How to stop comparing yourself to colleagues

The mid adult woman is distressed by the problem she is having with her laptop. colleagues
It can be hard to stop comparing yourself to colleagues. (Getty Images)

Comparison culture is rife online – but did you know that it was happening in the workplace too?

A new survey has found that most employees compare themselves to their colleagues an average of three times per day, which is 15 times over the average working week.

Most (51%) of the 2,000 people surveyed by AXA UK and Ireland, admitted that these comparisons negatively impact their mental health.

The most common comparisons to make were someone’s work-life balance compared to your own (27%), how much money they earned compared to you (22%), their outfit choices (17%), their leadership skills (17%) and how fit other people are (15%).

"The tendency to compare oneself with colleagues is widespread and deeply ingrained in human psychology," psychologist Barbara Santini explains.

"Evolutionarily, humans have always measured themselves against others to gauge social standing and survivability. In the modern workplace, this translates to comparing skills, accomplishments, and perceived success."

Santini adds the the prevalence of this in the workplace is partly due to ‘societal and cultural emphasis on competition and achievement’.

"Organisational structures and performance metrics in workplaces often inadvertently encourage comparison by highlighting disparities in performance, recognition, and rewards," she adds.

Upset frustrated and confused female worker folding hands on chin feels puzzled having problem troubles and doubts about business moments, sitting in shared modern office with multinational coworkers
Comparing your work-life balance with colleagues is common. (Getty Images)

"This compulsion to compare can also be driven by personal insecurities and the human need to understand one's place within a social or professional hierarchy."

How comparison culture affects mental health

If you regularly compare yourself to your colleagues, this can ‘significantly’ impact your mental health, Santini says, as it activates the ‘internal hierarchies and self-assessment mechanisms’.

"This process often leads to rumination, where individuals fixate on their perceived shortcomings or overemphasise the achievements of others," she adds.

"The psychological impact is profound because it taps into fundamental human emotions like envy, inadequacy, and resentment."

Santini adds that constantly comparing yourself to others can skew your perception, which can lead to a distorted view of your abilities and contributions.

"It fosters a mindset where self-worth becomes contingent on external validation rather than intrinsic values and achievements," she adds. "This environment can exacerbate feelings of imposter syndrome, decrease motivation, and increase the risk of mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression."

How to stop comparing yourself to your colleagues

Comparing yourself to others can be a hard habit to stop, but it’s not impossible. Santini recommends the following:

  • Mindfulness and Self-awareness: "Practice mindfulness to become more aware of when and why you compare yourself to others. This awareness can help you interrupt these thoughts and redirect your focus to your own goals and achievements."

  • Reframe Your Mindset: "Shift from a scarcity mindset, where you see success as a limited resource, to an abundance mindset. Recognise that another person's success does not diminish your own opportunities or achievements."

  • Define Personal Success Criteria: "Establish your own standards for success based on personal values and goals rather than external benchmarks. This can help reduce the relevance of comparisons and focus on personal growth."

Comparison culture can sometimes lead to imposter syndrome. (Getty Images)
Comparison culture can sometimes lead to imposter syndrome. (Getty Images)
  • Cultivate a Growth Mindset: "Embrace challenges and setbacks as opportunities for learning and growth, rather than as negative reflections of your abilities compared to others."

  • Limit Exposure to Comparison Triggers: "Be mindful of environments and situations that provoke comparison, such as social media or certain workplace interactions, and try to minimise these triggers."

  • Celebrate Your Achievements: "Regularly acknowledge and celebrate your own accomplishments, however small, to reinforce a positive self-perception and reduce the urge to compare yourself to others."

Santini adds that while comparing oneself to colleagues is a common phenomenon, "it is crucial to recognise its potential harm to mental health and take proactive steps to foster a healthier, more self-focused perspective".

Additional reporting by SWNS.

Workplace mental health: Read more