If You Want To Be Happy, Stop Comparing Yourself To Others


Aimee Groth| BUSINESS  INSIDER. Apr.  21, 2013

Credit:Jamie Vedres

Our culture has made it increasingly easy to compare ourselves to others,  through Facebook, Instagram,  and hundreds of other platforms.

But constant comparison only makes us feel like failures: No  matter what, there will always be someone who’s at least one step ahead us; and  the perfect job, spouse, salary, etc., will always remain elusive.

Elizabeth  Weil recently interviewed University of California psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky about this phenomenon  for The New  York Times. In her article, “Happiness  Inc.,” she writes that, “As  Dr. Lyubomirsky has found in her lab (and many of us find around the office or  at a bar), unhappy people compare a lot and  care about the results.”

In a study, “Hedonic  consequences of social comparison,” Lyubomirsky and her co-author Lee Ross  from Stanford  University looked at how happy and unhappy people respond differently to  feedback, both positive and negative, on a teaching exercise. Happy  participants’ self-confidence was enhanced by positive feedback, no matter if  they also learned that their peers got better results. On the other hand,  confidence levels for unhappy people soared when they received positive feedback  alone, but only increased minimally when they learned their peers did better.  Most surprisingly, they found that:

The overall pattern of  results that  emerged was striking in that unhappy participants  showed greater  increases in self-confidence after learning that they did poorly but their peer did even  worse than after learning that they did very well  but their peer did even better whereas  happy participants  showed smaller increases in self-confidence in the latter condition than in the former  condition.

Here’s  a chart showing the results of the experiment:

 

Screen Shot 2013 04 21 at 5.31.05 PM

Sonja  Lyubomirsky

 

While modest comparison to other people makes for healthy competition, those  who are consumed by peer comparison are simply choosing to live an unhappier  life.

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