About Comparing Yourself to Others


I listened to a podcast in English about an experiment on a group of women who exercised in a gym to lose weight. The experiment found that if you were a woman, you were more likely to quit your exercise early if you were exercising next to a fit and sexy woman. So when you’re comparing yourself to a woman who is already successful getting the body that you want, you don’t feel motivated, you get depressed instead. You feel bad about your own body, get discouraged, and eventually stop exercising.

I wonder if it’s the same with learning a foreign language.

You compare your Korean speaking level to someone else who is doing better, and then you feel bad about yourself, wonder why you’re not as fluent, blame it to your living condition (“It must be because I don’t live in Korea!” “She is younger and has better memory than I do.”), you get depressed, very depressed that you find anything Korean-language-related induce negative feelings and even hurt your self-esteem, and then you can’t take it anymore. You quit. You feel like a loser but secretly, you also feel relieved. You think it’s about lack of motivation, but it’s not. Motivation is just interests, and you already know very well things that interest you. They’re things that made you learn Korean the first time and they’re still there, not going anywhere. It’s the negative feelings that come out of comparing yourself to someone else.

So… don’t compare yourself to others?

How can you do that?

I honestly don’t know. Hahaha. Sometimes you don’t even mean to compare, right? But you do it anyway, almost unconsciously, out of habit? After all, we all got educated at the same universal school system where they think comparing students is motivating, but it’s not. It just makes you feel stupid and slightly suicidal, actually.

But, anyway!

I usually get over negative feelings out of comparing myself by thinking over them. I think over things that make me feel bad and then I answer my own questions. Eventually, I find my peace and then I go on and study Korean happily again.

For example, one time, it occurred to me that learning was not about winning and losing. There will always be people who speak better than I do, and there will always be people who speak worse than I do, and this will never change, so it became clear to me that I was feeling sad for no reason at all. Given my circumstances and my own effort, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and I’m doing very well.

I’m sure you are too. ###


8 thoughts on “About Comparing Yourself to Others

  1. A very thought provoking post.

    I have been feeling unmotivated and frustrated lately, but it isn’t because I am comparing myself to anyone. It is because I had started learning Korean because of a man, and when I finally accepted that man wasn’t interested in me *that way*, I lost interest in Korean. However, I worry about expressing my lack of motivation on my blog. I would rather be an inspiration than a downer.

    One student has been reading my blog and comparing himself to me. He feels distressed that I have more time to study than he does. I feel bad that reading about my learning process distresses him. I struggle a lot. I have stressed from the start of my blog that it would be “the good, the bad, and the ugly” truth about my process. Yet we all seem to think that the other person is better, the grass is greener.

    I’m not a competitive person. I don’t think about life as a race.

    It is fine to look at a successful person and ask, “what do you do to succeed?” However, we are unique and what works for one person might not work for another. The process of absorbing knowledge has to be one of the most personal things one can do. It’s your brain. No one else can learn for you. Find out how your brain learns, and you are well on the path to success.


    • ”No one else can learn for you.” ←That’s true. A teacher can explain something but still you’re the one who has to digest the information and retain it. Knowledge about how your brain works helps, I agree. I’m glad you’re not competitive. Let’s focus on real learning, about finding ways that work for yourself, not on beating everyone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I may have written something about a topic like this, but make it super long because I feel a certain insecurity as well whenever I feel like some people reach a certain height in their Korean language learning. I don’t really have consistency with regards to my motivation and the push to learn the language so I can never compare myself with anyone who are more persistent, but yeah we still do sometimes since we feed ourselves by posts from Korean learners as well, etc. Maybe it’s just a matter of positioning ourselves, like students, or workers, that we can never be on top of everything all the time, and just accept that there will still be other who will be better than us, yet, there will also be people who are not. We just have to do our stuff and be happy for others when they excel, and try to learn in our own pace since this is something that we are not obliged to do, it’s just something that we love. No pressures 😀


  3. I have been learning Korean since 2001. I was very lucky because that time it was hard to get books and learning resources but I got mine from my mom. But I struggled a lot even after moving in Korea. I used to be very competitive. I compared myself to others and sulked at the side because I was not improving. Even living in Korea it seems like the ones who are living outside Korea are much better than I am. The ones who started later than I am became more advance and it felt like I was being left behind. I realized that I was over thinking and wasn’t doing anything about it. I first tackled why I’m stuck in a certain level of Korean and why I’m not improving. After realizing my mistakes on my approach on learning I became more motivated to learn. Instead of comparing myself to them I see those people as an inspiration. If they can do it I can as well it’s just that the way we approach on learning is different. Knowing, accepting and doing something about my weaknesses helped me a lot. I’m still not fluent but I believe I improved a lot in the past 2 years. Hoping to improve more next year^^


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