The upward social comparison

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The Upward Social Comparison

The upward social comparison occurs when a person compares oneself to someone they believe is better than them in aspects such as their body and social standing. The upward comparison is likely to result in negative outcomes such as low self-esteem. An individual can make an upward comparison consciously or unconsciously to create a favorable picture of oneself or to develop themselves. In certain circumstances, this comparison has resulted in the acquisition of information, which has resulted in an individual's self-improvement.

The Impact of Advertisements on Body Image

We live in a time where advertisements are filled with photo-shopped images rather than the natural images that are thin and unhealthy bodies across all social Medias and magazines. With images like these all around us, they are bound to affect some people negatively because most people will have a strong desire to attain these impossible figures and the results might be tragic. The need to be better than others or to achieve these images of perfectness has led to people becoming dissatisfied with who they are and how they look.

Body Image Comparison and Women

Women more than men often fall victim of body image comparison because of the media images and pictures of models that are portrayed to have perfect bodies. Body dissatisfaction is the belief that particular body parts are large like the hips or the buttocks. The main dissatisfaction relates to a person's body weight and shape (Ogden, J, 2015). This comparison often leads to someone feeling dissatisfied with their body which can lead to dieting and eating disorder behaviors. The primary cause of eating disorder in women is the social pressure to look thin and attractive resulting in a negative perception of their bodies. Research conducted showed that over 80% of women in colleges admitted to body dissatisfaction because of upward social comparison (Yip, J. & Kelly A, 2013). Upward comparison causes body dissatisfaction which has been linked to some adverse psychological consequences like depression. Depression because of body dissatisfaction has led to suicide attempts, social anxiety, and self-consciousness making it difficult for someone to interact in social situations.

The Effects of Upward Social Comparison on Self-Esteem

Using upward social comparison far too heavily causes low self-esteem leading to eating disorders. Eating disorders mainly affect young girls as many of them struggle with lack of self-worth. Young girls have a different sense of the "actual self" which is the qualities they believe they possess versus the "ideal self" which is the qualities that they would wish to own. The eating disorders can lead to one becoming anorexic and bulimic which comes about when one tries to control emotions of insecurity and depression. It is crucial that when a person has low self-esteem, they are not left to their inclination as making too much comparison with another person will leave them feeling less than or not good enough. Too much upward comparison can leave a person feeling inadequate and less motivated to pursue their goals. Persistence of this comparison can make someone feel defeated in life because the people they are comparing themselves with are established and becoming better at every step (Muller, D. & Fayant, M., 2012). When the upward social comparison is overdone especially in relationships, it can lead to breakups that will, in turn, destroy a person's emotional stability.


Upward comparison when done in moderation can be used to build up people and motivate them to be better versions of themselves, but when overdone it can have very tragic outcomes. Most individuals who are victims of too much upward comparison usually end up with eating disorders or depression which can lead to suicide attempts and at times they usually end up taking their lives. With social Medias showing images of perfect bodies and at times photoshopped images it is important not to get consumed trying to change and become these perfect pictures. It is rather important to keep in mind that when it comes to development and being successful everyone has their steps to take so as to achieve the best. We should always try to be patient with the process of growth and not feel defeated and depressed when another person is more successful than us. Body dissatisfaction is the onset of depression in many adolescent girls thus it is important to raise awareness and educate young girls on the dangers of always comparing themselves and trying to be like the models that are shown in adverts and magazines. Apart from educating against too much upward comparison, we should also support those who are already deep into this comparison and have already shown symptoms of depression. With enough support from family and those close to them, they will be able to overcome depression and even stop the onset of eating disorders that might lead to them becoming anorexic or bulimic. Peer or group therapy can also be offered to those suffering from eating disorders and depression. Therapy and support from family can help people build up their self-esteem making them more confident to go out and be part of social events without feeling ashamed of who they are and the way they look.


Muller, D., & Fayant, M. (2012). On Being Exposed to Superior Others: Consequences of Self-Threatening Upward Social Comparisons. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 4(8), 621-634.

Ogden, J. (2015). Health psychology. Health Studies, 113-154.

Yip, J. J., & Kelly, A. E. (2013). Upward and downward social comparisons can decrease prosocial behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(3), 591-602.

April 19, 2023

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