Comparing is a natural human instinct, but be careful it doesn’t take over working on your own craft
Be realistic about your expectations and where you are at
Aim to celebrate the success of your peers, and hope that they would do the same for you
Comparing can really suck.
I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we all do it, subconsciously or otherwise. Professionally, we look at the people who are most successful in our industry and wonder why they seem to have their shit together, smashing their targets, while we question why we aren't further along in kicking our own goals.
- Why does she already have a record deal and I can't even get a meeting?
- Their song is on the radio. Why isn't mine?
- Why is her blog more popular than mine?
- How come he got a promotion over me when I'm more experienced?
- Why are THEY in New York seeing Springsteen on Broadway and I'm NOT? Humph.
We anxiously watch our peers as they speed ahead in some imagined race to the top. We even do this with our closest friends. You know, the ones whose wins we're meant to celebrate.
If we don't check ourselves, the endless comparing of our lives to those we see online can set us up for an endless loop of inadequacy. We can wind up feeling that others are more talented, are better friends and parents, more cashed up, more creative, more popular, have better holidays…It's exhausting.
Of course, this comparing business happened long before social media came along. But we're in a new, amped-up era of the comparison trap, thanks to our ability to curate the perfect view of our lives and businesses. But it's a trick because social media is inherently distorted.
So, two questions for you:
- How much time are you spending comparing?
- How is it making you feel? (genuinely happy for others, competitive or like shit?)
There's an argument that comparing is not all bad. According to 'social comparison theory' (coined by social psychologist Leon Festinger, 1954) we compare ourselves to others for information gathering. By comparing ourselves to other people we learn to expand our own sense of what is possible for ourselves. These social comparisons can also give us a reality check - we can sort out our priorities and gain perspective by focusing on people who are in worse situations than us. Or in some cases, comparisons can help boost our motivation levels and sense of competitive spirit. I'll have what she's having, thank you very much.
I'm all for healthy competition but there's a tipping point. Safe to say that when someone's good news story is making you feel bad, you might have a problem.
Here's what can happen:
- You can start to resent the people you love
- You can start to feel bitter and jealous
- You can feel depressed and anxious
- You can feel inferior - your self-esteem can take a blow
- You can become overwhelmed with FOMO
So how do we shut down something that feels like such a such a fundamental human impulse? Realistically, we probably can't. And of course, I could suggest cutting back on social media which might be helpful. But if you're addicted to comparing, I'm not sure that's the answer. Author Lauren Bacon wrote, "This isn't a social media problem. It's a comparison problem."
So let's figure out what's really going on:
GET TO THE ROOT CAUSE
Admiration and envy are emotional responses that can push us toward what we value most. Jealousy is something that can turn friendships into rivalries. Check that your inner critic isn't taking over.
ARE YOU COMPARING FAIRLY?
Everyone has to start somewhere, right? We don't always know the full story behind someone's success. Even the 'overnight success' stories usually aren't. Given that we really have no idea what it took for someone to achieve a goal, it's probably not fair react as though it was unearned, effortless, or undeserved. Author Jon Acuff said, "Don't compare your beginning to someone else's middle." If you find yourself comparing, consider if the person simply has more experience.
TAKE A REALITY CHECK
Ok Scully, where's the hard-core proof? Are you really falling behind your peers? Who is keeping score? Did any of these folks posting their announcements and updates do so with the deliberate intention of making you feel bad? We're all looking for the same dopamine hit.
PERFECTION IS AN ILLUSION
Here comes that friend again posting their big, exciting news. A writer friend might proudly announce a new publishing deal, but not mention the 99 rejections they received before finally having success. There's always a back story and it's usually bumpy.
CELEBRATE YOUR SUCCESS BUT ALSO THE SUCCESS OF OTHERS
Try not to see other people's success as proof of your perceived shortcomings.
FOCUS ON YOUR VALUES AND WHERE YOU'RE GOING
When we compare ourselves to others we minimise what's unique about us as individuals - something no one else can be. Comparing yourself to others is a major distraction and can be an enormous waste of time. Cos when you focus on someone else's life and someone else's goals and someone else's values, you're taking away the focus from your own.
A final word on social media. Sure, it has a lot to answer for and yes, going on a digital detox could be helpful. But, if you're addicted to comparing, chances are you'd find other ways to keep the comparison trap alive unless you nip it in the bud.
Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy." Ain't nobody got time for that.
Keen to share? I'd love to know how comparisons have kept you stuck.
Coach Viv X
Viv Fantin is an accredited personal coach who works with people who want to identify, set, and achieve realistic goals. She has seen all kinds of crazy as a music and festival publicist. Now in her second act, she is passionate about stress management and is on the never-ending quest to find the perfect work–life balance. She loves chai tea, music, reading and sitting in a dark cinema on a hot day.
For more info visit www.nextactcoaching.com.au or Next Act Coaching on Facebook