Why You Should Never Compare Yourself to Others

Comparison is the death of joy.

Ultimate Guitar
Why You Should Never Compare Yourself to Others

"Comparison is the death of joy."
— Mark Twain

Yes, sir. Mark Twain certainly nailed it there.

I hardly think there has been anyone who hasn't compared their guitar skill to friends and family. I know. I've been there.

I used to practice very intensively when I was a teenager (those were the days when you could just easily spend 3 or 4 hours of non-stop practice). Even with a lot of practice, I found it difficult to play as well as I wanted to, after comparing myself with friends and others who were also learning to play. I was pretty good with chords, but not as good with other techniques, which was pretty frustrating at times.

Back in my teens I used to compare my age with that of my favorite guitarists. I would go on and say "oh, so this guy was playing at this level when he was X years old, so I still have a couple of years to get to that level". Yes, I'm hardly the only one to think that. In fact one of my guitar teachers also thought the same way, which was pretty surprising to me since I'd never told that to anyone else and it suddenly felt very awkward.

It doesn't matter whether you compare yourself to your friends or your favorite guitarists; the outcome is always the same: nothing!

Come to think of it: what does it actually matter how fast someone gets to some level?

Well, let me tell you what I discovered somewhere along the way, which might be one of the underlying reasons why you might be comparing yourself to others (yes, it can be unconscious):

  • Comparing yourself stresses you out.
When you compare yourself with anyone else, it always feels like a competition. If you have ever been in a competition of any kind, you'll know that you do not feel comfortable. This is why top performers need to have nerves of steel to cope with this stress.
  • ​​You develop tunnel vision.

As we established that comparing makes it a competition, sooner rather than later you tend to develop a tunnel vision in which you focus yourself on "beating the opponent". Needless to say, you do not want to disregard other areas of your life that are equally important (or more).

  • You tend to regard the other as an enemy.

Of course! Needing to beat the other one is the primary objective, so he/she becomes the enemy.

Please don't do this. There is no reason to do so, and it can even ruin friendships.

  • You see yourself as the underdog.

In most cases, this is also true. The reason to compete is because you feel like you have something to prove, and doing so you believe that you have to be as good as X or even better, and there's a very thin line between that and to seeing yourself as the underdog that has to beat the other one.

  • ​​You don't need it.

This alone should be enough to persuade you not to compare yourself. However, it's not so easy to realize.

Understand that you want to learn to play to have fun. Competing is hardly any fun, so why would you want to go there in the first place?


I'm definitely guilty of comparing myself to others at some points in my guitar journey. What about you?

It's OK to draw inspiration from others, but not more.

If you are still not convinced about this, know that even top musicians do not compete with each other. There is no need to; the audience is not won to one side or the other anyways.

About the Author:
Max Chiossi is a rock guitarist and engineer with a laser-focused approach. You can visit my website at www.iwillteachyoutoplayguitar.com.

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This is good advice.  One needs to become comfortable with one's capabilities, not how you compare to others.  Be content with small victories - good clear tone, learning new chords, learning new songs. This is especially true if like me, you learned to play as an adult, not a teenager.  But do continue to push yourself to practice and learn new things - you must continue to grow as a guitar player, as you will find that very rewarding.
    That is great! How is it that you came to learn as an adult?
    This article definitely nails the gist of things. Well done. That said, though, it's pretty tough to walk the line between "comparing oneself" to someone and "drawing inspiration" from them, especially when it comes to personal improvement. There are positive ways to "compare" ones skills to another's without drawing negative feelings from it. Ultimately it's about how one responds to the comparison, right?  Just as semantics, I think you mean to say "subconscious" instead of "unconscious." Obviously this is not a big deal at all, and I'm not the diction police, I just figured you may want to know.  Thanks for the insight!
    Thanks for your comment! I think the line between "comparing" and being "inspired by" is thin, yes, but definitely real. If what you draw from the other is motivation to improve, it's inspiration, but if you just want to be better than the other, that's defintely not right. I could be involved in a cold war against a friend of mine, a race to see which one is the best, but that would be pointless. There is motivation there, yes, but no inspiration. As for your correction, I've just checked it out, and you are right. I should have said "subconscious".
    I am a really horrible case of constantly comparing myself to others (and lowering my self-esteem to even deeper depths by doing that) so this article is just what I needed. Thx
    I Ike listening  to  music  that doesn't  impress me lol. What  I mean  is I can appreciate  talent but there's  a difference  between  a good  guitarist  and a good  songwriter . 
    There's a LOT of difference between a good songwriter and a good guitarist, certainly! I'm a little puzzled as to what you mean by liking music that doesn't impress you...it sounds quite contradictory.
    Yeah, I sometimes still catching myself doing it, and this is probably a very good lesson to apply to life in general. Nothing really comes from comparing yourself to others, because if you feel below them it'll kill your pride in what you have done and your drive will follow, and if you feel above them, well, it'll just kill your drive, because you don't feel like you have to work at it to stay ahead.
    Yes, I definitely thing this applies to virtually any aspect in life, not just guitar playing, so it's a good idea to have it in mind
    Thanks for this refreshing perspective. I too have found that criticism and creation cannot coexist in my mind, and comparison is certainly an insidious form of criticism. Anyone can be a critic, but only an artist can create  
    Interesting view you got there. I never thought about it that way, but it makes total sense. Being creative requires some form of disinhibition that is hardly possible if you are with a critical mindset.