Social Comparison Theory

Dost fail ho jaye toh dukh hota hai … Lekin dost first aa jaye toh zyaada dukh hota hai”. One can recall this dialogue from 3 idiots movie which translates to ‘When your best friend flunks, you feel bad, when he tops, you feel worse.’

Soon after graduation, in most cases, we don’t know whether we should join an IT company or do an MBA until one of our Uncle’s sons has just done what we think we should be too doing.

After getting started in a job and getting married, we then see the importance of having a car, owning a house only after one of our cousins/colleagues brought it.

This continues…In this way, most of our lives are filled with decisions that are based on relativity. In Psychology, what we are experiencing is called social comparison.

What is a social comparison?

Social comparison is a behavior where we compare certain aspects of ourselves (like our behavior, status, possessions, and success) to other people so that we can have a better assessment of ourselves.

How it got originated?

This theory was initially proposed by psychologist Leon Festinger. The main idea of this theory is that people have this natural tendency to evaluate themselves in comparison to others.

We are driven to assess our abilities and opinions to determine whether we are good enough (abilities) or correct (opinions) and define a benchmark(level of aspiration) of what we aim to achieve.

How are we affected by this Social Comparison?

According to this theory, we are affected by 2 types of social comparisons

  • Upward comparison
  • Downward comparison

Upward comparison: Comparing ourselves with others who are better than us. Here, we are looking for some inspiration to improve ourselves. Upward comparison gives us hope and motivates us to strive toward new achievements on a positive side but also gives us envy or dissatisfaction on a negative side.

Downward comparison: Comparing ourselves to others who are worse than us. Here we are looking to feel better about ourselves. Downward social comparisons might cause us unhappiness because we are reminded that the situation always has the potential to worsen, or we might feel unhappy knowing the situation can become worse.

How to get rid of this Social Comparison?

Develop gratitude

There are around 7.9 billion people on this planet and everyone is unique. Everyone has their own strengths, weaknesses and has a separate view in looking at the world. So, stop comparing your life to others. Compare with yesterday yourself. Stop caring about what other people think.

Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Try to list down the things that you are grateful for in your life. Read them every day, first thing in the morning. Always be grateful for what you have achieved and grateful that you can continue to achieve what you desire.


References: https://positivepsychology.com/social-comparison/ , and other articles

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