Comparisonitis is the need to compare yourself — and your accomplishments — to others: a compulsion motivated by the desire to establish where you sit within the hierarchy of your social and professional circles. Are you more or less important? More or less capable? More or less talented?

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter because this isn’t an opinion based on an honest evaluation of who you are and what you’ve achieved. Whether you deem yourself better or worse that another person (and it’s often worse), the result of your comparison is ultimately a judgement about yourself or another and it’s rooted firmly in insecurity.

Comparisonitis isn’t new. It’s a reboot of Social Comparison Theory which was developed by Leon Festinger in the 1950s. He suggested that we determine our worth by looking at the achievements of others — and it can undoubtedly drive us to greater things. It offers possibilities and goals to strive for and productive strategies that we can emulate. However, Festinger also noted that the practice can create feelings of deep dissatisfaction, psychological tension, and even burnout.

By comparing yourself to others and falling short (upwards comparisons), or conversely gaining a fragile and short-term sense of superiority (downwards comparisons) by being ‘one up’, you do little for your self-esteem. As part of your professional life, it can kill your creativity and rob us of your pride in what you’ve achieved, as well as the hope and motivation that comes from believing in your own potential. It can also breed jealousy, self-doubt, over-confidence and arrogance.


According to Psychology Today, 10% of your thoughts involve comparisons of some kind. Social media feeds that tendency, providing you with countless images and stories of who you should be. As writer and research editor Renee Goyeneche observes: ‘We can compare ourselves to others on a global scale, any time of the day or night, simply by picking up our phones.’

Women, however, are more likely to fall victim to comparisonitis than men. A 2022 study revealed that female university students tend to use upwards comparisons more frequently than their male counterparts. It’s also been suggested that women who compare themselves to men are more likely to be dissatisfied than if they compare themselves to other women — and for those in senior positions there are often fewer women to compare ourselves to.

While there’s no difference in IQ between the sexes, women consistently underestimate their intelligence while men do the opposite. According to the American Psychological Association, men also tend to have higher levels of self-esteem than women, particularly in Western industrialised countries.

It’s fertile ground for the insecurities that plague many women in business. But the good news is that if you’re suffering from comparisonitis, there’s plenty you can do to turn those negative self-perceptions on their head.



The first step to combatting any problem is to recognise its existence. Once an issue is brought into conscious awareness, it stops running your life from behind the scenes. You can look at what’s really going on and make decisions about how you deal with it from a place of greater strength and clarity.

It’s not always obvious when your behaviour is rooted in comparison, says Melissa Ambrosini, the best-selling author of Comparisonitis: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Be Genuinely Happy. It may take the form of being highly competitive, putting others down or beating yourself up.

Start jotting down the times when you compare yourself to others, either directly or indirectly, including any observations about how it affects your behaviour and your emotions. Once you understand what’s really going on, you can address it.

You might also be able to use comparisonitis as a mirror that shows you what’s missing in your professional life.

‘Our brains are the most powerful tools,’ says success coach Maria Traino. ‘And one special area is called the reticular activating system. We all have one, and it acts like a telescope searching our surroundings looking for examples of what we want.’

It means you can use comparisonitis to help you set goals that will take your career forwards. Then, rather than exhausting yourself with constant unhelpful comparisons that make you feel bad and keep you stuck, you can turn that energy towards something more productive and step up.


By placing the locus of your professional worth outside of yourself, which is what comparisonitis does, your self-esteem is intimately connected with the successes and failures of others. They fly; you fall, and vice versa. Bring your focus back to you and, in the words of attorney and business owner Nicole Cheri Oden, ‘Appreciate YOUR journey’.

She suggests taking time every three months to reflect and appreciate what you’ve achieved. Of course, this also means knowing exactly what your goals are and having a plan to achieve them so you can benchmark your progress. Then every step towards that goal, however small, is worth celebrating and, in this context, the only comparison worth making is with yourself, then and now.


Focus on turning upwards comparisons into a source of empowerment. Goyeneche suggests looking at those around you who are doing well and analysing how they’re doing it. What do they prioritise? What personal traits have helped them achieve their goals? What gives them a sense of purpose? How do they deal with success and failure?

Establishing a mentoring relationship with someone you look up to can formalise this process and create space for questions and answers that can deepen your understanding and give you valuable support.


It’s easy to assume that everyone else ‘had it easy’ or that they don’t have to try and it’s only you who struggles. The truth is often very different, and a quick reality check can eradicate unhelpful assumptions and ease the pressure to be like someone else.

Sara Blakely launched Spanx, now a multimillion-dollar business, in 2000. Before that she’d had a brief spell as a stand-up comedian, an unhappy period of buckling guests into rides at Walt Disney World, and then a job with an office supply company selling fax machines door to door.

Success often appears after a string of failures and false-starts. It may also be the case that the person you envy has knowledge and experience that you just don’t have — yet. By finding out about the journeys that have led people to where they are now, you start seeing them as individuals. This unlocks the potential for curiosity and empathy, and you may also discover that you have experiences or traits in common. Perhaps you’re not so different after all.


You’ve no doubt heard of imposter syndrome — the often-unfounded belief that you’re not up to the job. Comparisonitis takes that a step further. It allows you not only to tear yourself down but also to spotlight those around you who are doing what you aren’t (or think you can’t). They’re succeeding where, you believe, you’re floundering.

The truth is we all have a unique skillset and, as Jack Bergstrand, Chief Executive of consultancy firm Brand Velocity, suggests, seeing the role that your skills play as part of the big picture is key to understanding where you can thrive.

‘By knowing your workplace strengths, the strengths of others, and the big picture of how these strengths fit together, people can much more easily work in their sweet spot, and not be dragged into areas where they can’t add a lot of value,’ he says.

But how do you do that? One way to pinpoint your unique skills is to notice when you’re in a state of flow: those times when you’re totally focused, immersed and energised by the task in hand. These are the moments when you’re in your element and doing something that comes naturally.