If “comparison is the thief of joy,” (as eloquently stated by President Theodore Roosevelt), why do we continue to measure ourselves against others? Unhealthy comparison to others is a big issue I see in a lot of my clients (and let’s be honest, something I do myself). When doing some research about comparison and why we do it, I ran across an interesting podcast hosted by Jordan Harbinger. The podcast highlights why humans are apt to compare themselves to others, the different types of comparison, why comparison can be harmful, and how we can adapt our negative tendency to compare into positive motivation for betterment.


Why do we compare ourselves and why is it harmful? Comparison to others has evolutionary roots. Self-reflection can be motivating; sometimes we need to see what others are doing to know how to compete, learn, and grow. Social Comparison Theory speculates that we can’t really define ourselves without first evaluating others. The harm can begin when the act of evaluating ourselves or others becomes demotivating instead of motivating.


According to the podcast, there are three types of comparison; self-enhancement, self-verification, and self-assessment.

Comparison for self-enhancement is what we do when we walk into a yoga class and think “At least I am more flexible than that guy over there.” It’s used to make ourselves feel better about our own abilities. 

Comparison for self-verification is used to confirm what we already think about ourselves. Example: we agonize over the “better” clothes, car, vacations, etc. of a friend who we know has a different financial situation than we do. The comparison is used to validate the feeling that we don’t have enough or aren’t worth enough. 

But all comparison isn’t unhealthy or toxic. Comparison for self-assessment is geared towards curiosity and growth. Self-assessment asks, where am I now in my abilities or goals? What do I need to do to be more like someone I admire? This thinking shift relieves us of the toxic, growth-limiting beliefs that come from comparison for self-enhancement or self-verification.


So, how do we get out of the cycle of comparison that does harm? Next time you find yourself evaluating others, ask yourself, “Is this thought going to motivate me to change? Is it going to confirm something negative I already feel about myself? Or is it going to make me put myself in a higher position over someone else?” If you find yourself falling into the latter traps, reframe the thought into a curious question. Is there anything I can work towards to be more like this person? Do I need to drag others down to offer myself a confidence boost?


I recommend listening to the podcast for a deeper dive into this important topic. Maybe it’s not realistic to say you won’t compare yourself to others, but perhaps the shift to a self-assessment mindset can help you keep your joy. 








Book therapy with Amy Jackson, LCSW-MPH here.

Think You’re an Imposter? Here’s How to Know for Sure | Guest Blog Series

In my work as a consultant helping young scholars navigate the demands of academic life, one of the most common fears expressed by my clients is that they don’t belong. For them, every paper submitted or experiment conducted carries not only the stress of the task, but also the threat of being revealed as a fraud. This is the burden of “The Imposter Syndrome,” a term first coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes.

The fact that this phenomenon is so prevalent as to warrant its own label should be comforting. If feeling like an imposter makes you just like a bunch of other people in your field, then by definition, you belong. Yet like many scholars, you might remain unconvinced and develop a sort of meta-imposter syndrome, in which you think your colleagues all have the “Imposter Syndrome,” while you alone are actually an imposter.

So how can you know for sure if you really belong? Let’s look at some common concerns and see if they mean you’re an imposter. First, what if you’re pretty bad at some important aspect of your job? Does this glaring weakness mean that you’re not cut out for your field? In short, no. Everyone has weaknesses, and you’re not an imposter. In fact, experts in any field spend the majority of their practice time working on their weaknesses. That’s why they’re experts: because they recognize what they’re not good at and work to get better. So if you know what you need to improve, you’re in good company.

But what if you don’t have any weaknesses? If that describes you, I’d be surprised, because I wouldn’t have expected you to click on this post. But if you’re reading this and are now worried that you’re an imposter because you’re the only one without any shortcomings, you can rest assured. You have stuff to work on, like the rest of us, but you’re not an imposter. You’re simply blind to the weaknesses you have, and there are plenty of people around just like you. There’s even a name for your syndrome as well. It’s the “Dunning-Kruger Effect.” Look it up.

What, though, if your concern is that you’re all weaknesses and no strengths? Does that mean you’re an imposter? No again. Clearly, if you’ve reached some level of achievement, you have leveraged some strengths to do so, and if you believe otherwise, it’s because you’re blind to your strengths, or you’re extremely humble. Like many “Imposter Syndrome” sufferers, you probably ruminate on your weaknesses while taking your strengths for granted.

It’s true. There are things you can do, without even thinking about it, that others find quite challenging. Still, you may discount your strengths because you had to put in extra effort to get good at them. You may think you’re an imposter because nothing comes easy for you. Yet that doesn’t make you an imposter, either. For one, if you have a habit of working hard, that’s a valuable strength in itself. Also, another proven quality of experts is that they spend more time than others practicing on their own, so if you have to work hard to accomplish something, you’re not an imposter. More likely, you’re an emerging expert.

For many scholars, the fear of not belonging is tied to identity. If you’re a member of a group that has been traditionally under-represented in your field, you may feel the burden of disproving negative stereotypes about your gender, race, culture, or other intersecting identities, a phenomenon known as “Stereotype Threat.” Let me assure you, if you’ve overcome discrimination and biased perceptions, either explicit or implicit, to get to where you are, you darn well deserve to be there. You are definitely not an imposter.



When it comes down to it, there is only one true test to know if you’re an imposter. To take it, find your ID card, for whichever organization within which you reside. Is that your real name on the card? Is that your photograph? If not, and you’ve falsified your credentials, then you are an imposter, and I hope you get caught. If, however, that is your actual name on your ID, then you’re not an imposter. Rather, you’re a card-carrying member, with all the honors, rights, and privileges thereunto appertaining. So go ahead and ask that question you’ve been wondering about at the conference seminar. And send that message to that prestigious potential collaborator. You deserve to be here, so use your voice. I, for one, look forward to hearing from you.

This blog is re-published with permission from the author, David Sacks, PhD. It was originally published in 2018 on

Holistic Happiness Series: 4 Reasons to Ditch Self-Deprecating Humor



How many times have you found yourself in a situation where your friend says something like,”I like your outfit!” and you retort “Oh you’re just not used to seeing me out of my sweats”? Heck, even J.Law does it! It can be tempting to make fun of yourself for a laugh, or automatically deflect to some reasoning when someone gives you a compliment. It may seem funny, but it can have a harmful impact on your mental wellbeing. Read on for 4 reasons why you should stop making fun of yourself and just say THANK YOU!

4 Reasons to Ditch Self-Depreciation and Just Say “Thanks”

  1. Even when used to get a laugh, self-depreciation perpetuates low self-esteem and subconsciously makes you feel unworthy.
  2. It creates an unhealthy habit of thinking pessimistically, which negatively impacts your mood and overall happiness.
  3. Self-depreciation lowers your energy… enough said!
  4. Talking negatively about yourself trickles down to your kids and young adults, suggesting it’s it’s OK to talk badly about yourself.


Bottom line, start making it a habit to just say “thank you,” and see what kind of change it makes in your confidence and mental wellbeing. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for the kids (see #4)!