Comparing ourselves with others can often cause great frustration or anxiety. Therefore, it is important that we know how to positively value social comparison theory. Constantly, we compare ourselves with the people of our environment, our social networks, public figures and, even, fiction. Normally, the generalized opinion about social comparisons tends to be negative, although they should be avoided as much as possible. But what if we tell you that social comparisons are part of the character of the human being?
Social comparison theory effects
Leon Festinger, the author of the theory of social comparison and cognitive dissonance, postulates that people need to evaluate our opinions and our abilities. That is, people need to know that we are coherent and that our opinions and choices are valid.
According to the psychologist Joel Feliu, people started a process of comparison with other people in order to obtain some certainty, since they could not find another way to check the validity of our opinions and skills .
How does social comparison theory affect us?
Even though the options are easy and the choice seems clear, we often tend to place our trust in the opinions of others. That is, we trust their opinion more than ours to know what we have to say, do or think.
However, Feliu points out that the comparisons are not random, but that we tend to do them with people we consider more similar to ourselves. Therefore, as we appreciate that there is more similarity with the other person, we rely more on her to evaluate our opinions and abilities.
All this reflection leads to the concept of group uniformity. The fact that we need reliable opinions of who we think is similar to us translates into the desire for group uniformity, that is, the desire to want to be more like others and others seem more like us.
What happens when our attitudes and opinions do not match those we consider similar to us? According to Festinger, when social comparisons show discrepancies, cognitive dissonance would occur.
This dissonance would originate psychological distress, which would lead us to make changes in our decisions, opinions, attitudes and, ultimately, and unconsciously, in our cognitive system.
Social comparison theory: to what extent are they harmful?
Now that we know that social comparisons are part of human character, how does being compared to others influence us?
Comparing ourselves with others will affect us in a very different way depending on the meaning we give to that comparison. The way in which we value our situation with that of another person can seriously affect our self-esteem and deteriorate our autonomy.
On the one hand, we must understand that we all have a unique life situation as a result of different experiences. That is to say, to understand that the events that have originated up to the point of confirming your current state and that of the other person have been very different. Since, associating your skills with the situation of another person can, in fact, damage your sense of self-worth. Let’s discover how to handle problems.
With the arrival of social networks, it is very common to compare our life with that of others by viewing their Facebook or Instagram profiles when, after all, we only have their photos as sources.
Social comparisons as a means of inspiration
Each one of us is unique and we have our own circumstances. And it is true that, if we constantly compare ourselves with others, we will be assigning some demands that are foreign to us. However, there is a healthy way to use social comparisons: inspiration.How do social comparisons affect us?
«Be yourself, the other posts are busy» -Oscar Wilde-
See how other’s progress and achieve their dreams while you still have a lot to do is really frustrating and can even generate a lot of anxiety. When you compare yourself with others, convert that frustration or envy of not being able to get what they have in motivation.
Therefore, comparing yourself with others must always focus on improvement. Observe those people from another perspective, as a model or goal to follow to help you achieve what you want. Analyze what they did to get what they have now and motivate yourself by saying: “If they could, I could too.”