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  • Writer's pictureChoice Recovery


Do you compare yourself to others in an effort to motivate change or justify your behavior? It is an important question because the type of comparisons we engage in often tells us how we establish self-worth.

The Social Comparison Theory was developed by Psychologist Leon Festinger in 1954, which concludes that individuals like to make comparisons to justify or measure various aspects of their existence. Dr. Festinger believed that “we engage in this comparison process as a way of establishing a benchmark by which we can make accurate evaluations of ourselves.” As his theory was studied, two types of comparisons were defined, downward social comparisons (comparisons to those we think are worse than us) and upward social comparisons (comparisons to those we believe are better than us).

When we make downward social comparisons, we justify behaviors that we know we should not be doing or failed to do. These conversations often sound like, "I may drink too much, but I don't drink as much as ..." or “at least I have not …” or “I am not the one who ..." These comparisons are typically designed to make us feel better even when our behaviors are not what we want them to be. Downward social comparisons tend to keep our lives stagnate as we classify ourselves as better off than others, even though our realities are less than desirable.

Upward social comparisons take the opposite approach. These inspire us to be better and challenge us to live a life based on purpose and possibility. They allow us to recognize positive qualities in another and incorporate these traits into our lives. Upward social comparisons have us less worried about outcomes and more focused on doing the next right thing.

In life and recovery, we want our self-worth generated through purposeful action, not justification measured through comparisons. If our actions are based on those core principles we find essential to being a good and honorable person; the result will be a self-confidence that overpowers the need for downward social comparisons. However, if we are justifying our value based on others, we allow outside influences to determine our self-worth, which is an indicator that we have yet to find the freedom to act based on who we want to be.

Be aware of how you use comparisons because peace and joy result when our lives are driven by personal growth, not justification through comparisons.


Choice Recovery accepts AHCCCS insurance as well most private insurance plans. We are an outpatient addiction treatment center in the Mesa, Tempe, Gilbert, and Chandler area. Our integrated level of care is available in all programming which includes but is not limited to IOP, MAT Support Groups, a Couples Workshop, MRT Group, and our End Organ Disease program.

Addiction treatment therapists provide individual counseling which is available when enrolled in any of the Choice Recovery groups. We offer IOP in the morning, at night, and via telehealth in the evenings. For more information about Choice Recovery's addiction treatment, please call us at 480-527-0337 or email us at


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