It’s Not a Race

Beware the dangers of social comparison (in the LS and otherwise)!

This brief ESSay post was inspired by our wise, knowledgeable LS friends at Sex Uninterrupted:

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Follow them on Twitter at @sxuninterrupted

We love this tip. It’s great to read about and talk about others’ experiences to learn from them — including this here blog of ours — but there’s a very real danger in allowing ourselves to measure where we are in the LS against where others may be. It’s not a race.

Don’t believe me? Ask science. A meta-analysis of 60+ years of research on social comparison theory that was published in Psychological Bulletin in February 2018 revealed two key tidbits that back up our sexy friends at Sex Uninterrupted:

1 | “…people generally choose to compare with people who are superior to them in some way, even in the presence of threat to self-esteem…”

2 | “…these comparisons tend to result in worsened mood and lower ability appraisal.”

In layman’s terms, we tend to try emulating people we think are more advanced than we are. It usually doesn’t make us feel very good about ourselves, and we are more self-critical than we should be, as a result. The meta-analysis goes on to state that, “Comparisons with proximal persons and on novel dimensions heighten these effects.” In other words, the negative effects we feel from social comparison are worse when the subject(s) of our comparing are people we are close to — friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers — and when we’re comparing ourselves in an area that’s new to us.

In layman’s terms, we tend to try emulating people we think are more advanced than we are. It usually doesn’t make us feel very good about ourselves, and we are more self-critical than we should be, as a result.

The upshot of all of this isn’t that we need to go it alone. We don’t need to quit reading blogs (whew!), listening to podcasts, or taking part in LS communities where we talk to others about our journeys in the LS.

What we need to do, as suggested in at least one article in Psychology Today, is make a conscious effort to swap out our social comparison habit for temporal comparison — comparing ourselves where we are right now to where we were in the past and where we want to be in the future. The current buzzword on this concept is “growth mindset,” and it is a smart approach to cultivate in ourselves.

I’m not racing against anyone other than myself.

This is what Ess means when I’m bummed about not being a better runner than some of my friends and he tells me that I’m not racing against anyone other than myself. I’m looking for MY personal record, not working to be them or beat them. I need those reminders. Often.

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photo | Morgan Sarkissian

The takeaway? We should actively seek to measure our success in terms of our own goals & growth and not in terms what others are doing or have done.

It can be hard to remember, so it’s GREAT when we have a partner who will remind us (or, you know, the good folks at Sex Uninterrupted.)


In case you’re just as nerdy as we are, you are welcome to download and read the entire meta-analysis on social comparison theory here.


Be sure to check out the ABOUT page to learn more about us and this blog.

featured photo | Holger Link

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