealthy comparisons can lead to negative self-talk, a lost sense of self, and decreased confidence.

Negative self-talk: When you’ve been tried and found wanting by the worst of critics—yourself—you stop treating yourself with compassion, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and despair. 

Lost sense of self: When you compare yourself to others, you may lose sight of the things that make you special. Think of when Cady Heron becomes the new queen bee in “Mean Girls”: She remakes herself in Regina George’s image, causing her to lose sight of her own unique traits, like being a math whiz and a considerate friend. When you compare yourself to others, you may try to change yourself to be more like them.

Decreased confidence: As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to your friend who just got cast in the latest Netflix show, you may start to minimize your own achievements. And since confidence in yourself and your abilities is crucial to making it in the biz, decreased confidence can mean the difference between landing a gig and not.

How to not compare yourself to others

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It can be difficult to stop comparing yourself to others, but these tips can help you reconnect with yourself. 

Practice self-compassion. Practicing mindfulness, engaging in self-care, and simply being kind to yourself can help shield you from the negative consequences of comparing yourself to others. The next time you’re feeling down that someone else got the part instead of you, take some time reflecting on your own accomplishments. Treat yourself to a massage, a healthy snack, or a long walk outside. Remember positive feedback you’ve heard in the past—you received it for a reason.

Talk to a professional. A therapist can help you understand why you feel the need to compare yourself to others and work with you to address these feelings.

Know your own worth. “Here’s the thing: I don’t care how good your friends are,” Rossi says. “I don’t care that it feels a million miles away for you to sign with an agent, even though your friends got one ages ago. You need to realize you’re worthy and deserving of those same exact goals. I’m not expecting you to embrace this concept right away. It’s cool if you’re still in a funk for the next few days. Just start to recognize that these thoughts of comparison are just thoughts and you can think the same way about yourself as you do your peers. By acknowledging this, you can stop spiraling.” 

Remember that people curate their images. Seeing other people’s highlight reels can sometimes leave you feeling inferior. Just remember that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Someone bragging to you about a rave review likely isn’t going to talk about the nights they spent in tears after long days of rehearsals, and a perfectly filtered Instagram post isn’t representative of someone's daily appearance and experience. 

Learn about other people’s struggles. Rossi recommends “consuming stories about how those people you’re seeing on TV still have their struggles today” to remind yourself that everyone experiences hardships—even the most elite celebrities. 

Compete with yourself, not other people. One of the best ways to keep the competitive edge that comparing yourself to others can provide without veering into dangerous territory is to compete with past versions of yourself. By making your past self your basis for comparison, you focus more on process and progress than on self-defeating discouragement. It can help to think about when you were just getting started in the industry and how much you’ve learned and grown since then. Current you is killing it compared to past you—and we haven’t even seen future you yet.