top of page

Perfectionism + Comparison

There are two big struggles you must learn to manage when changing your life: perfection and comparison. We humans are obsessed with this idea of perfection. “What is a perfect credit score”, “How to pick the perfect watermelon”, “How to be perfect”… the list goes on. We constantly compare our journey with others’ in order to ascertain how close to perfection we are. We get depressed when we miss the bar. But what even is the bar? How did it get there? Who set it all up? And why do we care so dang much about it?

Neither of these are wrong, per se. It’s important to have and hold high standards, for yourself and others. It’s good to have some form of measurement, to see how well we are doing and what kind of person we are becoming, and we only get that through comparison to others. It’s when we lose sight of balance that they become vices instead of virtues.

Perfectionism and comparison can be debilitating, especially when choosing to step into new, unfamiliar directions. I definitely felt (and still feel) that way when creating this blog. I wanted all of it - the content, the design, even my decision to write a blog - to be utterly flawless and beyond critique. My fear of rejection and low self-esteem regarding my creative/career pursuits were holding me back from something; I knew it, but I didn’t get to experience what they held me back from until I pushed through and did it all anyway.

Turns out, they were holding me back from joy.

Perfectionism and Comparison Aren’t Always Bad

Aiming to be and do better is an admirable quality. Being tidy, turning in high-quality work, and not settling when it comes to relationships are all examples of things that we should want for ourselves and others. In fact, having healthy standards is paramount to having a healthy life.

Social comparison is the lens by which we develop our standards. Who we spend our time with and who we admire will have a large say in who we are and will become. Being with people who exhibit grace, merit, healthy ambition, and contentment will only serve to make us better, too.

Even the negative emotions tied to these traits can be beneficial and helpful. If we were all completely happy with where we were at, we would never feel the need to eat healthy, work out regularly, or grow in any sort of way. A little shame, jealousy, and vanity can be incredibly motivating factors, and might be the ultimate push we need. Comparison can help us know better, and desire it enough to work for it. We must never let them overwhelm us, however.

How You Approach Perfectionism is Key

The way we approach comparison and perfectionism is different. Some of us are very competitive. But then we get burnt out by “hustle” and “boss” culture, because the end is never in sight. We only see our failures, or we fear we can’t measure up to the ideal. We get so caught up in searching, that we can never find. Others are too wigged out by the challenge that we back away. We don’t even try, because we don’t believe the end result is worth the effort. Dare I even say that modern-day American culture is like this? We are so used to instantaneous results, the “there’s a pill for that” mentality, and our daily comforts that we don’t feel comfortable striving for something. So we self-sabotage and respond with offense and embarrassment. Or worse, we are surrounded by people who truly do think so little of us that they intentionally sabotage our self-esteem, and therefore, our growth. They find it easier to keep everyone at their level or below rather than try to grow themselves.

Another response to perfectionism is fear. This is a special concern when it comes to things like health and wellness. We are afraid that to fall short of perfection means illness, health problems, or even death - all of which, we believe, we can somehow avoid. We believe that the actions we take are 100% indicative of our future health. We can’t relax and eat that sugary dessert (even just once) because we believe that to do so will have echoing, harmful repercussions. Knowing how you personally approach perfectionism is the key you need to overcome it, and achieve balance.

Comparison is the “Thief of Joy”

So says Theodore Roosevelt, and anyone who struggles with comparison knows it to be true. Oftentimes, comparison manifests in two ways: upward or downward. Upward comparison puts us and those we believe to better than us in competition; and usually, we lose. We put these people, their traits, or their lifestyle on a pedestal. This leads to low self-esteem, depression, and jealousy. We use downward comparison when we want to feel better about ourselves. Comparing ourselves to someone who is “worse off” than us makes us feel pride and satisfaction in our own life, but this can easily turn into arrogance, overconfidence, and narcissism.

Finding Balance, and Even Happiness

First, recognize where your standards are coming from.

  • Are you comparing yourself to someone’s curated, online life? Remember that who people are online is NOT a complete view of them. They have issues, struggles, and bad habits, too. They’re human - just like you!

  • Are you listening to that mean voice in your head? I struggle with this one - it’s like I hear a mean 15 year old girl judging every action, outfit, and choice I make.

  • Are you making impossible comparisons? We often judge ourselves much harder than anyone else does. We also have a very close view of ourselves, so we see (or imagine) things that no one else can see.

Be compassionate with yourself. Envision being a parent to yourself as a child. How would you feel if someone talked to young you the way you do? How would defend her/him? How would you comfort her/him? Similarly, write out compassionate, TRUE statements that counteract your bad thoughts. Divide a paper into two sides with a line. Write out negative thought on one side, and respond to it on the other. Look at your initial thought objectively, or as you would answer a dear friend or your child. Whenever you feel negative about yourself, use this method of compassionate, objective response.

Practice intentional gratitude. Try to start each day with listing out as many things - out loud, in a notebook, or even as a prayer - that you are grateful for. You are not in control of your first negative thought, but you are responsible for the second, third, etc. Respond to a “I wish I had/was like…” thought by stating immediately after, “I am grateful for…”

Recognize your achievements, and see your failures/mistakes as learning opportunities. We all make mistakes. Instead of wallowing in them, see how you’ve grown. Growth only happens when we must struggle for it.

Get outside of yourself. Most issues of perfectionism and comparison come from being too caught up in your own life. Volunteer. Take a friend you know is struggling out for a meal. Delete all your social media apps, or lock them and give a trusted friend the passcode. Focus on helping others, from something small like helping an old person get something off of a shelf, to giving sacrificially. Everyone has something they are struggling with, and maybe you are the help they need.

Recognize that wanting what others have is a waste of your own potential. You are not them, and you never will be. You are you. You have inherent value, purpose, and positive traits. You don’t get to control much in life, but you do get to control yourself. Use that control wisely.

If you need help, ask for it. We live in a world that is incredibly open and receptive with improving mental health. Research and find a good therapist who believes it’s their job to make you better. Just like medicine, therapy’s goal should be to get you to your healthiest state, not just be another coping mechanism that you pay for.

So why did I write this post when I blog about healthy living and fertility?

When I talk about all the things I’ve changed about my life with other people, I usually get three responses: they’re proud of me, they’re offended by me, or they’re overwhelmed. This post is for the latter two.

When it comes to changing your life to be healthier, it’s an uphill battle. Let me get one thing clear: non-toxic living isn’t about achieving a 100% clean life. There is no way to be perfect with this. We are all at different places emotionally, physically, and financially, and to expect a cookie-cutter, one size fits all approach is stupid. I myself tend to feel like I’m drowning when I plunge deep into the microcosm of clean living. That’s why it’s so, SO important to get your head out of the perfection/comparison mindset. Go outside, breathe in fresh air, and remind yourself that the universe, the world, and the human body are all incredibly tough. Say it with me: I am resilient. I am adaptable. I offer grace and compassion to myself and to others around me. Growth is the journey, not the destination.

Perfectionism and comparison can be beneficial for you, but it’s important to make sure that they are balanced and kept in check.

Let me know below: how do you balance ambition and contentment?


bottom of page