Comparison Explored!

Author: Grace I., ’23

There are two things I know about comparison, and those things are: comparison is inevitable, and comparison isn’t always bad. To expand on the latter though, the fact that I said that comparison isn’t always bad means that there are times when it can be bad, which I think it’s more likely to happen because healthy comparison takes more effort than a detrimental one. So, more often than not, we give in to the detrimental comparison. But what does comparison look like in college and what would the good and the bad types of comparison be?

In college, there are so many things, big or small, that tempt students to compare themselves with other fellow students: study habits or plans, grades, friends, routines, and so on. Every time we compare ourselves to other people, two things are most likely to happen. When we do an upward comparison, that means we compare ourselves to people who are doing better than us. More often than not, this blinds us from seeing the improvement we have been making so far and makes us feel discouraged to go on. Alternatively, we can do a downward comparison–we may find ourselves doing better than others, which makes us feel good sometimes, but which can lead to pride, too.

But as I said before, comparison itself is not a bad thing; it all depends on how we do it. We should change the way we compare ourselves with others so that comparison can be useful. Temporal comparison, according to Leon Festinger, an American Psychologist, is where people compare themselves over time—comparing where you were yesterday to where you are today. Instead of comparing my grade to my classmate’s grade, I should compare it to what I got on the last test/assignments. Additionally, we can use upward comparison as a means to encourage ourselves to do better than we normally do.

Lastly, please remember that we all have different goals and backgrounds, which is why I stress temporal comparison. If my friend wants to be an engineer while I want to be a published writer, our schedules and school lives are going to be different. So, when I compare myself to him or her, then I start measuring my achievements based on his/her standards, which are different from mine. We all have a way by we define success; we all have what we want to achieve, and we all have different paces, and that’s okay because different isn’t wrong; it’s just different, so the only person we should compare ourselves to is the one in the mirror.