😞 Unhappy Habit #1:📱Compare Yourself to Others

• 2 min read

This week I wanted to share an "unhappy habit" — something we all do that has been shown by research to make people have significantly lower self-esteem: comparing ourselves to others.

If you want to build lasting happiness, one way to approach it is to identify out which behaviors are making you unhappy and stop doing them. An easy way to do this is to replace an unhappy habit with a happy one.

Stop comparing yourself to other people (on social media and in life in general).  

Research Overview

There's a strong inverse correlation between social media use and self-esteem. The more people use social media, the worse they feel about themselves [1].

If you type the words "Facebook makes me feel" in Google and look at the autocomplete fueled by millions of searches, you will see the evidence first-hand:

Core Concept

Social comparison is one of the core features of the human mind. Our minds don't perceive the world in absolutes, but rather in constant reference to other data points.

We might feel good about a new promotion that increases our salary to $100k, but as soon as we hear one of our friends is getting paid $250k—we suddenly feel disappointed and inadequate. The salary is the same, we are the same, and yet, we are no longer satisfied with our life or ourselves. We suddenly have a new ambition: Get to $250k.

Current social media platforms were designed to manipulate our comparative nature so they can harvest our attention with advertising revenue. It's almost impossible to use Facebook or Instagram without thinking a thought that compares ourselves to someone else.

Given the prevalence of social media and the impact it has on our happiness, this is a great low-hanging fruit for many people to increase happiness. Use social media less and you'll compare yourself to others less.

It's that simple.

Behavior Tips

The Fogg Behavior Model shows that all we need to do to stop a behavior from happening is to identify and remove the prompt (the thing that reminds or triggers us to do the behavior).

If you're like most people who scroll to pass time, I suspect your smartphone is a primary prompt for social comparison.

A recent survey revealed three in four adults bring their phone to bed. One in four look at a screen last thing before sleep.

If you're one of these people, try this:

  1. Setup your phone charger outside your bedroom
  2. Plug your phone in before going to bed
  3. Replace phone scrolling with gratitude journaling, meditation, or reading fiction
  4. Smile as you do the new behavior and consciously cultivate warm, positive emotions
  5. Celebrate doing the new behavior knowing you'll sleep better and feel better in the morning

As with all habit formation, you want to focus on building new neural pathways that reinforce positive emotions and keep your brain coming back for more. The next time you find yourself feeling bad about yourself, see if you've just compared your life or career to someone else's.

If you have, congrats! 🎉

You just noticed an unhappy thought. Replace it with a grateful one about someone you love or something beautiful in the world around you.

Over time this comparative thought pattern will become a prompt for gratitude! Imagine if instead of feeling inadequate and lesser you felt confident and appreciative.

Imagine how much happier you'd feel!

Start small, notice your thoughts and be compassionate to yourself. See what happens.


  1. Who compares and despairs? The effect of social comparison orientation on social media use and its outcomes - Erin A.Vogel, Jason P.Rose, Bradley M.Okdie, KatherynEckles, BrittanyFranz


  1. Fogg Behavior Model
← 🤔 Happy Habit #2: Three Good Things
🖊 Happy Habit #1: Gratitude Journal →

Subscribe to Happy Habits

Subscribe to the newsletter and unlock access to member-only content.

You've successfully subscribed to Happy Habits. Check out our previous issues!
Welcome! You are now a Happy Habits subscriber. Check out our previous issues!
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! You are now a paying member and have access to all content. Check out our previous issues!
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Billing info update failed.