How can I stop comparing myself to other women?
Welcome to our advice column where our editors offer thoughtful answers to your pressing inquiries. Head here to submit an anonymous question, and follow here for new Good Questions.✨
How do you deal with chronic comparison issues? I have been in and out of therapy since I was a teen, and am good now with my past depression issues, but I cannot seem to let go of comparing everything about myself to other women—and sometimes making unwarranted mean comments. I try journaling, meditating and yoga, and am otherwise very healthy and successful, but I always feel like I’m lacking physically and skills-wise. Any advice?
First and foremost, I want to commend you for having the self-awareness to see this in yourself. Self-awareness is a true skill that not everyone has, and your ability to recognize negative thought patterns means you’ve already taken the first step to getting past this.
Now, to be honest… I see you, and in many ways, I am you. I often find myself comparing my value to others, feeling like I’m not enough, and wondering what more I could be doing. Why is that woman over there so graceful and gazelle-like, while I regularly trip over everything? Why aren’t I as smart and strategic as my coworker, who figures everything out at the drop of a hat? Why does that girl have so many admirers and acquaintances, when I can barely count my closest friends on one hand? There are countless times when my fiancé has pointed this out and questioned why I do this. All of this to say that you are not alone, by any means.
This issue is two-fold: Comparison affects each of us on an individual basis, but it’s also universally learned for women. Let’s be real: We are taught to be catty and cut-throat, to compete for the eyes of men (present-day Henah is giving a big eye roll), and to be prettier and more successful than our peers. We’ve been brought up to believe in scarcity rather than abundance. We’re told that there isn’t room for everyone and that not everyone is worthy in their own right. So it’s no surprise to me that women are often comparing themselves to one another without an understanding of why. It’s been ingrained in us. But to that end, we can also say, “No more.”
Over the years, I’ve learned a few ways to help cut down on this behavior that may be of use, though it’s an ongoing process.
1. When I was in therapy, my therapist Lisa—shout-out to Lisa, I miss you—would often point out that self-loathing and comparison never resulted in anything positive. For example, when I started to say negative things about myself (and to myself), it didn’t motivate me to be better or like other women. In order to make real, sustainable change, I had to come from a place of compassion. Whenever you notice a mean or unwarranted thought, try to think about the root of why. Then turn that into a moment of compassion for yourself. (A great resource to help with this mindset is the “Self-Compassion Workbook” by Tim Desmond.)
2. Another tactic I’ve employed is trying to be mindful of “better, better, better.” I find that the popular quote “comparison is the thief of joy” rings true for everyone. With everyone’s best highlights on an Instagram reel, it’s easy to fall into the trap of the hedonic treadmill: That once I get better at X or once I reach Y stage in my life like everyone else, I will be happy, proud, complete. But then you get to that point and move the goalpost again, putting yourself on a never-ending cycle for success and happiness. This is exceptionally common, but it helps me to remember all of the things I do have, without trying to compare to anyone else’s life.
3. Celebrate YOU. I beat myself up in all the areas of my life where I fall short, but what I’m trying to do more of is to recognize what I’m really good at. We’re never going to be good at everything, but there is plenty that we deserve recognition for. For example, you should totally celebrate your journaling and efforts with yoga. (See, my own immediate thought was I wish I could be more like that! *Facepalm.*) Both of those activities require commitment, growth, and discipline to keep up with every day. Recognize your personal and professional achievements, you successful woman, you!
Toxic or negative thoughts won’t go away overnight, but they can decrease over time, as I’ve learned. I have total faith that, with your already existing positive behaviors and your self-awareness, you’ll be just fine. Good luck, dear reader. I am cheering you on!
Read more Good Questions here.
Have something on your mind? Click the button below 👇 ✨
Henah Velez (she/her) is a Staff Writer at The Good Trade. In addition to her work here, Henah is the Development and Communications Manager at She’s the First, a nonprofit fighting for a world where every girl chooses her own future. Based out of New York City, you can usually find Henah roaming around Jersey City’s small businesses, hanging with her pets, or traveling as much as possible.