In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

How can you keep self comparison from becoming a negative force in our lives? 

We’ve all heard phrases such as “comparison is the thief of joy,” and have been bombarded with negative stories and statistics about social media and its magnification of self comparison.  While we don’t dispute the destructive effect it can have, comparison can also be harnessed for good and boost our self worth.  

Today’s episode will cover the history of self-comparison – the innate human behavior that can help us assess where our current abilities are and motivate us to push further, if properly managed and kept in check.  We’ll cover:

  • The science behind self comparison and social learning theory
  • 4 types of comparisons
  • How our drives affect the way we compare ourselves to others and our past selves
  • General tips for how to keep self comparison from turning into self destruction

Referenced Resources:

If you happened to miss the first episode in this series – How To Communicate With Someone Who Shuts Down or Stonewalls – give it a listen!  

We can’t fully grasp who we are without understanding what drives and motivates our decisions and behaviors.  Take our quiz and understand more thoroughly another piece in the messy puzzle of self comparison.

It’s natural to want to compare yourself to your past self and others.  If you’d like to receive feedback and be evaluated in real time from a diverse group of like-minded peers, we can’t recommend The Apprenticeship, Speaker School, or Brand Builder live workshops enough! 

If a group workshop doesn’t really sound like your thing, but you would really like some professional evaluation and feedback, check out our 3 month 1:1 Mentorship Program. Reach out to our team at to take your next steps!

Our next Apprenticeship workshop is in beautiful Phoenix, AZ, and the Early Bird special is only available until February 20!  Don’t miss out on your chance to SAVE $150! 

More dates and events for 2024 are being added, keep up to date and come see us this year at one of our Live Events!

Referenced Material:

One of life’s biggest stressors – Time Management

The envious brain: The neural basis of social comparison

Life Lessons and Leadership From My Mom


Brett Bartholomew  0:00  

I don’t think there’s many of us who have at some point in our life, haven’t said that we want to work on becoming a better spouse, a better parent, a better leader, better coach, whatever. And whether that’s being better at how we communicate during hard conversations, how we manage our emotions, how we improve our ability to be more assertive, or even just working on not overpowering conversations. If that’s you, and you want to be better, and you want to make a bigger difference, you know, there’s always room to improve, check out our apprenticeship workshop in Phoenix, Arizona. 


It’s April 20, and 21st. And you’re going to engage in so many unique ways that give you feedback. We use a small group environment, we use video breakdowns, we mix it up and make sure that there’s some fun involved with improv. There’s more serious tactical role playing. But most importantly, you’re gonna get feedback, the stuff that you don’t get in your day job, at least not the way many of us want. And you’re gonna walk away with things that transfer to every single part of your life. And not only every part of your life, but also everything you are, right. Whether you’re a parent, whether you’re new at what you do, you’re going to be able to use this stuff. You can check it out at We would love to have you it’s also a great opportunity to get some hiking in and enjoy the great weather. So hope to see in Phoenix


Welcome to the Art of coaching Podcast. I’m Brett Bartholomew, and at a young age poor communication nearly cost me my life. Now, I help others navigate the gray area of social interaction, power dynamics and communication so they can become more adaptable leaders, regardless of their profession, age or situation. This podcast is for everybody who is fascinated with solving people problems. So if you’re in the no nonsense type who appreciates frank conversations, advice you can put to use immediately, and learning how others navigate the messy realities of leadership. You’re in the right place. I’m glad that you’re joining us. Let’s dive in.


All right, let’s lock and load. Welcome back, everybody. Today we’re going to talk about self comparison. Now imagine this, you’re scrolling through your social media feed. There it is posts from an old friend, a current friend, showcasing their latest achievement, and their vacation. In the case of my wife, when she was getting ready to run her half marathon, she saw one of our friends that just ran one at a pace that was far quicker than the one that she was currently running at.


It hits us all right, it’s a familiar scene, we’ve all been there, even if we know better. We compare ourselves behind the scenes. And more importantly, we compare our behind the scenes and some of our low lights with somebody else’s highlight reel. And that’s something before we even get into the technical nuances of today’s episode or the tips that I can just tell you as a quick value add. We have a tendency, when you look at the research, to compare our deficiencies or weaknesses, whatever term you want to use with other people’s strengths. So right there, you have an asymmetry, we usually don’t measure things, apples to apples, and we’ll talk about why that is. But I just wanted to give you something that you could reflect on right away, where are you comparing yourself in a manner that is commensurate? Oh yeah, this is my deficiency. And this is somebody else’s strength, right? Think about that. 


Because it’s well worn advice, to not compare yourself to others. I will say that to my kids, you likely say to yours, the people you work with the people you guide, but we’re going to so I would like to think that I’ll remember all this at the time because I come up with this content myself and do a lot of this research. I’ll say, Hey, buddy, you know, if you’re gonna compare yourself to others, which you are, let’s at least do it intelligently. So we have those pitfalls. Survivorship Bias skews our perception. If you don’t know what that is. It’s the fact that we tend to pay way more attention to successes than we do failures. We love to romanticize things. But the issue is that then doesn’t always inspire us. That makes us feel less than. 


Social media feeds are curated with galleries of all kinds of half truths. It is just a performance even when you catch up with a good friend. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but you catch up with a friend and maybe even talk to them in a while how’s life, they either downplay it or they feel compelled, and you likely have in some ways too to make it sound more interesting than it is. And you don’t know why you do it. You don’t want to do it, but sometimes you do it. So this episode is going to take a pragmatic approach and maybe in some ways a counterintuitive approach. I am not going to preach the impossible to you. We’re here to navigate the inevitable, how do we compare ourselves to others in a way that is constructive not destructive? I want to make that clear. That’s the goal. 


How do we compare ourselves to others in a way that’s constructive? not destructive? How do we ensure those comparisons don’t derail us or erode our sense of self worth? For some of you, maybe your sense of self worth is also a little bit too high. And I’m mindful of how that sounds, I don’t mean that you’re not worth a lot. What I’m saying is, there are some of you that may be protect your ego a little bit too much. Relax, we’ve all been there, too, if you’ve listened to this episode, or if you’ve listened to this podcast over time, you know that I make fun of myself and poke at myself, plenty. So if I’m ever pointing the finger at you, this always comes from a loving, but stern place, because I care enough to maybe give you the feedback, or maybe give you the thought exercises. Most people don’t. 


I want all of you to find value in our content. But I’m not egotistical enough to think that you’re all gonna like me or love everything that I say. Sometimes I say hard truths. That’s just kind of how I am. And then also, how do we maintain a healthy perspective, not only towards others, but past versions of ourselves. This was something that was rampant. When I trained athletes, I would train athletes that would constantly compare themselves to past versions of themselves. Somebody that I love training more than just about anybody else. And that’s not to say anything negative about anybody else that I worked with, but he was always comparing himself to where he was at the combine. Hi, buddy, you’ve played eight years in the NFL now, what you lack in speed and all these other metrics of physical prowess that you had, then you make up for in strategic understanding and nuance. 


So we’ll talk about those things as well. But if you’re listening to this, no matter what age, just know that the world’s best athletes do this. In the military, in every profession, do this, everybody does it. So by the end of our time together, my goal is to give you a toolkit for at least more pragmatic self comparison, a way to engage with that behavior and innate human behavior that empowers you. So let’s get into this. First and foremost, one thing I didn’t want to do is just make all this about social media. I know I opened with that, because it’s something that’s very prevalent in our life. But it is important to know that the tendency to compare ourselves with others, predates social media, by centuries by millennia, really. 


And that reflects a fundamental aspect of our human nature, our social nature. So let’s talk about some of these platforms just for fun. Of course, since the beginning of time, we’ve had oral traditions and storytelling. Before there was ever social media, or any kind of traditional or what we think of actual modern technology, the written word and spoken word became widespread, you would tell stories over campfires, and these stories pass from generation to generation. And a lot of times they included tales of heroes, and gods and ordinary individuals. And that set a lot of these benchmarks for what we consider to be courage and wisdom and moral conduct. 


A bit of a high horse here related to my next book, this is where a lot of leadership stuff comes from. And I’ve talked about this before. This is why we tend to always read books about this kind of moral or servant based leadership. And and please just take a moment to let me get this out before you get angry if you feel like I’m attacking something that you really identify with. But a lot of times we’ve romanticized heroes that sacrifice everything, or are almost martyrs or selfless to the hilt. And we forget to really consider the context of this, right? There are some times where that can be great. And those kinds of individuals inspire people. But of course, there’s other times where you’re not really hearing the whole story. 


And that’s a lot of what my next book focuses on is what are a lot of the leadership myths we hear. How does that derail us? And how can we actually become more prepared for all the complexities and nasty realities we’re going to deal with? Because you see, in today’s media, the traditional kind of red, white and blue or moralistic hero doesn’t always win. Mr. Nice guy or girl doesn’t always win that context matters. But this was a huge part of education around these things for years. 


Then there were public forums in ancient Greece and Rome, right? These were central polite places for all kinds of political discourse, when somebody had a platform, that’s literally what it meant. It wasn’t about YouTube and Instagram, it was they had a box and actual platform they were able to stand on in these public forums and state their views. And this is where they would compare themselves in terms of their rhetorical skills, especially if you are a part of the Roman Senate, their political prowess and philosophical insights. People would just hold court and they’d hold court right in town square. So we would compare, I hate that person or yeah, they’re crazy or oh my goodness, I love them. We should follow everything they say. 


Of course, it wasn’t just those mediums. It’s things like newspaper As that we’ve read. But even before that, in medieval societies, if you look at feudal and caste systems, our social standing and profession are often predetermined by birth. So people would compare their status and privilege or lack thereof with different classes. And guess what, we still do that. We still do that, even though we know that every form of privilege or lack thereof, has its own issues, everybody’s got their own stuff. And if we just engage in nonstop comparison of who has this better, who has that better, it keeps us from being productive. So whether you’re looking at stories told in courtyards, whether you’re looking at stories told over campfires, whether you’re talking about over social media, we’ve always, always, always done this. 


Newspapers, radio, TV, all those things. And that makes us compare our lives to those public figures. I remember growing up, my mom would always watch Entertainment Tonight. And it was news about celebrities. And I get why she did it. She worked for the government for a very long time. If you didn’t know, we have a podcast together, check it out. It’s one of my favorite episodes, to be able to have a candid discussion with my mother in that context. But she just wanted to come home and watch something mindless. And I just remember hearing these stories about these celebrities. And I’m like, Man, this is wacky. And then I had a chance to meet a lot of different celebrities, whether it was the rock or Demi Lovato or David Spade when I lived out in LA. And of course, when you get to know them as people, they all have their own stuff. They all have their own stuff. 


But let’s get into the science of this. Let’s give you some tips here. Okay, so it would behoove me to get into any of this without acknowledging a few people that have led the research in this area. You cannot talk about social comparison, without talking about Leon Festinger. He introduced social comparison theory in 1954, and really posited that all of us as individuals, humans, as a social animal, have an innate drive to evaluate themselves. And this is a big reason why we have a peer and self evaluation at our apprenticeship workshop, and our speaker school as well. Because in the absence of objective means, purely objective means and non social means, right like that, that tends to get us into cycles of being our own worst enemy. So we do something at our workshops, where whether it’s after you give a presentation, or after you engage in a role playing and conflict resolution exercise or whatever, you will evaluate yourself, you have a peer, oftentimes, it can rotate, it can be somebody from your own industry or another industry, they’ll evaluate you. 


And what we really concern ourselves with is the gap. Right? Not this pure number, but what’s the gap. And that allows us to see ourselves more realistically and get the feedback that oftentimes we crave. So another thing that Festinger talked about is different types of comparisons. And I’m going to reiterate this in a number of different ways. So if you hear some repetition here, that’s why. There’s upward comparisons, downward comparisons, lateral comparisons, so on and so forth. So I’ll be brief. And then all elaborate. An upward comparison is when you, we, anybody compares themselves to those they perceive as better off or more skilled, whatever. 


And a downward comparison is when we compare ourselves to those that we perceive as worse off, less skilled. Again, fill that in. So upward comparisons before we go too in depth, I mean, you get the idea from just the name. All these can be double edged swords, and a way upward comparisons can motivate us, because oh, that person’s made it, that person’s done it. I just met with somebody when I was in New York City where it was a physical therapy graduate student, or he was in PT school, rather. And he said, you know, what made you change careers? And I just said, Well, you know, I kind of wanted to evolve to me, coaching has a much broader term. 


There’s so many aspects of coaching, coaching, his guiding, leading and teaching. I just wasn’t really interested in the strength and conditioning side of that anymore. I like working with people in all fields, helping them solve complex problems about people. Why do you ask? And he was like, well, that’s awesome. Because I love what I do now. And I’m very interested in it. But I just want to know that if there’s room to pivot in the future, I can. And inherently though, I know that it always helps to see somebody that’s done that. And I get that. But if we’re not careful, those upward comparisons, can all of a sudden, I can tell you right now I’m looking out my window, I see my neighbor. Him and his wife, I believe are in their 60s, Sean, if you’re listening to this, I apologize if I got it wrong. Maybe you’re in your 50s. Man, they have an awesome life, or at least from what I observe.


Hey quick personal note here, so I’d appreciate it if you tune into this. And maybe I shouldn’t share this but I’d really like to, despite running a company that is largely focused on communication and understanding power dynamics and human interaction, I fall short a lot. My wife and I have been together for 13 plus years. We get in arguments, we fight I lose my cool sometimes, in many areas of my life. And for a long time, I felt like that made me a failure. And then what I realized is, it’s exactly what we talk about at art of coaching and why our products exist. None of us are ever going to be good enough at communication. 


My doctorate doesn’t mean that I’m going to be a perfect communicator, the fact that I write books on this doesn’t mean that I mean to be a perfect communicator. And if you already feel like you’re good enough in your professional life, well, then I just ask you to consider if you’re where you want to be in your personal life? Do you interact with your spouse, or your partner, your significant other, the way that you want to? Do you always show up for your kids the way that you want to? I think if you’re being honest, we all fall short. And that’s where our work can help. 


We don’t do a bunch of pie in the sky solutions. We’re real people who have real flaws just like you. But we take a research backed approach and an experience led approach to help you improve in those areas that matter most. So if you want to improve as a communicator, whether it’s for your job, whether it’s for your loved ones, or whether it’s for yourself, personally checked out what we do at We have virtual mentoring that you don’t have to leave your house for. We have live workshops where you can connect with other humans, anything that sits at the intersection of relationships, leadership, or entrepreneurship, we have solutions for. So join us.


We’re a bit of a group of misfits, we’re imperfect, but I can promise you this, there’s no way you’re gonna get involved with any of our programs, and not come away with actionable insights that transfer to every part of your life. So reach out to us once again,, or you can email us direct at We would love to help. 


But if we’re not careful, those upward comparisons, can all of a sudden, I can tell you right now I’m looking out my window, I see my neighbor, him and his wife, I believe are in their 60s, Sean, if you’re listening to this, I apologize if I got it wrong. Maybe you’re in your 50s. Man, they have an awesome life, or at least from what I observe. They have this awesome RV. They always go to Payson, Arizona and Sedona and Flagstaff, the guy just works on classic cars. Now mind you, he’s paid his dues, he told me the things that he did to get there. But I look at that. And I’m just like, on one end, I can’t wait to get there. On the other end, I don’t feel like I’m getting there fast enough. Now I know how to regulate that better. But there are plenty of things I still struggle with. 


So you can appreciate there’s pros and cons there. Same thing with downward comparison. So remember, just to reiterate, upward comparison can serve as a source of inspiration, and motivation, a benchmark, if you will, for what we want to achieve. And it helps us set goals for ourselves, because you see what others have accomplished. And that spurs us to work harder and improve. When somebody reaches out to me as part of our mentoring shameless plug, and says, I’m thinking about writing a book, or I’m thinking about going out on my own, I’d love to know how you did it. The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, we’re more than happy to talk to them about those things. 


But if that’s not approach with a healthy mindset that leads to those feelings of inadequacy, lower self esteem, dissatisfaction. It’s always this idea that I’m not doing enough. And if you haven’t heard the podcast, I’ll make sure and link it in the show notes or contributor, Kyle Holland well, all about why many of us struggle with time management. And why many of us struggle with the idea of productivity, sometimes we have idleness aversion. We get so so wrapped up in feeling like it’s never enough, we’re not good enough. And that we should be doing something more to improve. We actually hurt ourselves, right? So there’s a piece there. 


Downward social comparison is when we compare ourselves with somebody that we perceive as, and I don’t want to use a term inferior, some research will use that. But someone that’s just not quite where we are, I’ll give a very grounded example. So once a year used to be twice a year, but I want to live beyond 40. And it was getting to be a little bit too much. While I was working on my book and my doctorate, we do a six month mastermind for people that are trying to improve whether that’s personally professionally, we meet twice a month via zoom, so on and so forth. And one time we had somebody on that just said, I want to be in a group with people that have accomplished stuff like I have. They have a multimillion dollar business, they have a staff. 


And I had to urge them, listen, I know you think you want that. And there’s some people in the group that have done that. But you also very much want people in the group that haven’t even made their first cent that are nowhere near where you are, because they bring a perspective that is so valuable, that if you ignore it, you risk having more blind spots. And it’s kind of a cheat code that we have at art of coaching. Because our mentoring, we have people all over the spectrum I can go in and learn from the executives at Apple are the folks that work at Apple when we do an in service there. At the same time. I’ll work with somebody that’s kind of just getting started in their career. And it keeps my mindset fresh. It helps me remember kind of all aspects of it. So I just want to be clear there, right? 


And when you’re comparing your achievements, I know that the tendency to go downward, it can seem like a better place to go. But that can be very ego protective, right? So while it can temporarily boost your self esteem, and make you feel better about your own situation, but really just being able to provide a sense of gratitude, that’s great, right? I can look back and say, like, Oh, I remember when I was starting out there, man, I’m glad I’m not there anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I have any kind of ill will towards that person. It just means my own experiences are very fresh in my mind. But the downside is man, does it lead to complacency, you can start striving for self improvement, because when you feel satisfied with being better, it fosters kind of negative emotions, like arrogance, a lack of empathy, or just as I mentioned earlier, can create more blind spots. 


Now, there’s a lateral social comparison as well, the name kind of gives that away. That’s when we compare ourselves with peers who are at similar level or status. Maybe this person has been in the same profession, the same amount of time, anything like that. And that’s used for a lot of self evaluation to gauge where we stand with a group amongst our peers. Now, of course, a pro with that is it can give you a more realistic assessment of your abilities and achievements. But it can also still lead to feelings of stagnation or competition, if not approached right. You’ve got to balance that and we’re going to talk about how to do this, you have a framework at the end of it. Right now, I just want to get through some of these foundations, so that we can talk about this in a more meaningful way. 


The last one, as I alluded to, at the beginning of the episode with an NFL athlete that I had worked with temporal comparison. This is when we compare our current selves to our past selves, hence the timing element. And that can be highly constructive form of comparison, right? Because it focuses inward on your personal growth. And it can lead if you do a right to a lot of self reflection. But if you only focus on your past successes, and you don’t recognize your current achievements, that too, can lead to a lot of anxiety. Listen, I still do this. I get about a 10th of the time, I’d like to write my book right now. So I constantly think oh, my gosh, what if I don’t do my first book, conscious coaching, even though this next book, I know so much more now. And there’s so much unique stuff? Because I can’t focus on it the way that I want to all the time, what if that screws me up? 


I’ve got to slow down and remind myself Hey, bud, think about what you know. Now based on what you do now, yes, you’re getting less time to work on that book. But the perspective you’re bringing to that book is so much more nuanced, right? And you’re running a company now I my wife, and I just started a second company. We have a Turo business that we’re running also. And we’re working on new products for later this year, our relationship course, so on and so forth. So I can sit here and worried my work is not going to be as good as my previous work. Or I can sit here and say, Hey, take a beat. It’s natural to have that feeling. But you’re doing a lot more now. And if you just channel this, right, you’re going to be okay. 


Now, let’s say your 14 year old son or daughter is listening to this. And they’re like, Well, I don’t compare myself to others. I just compare myself to where I think I should be X amount of years from now. Well, that’s a mix of that temporal comparison, and upward comparison, because the construct that you’re using, even though it’s temporal, you’re like, Okay, well, I want to be this in the future, you’re still getting that idea of what you want to be in the future off of comparing yourself to what somebody else, you know, as. Right, so a lot of these are intermixed. The bottom line is you just want to think, where are you engaging with this right now? 


Take a beat. What forms of upward comparison are you engaging in right now? Remember, that’s when you compare yourself with someone you perceive to be superior or further along. Remember, don’t get caught up in words, doesn’t have to be superior could be further along, maybe you want to start a podcast, so you compare yourself to me. And then I’m like, Well, I compare myself to Howard Stern, or some of these other people that have 30 people working on their podcasts or these crazy setups. I told you in a previous episode, sometimes people would say, you should do this,, this podcast does on on NPR. 


And then my wheels started turning, but then I’m like, they have like, 10 people. This is just one part of our business. But who do you compare yourself from an upward standpoint? Who do you compare yourself to, from a downward social comparison standpoint? And then how do you compare yourself or engage in that self comparison with yourself from a lateral standpoint? Anything like that, you need to take a minute because I don’t care if you’re driving. If you don’t actually think about these things, what good does the information do? 


Right, so continuing on with things that Festinger talked about. And I’m gonna be very excited to see how some of you react to something I’m gonna say here in a minute about, I’m gonna save this, sometimes I get ahead of myself. Something else he spoke about was similarity and dissimilarity. So we don’t just compare ourselves, we have an increased likelihood to do that with people that we perceive to be similar to us in some way. Although there’s a dark side to this. If we start to feel like we’re a little bit too close to somebody, like they’re in the same profession, they’re the same age range, whatever, you can start to come up with all kinds of reasons to distance yourself from why they’re actually not like you. Oh, that person’s a sellout. Or that person’s in the private sector or they work in this country, and they get this and that, or they, I do have known somebody that got them ahead. 


We’ll start coming up with the reasons and it now it starts to get into the cognitive dissonance area. It gets into the cognitive dissonance area. And that starts getting into things like envy, which we’ll talk about a little bit later on. But just something to kind of put in your mind’s eye as we come back to all this because you want to be very mindful of that as well. Okay, something else we talked about, or somebody else that’s very, very well known for this stuff, if you’re interested, Albert Bandura, social learning theory. This was articulated in the 70s, and really expands on the idea of comparison, by emphasizing the role of how we observe and imitate and model in learning. So in observational learning, we adopt new behaviors by observing the actions and outcomes of others behaviors, what happened when they did this? All right now, what’s the likelihood. And that helps us assess our abilities, and possible outcomes against those we observe. 


Of course, all of this plays a role in self efficacy. I mean, that was a crucial aspect of Bandura is theory, self efficacy is like how do I rank my belief in my own ability to succeed in specific situations. So this is where comparison is truly functional, first battle rap as it gets, that plays a huge role in shaping self efficacy. When we observe the success or even the failures of others, that inspires belief in our own abilities, I’ll give you a very clear example. There was somebody that I went to one time, I was very fascinated by their work, or what appeared to be their work, paid for a conference went to their stuff. And just the lack of professionalism, or effort I saw was astounding. And I’ll ground this in a minute. But I just remember, alright, I get really insecure about my own work sometimes why? Because I want to provide value. I know what I’m up against. I know we have this loud, buzzing superficial world, I know that because I’m not famous, and I don’t have some production team my stuff inherently is not gonna get the views and the downloads, it’s so many other people’s get that they have these big mediums and whatever. 


But I do know that let’s say any of you come to one of our live courses that I’m teaching, and let’s say you have a bad experience. I can promise you this, you will never have a bad experience, due to a lack of effort on my part, and that is exactly what I saw from this person, this person that had this facade, that they had this whole facade of how well put together everything was and how professional and how much of a unique experience you’re gonna have. And not only did they show up incredibly late for their own event, they were very disorganized. It didn’t even seem like they wanted to be there. And so there was some comparison there. Of course, I didn’t think, Oh, I’m better than this person. 


But I did think you know what, I would like to think that I’m not going to get to a point in my life where I ever just show up for my own stuff and don’t care. I mean, there’s a lot there. You know, there’s a lot there, people paid money, and all that. And I get that, listen, it costs us a lot of money to put on our own events and a lot of our own time. Why do you want to disrespect your own time? So anyway, that’s a huge piece of that. And from a self efficacy standpoint, that is something I always hold on to even when I get insecure about, is this good enough? Does this meet my own standards? I’m like, Hey, I know this, I don’t mail anything in. So if I don’t mail anything in and you don’t either, you’re gonna be so much better off and most people. 


There’s other aspects, of course, the social learning theory and Festinger work as well. But I just kind of wanted to give you a little grounding. There’s a lot of other people that did great work as well. If you guys want i’ll do another episode on this. But that’s kind of the core of the background I wanted to give you. The other piece here is be very cognizant of envy, because you can’t talk about these things, as I mentioned earlier, without talking about envy. Great article, the evious brain, the neural basis of self comparison. I’ll link it in the show notes. Of course, this is all about the root cause of self comparison being we’re inherently competitive. They’re scarce resources. We’re kind of fear and angst based creatures were pretty combative. 


And what I found interesting with this research article is really a lot of this, if you want to understand why you compare, you can understand a lot of that through getting a better diagnosis of your own drives. If you haven’t taken it yet, make sure to go to I’ve said this before, this isn’t like the Enneagram or anything like that. This is stuff based off a lot of research and if you’re somebody that has taken it, you might not be surprised to know that a lot of social comparison is most prevalent and adversity drives, achievement drives, and of course, security drives. So if you fit any of those categories, you’re inherently going to engage in some higher level of self comparison. Right? 


And this isn’t unique to humans either. Remember, I’ve said we’re the predominant social animal. I didn’t say we’re exclusively the only animal even capuchin monkeys have been found to respond negatively to what they perceive to be inequitable treatment. Well, what they perceive to be your actual inequitable treatment. And a direct quote from the article, and this is from another article in the year 2000 as well. The emotional reactions to the success or failure of others can vary greatly towards different people as well as towards the same person. Duh, right? When another person experiences failure or success, our emotional reaction takes a lot of different courses. 


And that’s impacted by our self efficacy that’s impacted by so many things. And that can range from feeling envious about another person’s possessions, or feeling sympathy towards somebody that just lost all of their savings. Or feeling pleasure at seeing an arrogant leader fall. So this is where in my book conscious coaching, I talked about Schadenfreude, our innate tendency to take pleasure in seeing other people fall from grace or struggle, if we don’t like that person. And the example I always use just because, you know, people have strong feelings about it, is let’s imagine you found out tomorrow or the Kardashians went bankrupt. 


Or let’s say you saw somebody on social media, who was the biggest look at me, fake poser, ostentatious individual, you knew they were unethical just for the sake of discussion. And then you found out they fell on hard times. Even if you consider yourself a compassionate or empathetic individual, there’s gonna be a tinge that you’re gonna have ‘they got what they deserve’, right? That’s natural, that’s actually pre wired in our brain, as is what makes us judge others. So you have to understand these things. It’s very much tied into envy. Now, I talked about earlier, it’s almost dangerous if you don’t self compare, because how that manifests is, let’s say you say ‘I why don’t compare myself to them’, and you start kind of building walls. 


Remember, whether you solve compare or not, we don’t want to feel insignificant. People don’t want to feel insignificant, we surely don’t want to feel worse in any way. So sometimes people won’t compare or won’t even be willing to hear about somebody like them who found out a way to do something. Because that starts making us feel worse. So for the sake of discussion, let’s say I had a business partner, and they make a bunch of excuses. And they’re well, we don’t have a lot of capital right now. And I say, Okay, well look at this person, they’re in a similar spot than we are. And they were able to do this and this and this. 


Well, you know, they likely had a marketing agency, or they had this, that would be an example of an unhealthy ramification of an individual not being willing to self compare. And, this is why, for those of you that have your own business and your own product, we talked about the importance of knowing who you’re not for. Meaning that, you know, when we started our apprenticeship workshop, we knew this was not for people who wanted to just think I already got it figured out, or they already thought they were better than average, or they think I’m already good enough at communication. Like it’s not for them. Because those people will very much rationalize why they’re different, why they’re unique, why they’re better off. And that actually keeps them from getting the feedback they need, right? 


We want people who want to self compare. The people that come to our workshops are like, No, we’re ready to open ourselves up. Let’s go. Let’s get feedback. And so just remember that can tie into your business as well. So it is important to self compare, you do need to do it. So be careful about saying no, because those that don’t, man, you start protecting your ego, you’ll demonize other people while moralizing yourself or your actions. I think another example and maybe I’ve said this one on the podcast before is I was at a business dinner three years ago. Somebody said to me, I wanted to speak more, but I really couldn’t do what you do to your family by traveling all the time. And I had to take a beat because I know that person. I don’t think they meant it the way that it came across. But what I thought about is like, wow, there’s a lot of assumptions there. There’s a lot of assumptions there. 


Not only the fact that I travel all the time, which I do travel a good bit, but it’s seasonal, my son’s traveled with me, my wife traveled with me, it’s opened us up to a lot of new experiences. But he also just assume that I’m doing something negative to my family. And I remember, I responded somewhere along the lines of like, ‘Listen, I’m gonna tell my son, to go for what he wants in life, and to do things that take a little bit of audaciousness and to work hard, I don’t really think I’m doing anything negative’. But, you see these things for what they are. Really what the subtext there is, I could do this, but I’m not going to and I’m gonna make it seem like I’m more morally virtuous, when in reality, I’m scared or I just didn’t want to do the work. 


And now you could say, well, you’re making assumptions to cool find whatever point being, whenever you choose to not self compare, or you start finding ways to rationalize why you’re different, then you don’t need to do X, Y, and Zed. That is scary. You do not want to excuse yourself, from comparing yourself to others, right? Like you’ll create those excuses, and it keeps you from facing reality, and thinking you don’t need to change. And that’s a huge piece there. Now, when I told people I was going to do this episode, just segwaying real quick, they said, what role does depression play in this?


Now that’s a big thing. Obviously, I’m not a licensed therapist, right, but just diving into some research here. And this is about 15 different articles, so I’m not going to cite them all. If you want the information, I’ll shoot it to you. But I’m just going to paraphrase some things. So of course, depression impacts this stuff. And depression, I mean, it just in general is correlated with less secure attachment, greater, fearful, avoidant types of attachment. We talked about attachment styles in the last episode a little bit when we were talking about how to deal with people that Stonewall or shut down. But what you need to note for the context of this episode of the sake of this episode, rather, is, folks that deal with depression, when making social comparisons are less likely to make downward comparisons that would make them feel better about themselves. 


They believe well, they are more likely to make upward comparisons. Now I dealt with depression as a teenager. So while I say I’m not a licensed therapist, I can speak from my lived experience. I remember at the time, if I’m being 100% honest with you, I did compare myself to my peer group. But mainly that was out of hurt and anger because as I’ve said, in my book, a lot of my close friends turned to drugs. And they made me feel like an outsider that stage in my life, because I wasn’t going to do those things. So when I would go work out, and by the way I’m not saying I’m better than those people, I’m just telling you I didn’t want to do drugs, right? I’ve done things that are self destructive in other ways. Clearly, I was hospitalized for a year in my life. Just remember this episode, whenever somebody tries to come in gotcha or say that Brett said this. 


But point being is I remember when I’d run on the treadmill, or do whatever else, I would think, I’m making myself better than those people, they’re damaging their body. I’m doing this and the irony of that hubris of that. Because I was damaging my body in a different but similar way. So I did make some of those lateral comparisons, and then I thought of them as downward comparisons. But then I’d also just think, yeah, if I don’t run another mile, or if I don’t do another 10 reps, I’m never going to achieve blank. And that depression that I felt at that time, how do I phrase this? It was also wrapped into a little bit of OCD. So that’s something to be mindful of as well. Because there’s a lot of research around that to OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder and social comparison, depression and social comparison. Just some other pieces, those can be completely different episodes. 


Okay. So what can we do? general Tips and Tips for comparing yourself more comprehensively? What have I said, What is the need for the now let’s wrap this up. One, be aware of bad days, whatever that means to you. When you have a bad day, that’s when you’re more likely to marinate in a lot of these things. That’s when you’re more likely to just feel anxious, your antennas are going to be up for what does everybody else have that I don’t? Another thing is when we talked about self comparison, emotions are part and parcel with it. And I know it’s very popular to say just feel gratitude and breathe and be happy. Men tell you to do the opposite. Acknowledge if you’re pissed about something, this person did this and that should have been me and whatever. Acknowledge that. get pissed, be anxious, acknowledge the negative emotions. But fit them into what I’d call a worry window. 


Give yourself a certain amount of time to be really angry, or really frustrated, really resentful, all that stuff and then bottle it up or do something. I don’t mean, bottle it up like that, do something productive with it. But if you don’t allow yourself to get angry, or you’re like, let’s say you just badmouth somebody internally, and then you make yourself feel bad cuz you you did that, then that’s just a spiral. Right? But like, you have to put a cap on it. I told somebody that’s a regular listener recently, because he was kind of going on and on about some woe is me stuff. And I said, I’ll make the name, said, Mark, here’s the deal. It’s normal to feel how you’re feeling. But self destruction, is self obsession. If you just want to keep going down this dark spiral, know that there’s a certain element of just hubris to that. 


Like, get over it, get over it. Because if you really think, if you continue to dwell on all this stuff, how you’re not good enough, and how everybody’s got this and everything, you just start, like, there’s so much self importance in that. Beyond a point, get over your shit. And let’s go, okay, but if you don’t allow yourself to have that worry window, or that period of time, where you just get angry, it just festers. And that’s what I don’t particularly care for about some of this overly therapy stuff, that doesn’t want people to acknowledge the negativity, it’s not healthy. And I’ve spoken to a lot of high school students over the years, they’re gonna tell you the same thing. The majority of them will tell you I do not like when people just tell me to be positive all the time. That’s not helpful to them. 


Another piece, practice contextual competence, right? Contextual competence is the ability to really diagnose and understand variables that exist within a certain context. And then to act in a way that’s most effective for that. So what I mean here is, at least evaluate yourself or compare yourself more comprehensively. Shawn has this and this and this. Okay, Shawn, is also 25 years ahead of me, Shawn also had a background. And that’s just saying, I have time. And better yet, why don’t I go learn from Shawn? Why don’t I go talk to Shawn. And that’s something I’m going to tell you later is like, if somebody has something you want, quit, be an envious or angry and instead seek them out as a mentor. Seek them out as a mentor. 


We had somebody sign up for our mentoring, still a client, they’ve been a client for three years. And they told me you know, at first, I really didn’t like you. Oh, that was a hell of a way to start a discussion why? Well, I just thought you were going to be another one of these kinds of podcast people and internet guys that, some guru, but I’m glad you’re not. I’m like, Okay, thanks. You know, me, too. Let’s get rolling. But that’s the thing is, I want you to take inventory of somebody that you don’t feel great about right now. Maybe you’re just resorting back to your Inner toddler, you don’t like that person, you know, blah, blah, blah, maybe go get to know them better. And if you need a little bit of inspiration to do that famous Abraham Lincoln quote, though, they’ve never really been able to, at least in my research of it, pare down the exact context, right. 


But Abraham Lincoln had this quote, where he said, ‘I don’t like that man, I must get to know him better’. And that really reflects a profound understanding, in my opinion, of human nature and the power of compassion. You know, and so you think about that, and especially in the context of social comparisons, and negative feelings, and this is from somebody, by the way, who is a leader during one of the most divisive times in human history that he saw to demonstrate an ability, excuse me to bridge those divides, and foster deeper understanding. So go seek these people out and understand the bigger picture. If you’re gonna compare yourself, look at all that. Don’t go over to somebody’s house and think, man, they have this and that and whatever. 


Think, think, Okay. If you start comparing yourself to that, where are they in their life? What career did they started? You got time, you’re gonna be okay. Because just like, there’s things like that that might not seem attainable. There are people all over people that, right now, there’s somebody in the favelas in Brazil, that is going to come out more than okay, they’re going to be more successful than 90% of us listening. We can all do it, but you’ve got to be able to diagnose in a broader context. And that’s coming from somebody that I like, 13 I was worried about the impact that was gonna make on the world. I was freaked out about that. I saw the movie, the hurricane by Denzel Washington, I was 13 or 14. And I told my mom and dad, I was like, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough with my life. 


In some ways, that’s cool. But that’s also unhealthy for a 14 year old to feel like that. So just manage that. Okay, there’s self awareness there. And then self awareness is what helps you turn your feelings into something useful. And so what I’m saying is the next time envy rears its head, explore what that is telling you. The next time any of these things rear its head, explore what it’s telling you. So What does this person have that makes me feel less than? What void do I believe having that would fill? Do I really want what they have some of you think you want to be rich and at the top of your field and all this stuff, or maybe you don’t care about money, and you want to be at the top of your field. But then I’d urge you to consider the science talks about when we look at self sabotage, with more success comes a lot of responsibility. Spider Man said it a little bit different. Yes, that’s tongue in cheek with power comes responsibility. 


But there are some people that think they want to have, I want this business or I want this job. And then they realize, Oh, that wasn’t what I thought. I thought I wanted, I saw it all the time in strength conditioning. I thought I wanted this big job doing this. And then they realized their job is a lot less what they thought it was, and a lot more managing people, and people in other industries. And I thought I wanted to be the boss, the CEO, the, the production manager, whatever. And then they realize I spent almost none of my day dealing with what I perceive to be my technical expertise, and a ton putting out fires and dealing with drama. So be mindful of that. Okay. 


So what did we cover so far, evaluate yourself more comprehensively acknowledge the negative emotions, but turn it into something productive, be aware of bad days, when you go down those rabbit holes, quit being envious and seek out if that might be a viable mentor. And then another thing, I would say I’d put my own spin on that make upwards comparisons piece. Don’t make upwards comparisons just with respect to where somebody is, but also who they are. And what I mean here is seek advice from people that are not just quote unquote, successful, but people who seem really willing to help, who share their flaws, who aren’t scared to provide you with tough truths, or tips, things that help you stretch yourself, don’t get an echo chamber. 


Don’t get an echo chamber, when you do that. And when you compare yourself just more comprehensively in general, everything will start to feel a lot more attainable. So in summary, social comparison is a good thing, if it’s controlled and corralled, or even just manage harnessed that you can’t really control it. And it’s going to serve as a powerful tool for personal growth, motivation, self regulation. How we imagined motivation and goal setting, learning and strategy adjustment, we see how others pivot, it gives us a little bit more realistic self assessment. So we can see where we stand in relation to others in specific areas of our life. It keeps us from making excuses and having cognitive dissonance around things. So when we compare our progress and achievements with that of others, and allows us hold ourselves accountable, it’s a reality check. 


And we don’t just start covering our tracks with, you know, a whole bunch of well, they’re not like us. And also, since we all deal with it, there’s social bonding and empathy there. That’s one thing I’ll say about one of the things I love most about teaching our live events, it get people in the same room, that instead of comparing themselves in an unhealthy way, we share strategies. We share strategies, and that’s a huge piece, because you don’t get a chance to do that in many areas of life. It’s also why we have everybody sign, nondisclosure agreements that does our business mentoring. People can really be open there, they don’t have to have this facade. Now we can be real. Now we can see the whole spectrum of possibilities when we don’t fake these things. 


So we can’t stop the fact that we’re going to compare ourselves. just redirect it, utilize it, it’s not about the cards you’re dealt. It’s about how you plan. Alright, if this helped, please share it with other people. Nothing means more to me than that, leave a podcast, review anything. Remember, these things aren’t a pat on the back. These are things that help our show grow. It also does not get buried under algorithms. We have tons of free resources as well at Make sure to check those things out. Also, at the time of this recording, we are gearing up for Phoenix workshop. It is going to be perfect weather. So if you want some fun in the sun, you kind of want to get out of a rut. You want to come get around great people get some hiking, all that kind of stuff. Go to now and check them out. Okay, until next time

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