People are always telling me they "compare" themselves to others. And I'm always telling them what they're doing isn't really comparing, it's comparing's evil twin.
Here's an example of comparing: you're in biology lab and you have Worm A and Worm B. You evaluate each of them for characteristics such as length, color, fastness of movement... and then you look at each evaluation both independently and in relation to both worms. The purpose of this exercise is to objectively observe characteristics of each worm and observe the relationship between the two worms. In other words, the point is to increase your understanding of worms in general and these two worms in particular. It helps you by further expanding your education.
Here's an example of what someone with an eating disorder calls comparing: she's walking down the street and sees someone pass her ( anyone - doesn't actually matter what the person's true characteristics are- doesn't matter at all ). Her first thought is something like "wow, she's so much thinner than I am, so much prettier, so much smarter, has such a better life, and I'm sure everyone likes her. Wow, I really suck."
Now, how's this any kind of real comparison, I ask you??? It's not.
It doesn't follow any of the experimental procedures required for true comparison- there's no process of evaluation, no objective observing of each "subject" and no even-handed conclusion about what's real. Furthermore, the point of this exercise isn't to increase knowledge and further understanding. You might think it is, but it's not at all.
The "point" of it is to make you feel bad. To "confirm" and "prove" your negative thoughts and beliefs about yourself (I'm fat, I'm ugly, I'm stupid, I'm lazy, I'm unlovable....).
Being a scientific sort, I'm all for comparison- but it has to be true comparison. We have to learn to say no to comparison's evil twin!