In a time when we live our lives online, it’s easy to fall into the comparison trap – as you scroll through your newsfeed and catch up on your favourite websites it’s all too easy to think, how has he been promoted three times in 18 months? Her articles are so much better than mine; why do I bother?
Before long you’re completely trapped by comparison, and it’s kind of scary how easily those doubting thoughts to take over, and how they can literally freeze you in your tracks. Many times I’ve sat in front of my laptop and I just. Can’t. Write. Because what if it’s shit? What if no one reads it? What if someone reads it and doesn’t like and tells me they hate it/me?!
When you find yourself spiralling into the comparison trap the best thing you can do is get some perspective. Here are 3 things that I call on to help me get unstuck and keep going.
Everyone started somewhere.
It’s no good comparing your outcomes with someone who’s been doing what you’re trying to do for years. No matter what you do for work or what you’re pursuing, we all start in the same spot and, like you’re going to, they’ve worked their way to where they are now.
The great news about this is they’re showing you that it can be done! Yes, it will take time, and maybe you’ve got a lot to learn until you can get there. But you can do it. This truth bomb is one of the first things I added to my vision board, and it serves as a fantastic reminder when I’m falling into doubt:
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
This is an extension of point 1. Let’s look at blogging, as an example (‘cause that’s my jam!) There are a lot of bloggers out there who are very successful and, in some cases, making a good living from their blog. It’s very easy to look at their wins and feel envious or frustrated that your latest post only had 2 comments compared to their 43.
You have to remember though, that they have probably been doing this for years — all the big-deal bloggers I know have! And in most cases it’s been a hard slog for them, putting in countless hours. Even my almost-three blog hasn’t seen the hours that some of my favourites have put in over the same period, so it’s not helpful to expect my little site to be an overnight success.
Things aren’t always what they seem
Online, it’s incredibly easy to create a particular impression of your life or business by using language cleverly and curating what you share on social media. Even in person, it’s possible to share only some of your life with your friends and colleagues to convey an image of you and your life. I don’t mean to imply that people are maliciously deceptive; they’re probably faking it ‘til they make it, which is cool if you’re being true to you. But whether a person truly is successful or is massaging the truth for some reason, always remember that there’s a lot you aren’t seeing too.
Like the fabitron whose business seems to have boomed overnight, but actually only has 8 people on her mailing list (which is not a judgement, see point 1). The incredibly-together powerhouse in your office might abuse alcohol after hours. The prolific blogger might have a team of virtual assistants helping him keep it all together.
I loved this Social Triggers podcast with Tim Ferris in which he and Derek Halpern discussed the dark times Tim has faced and sometimes continues to face. From the outside, you might think Tim is super-motivated and productive and just powers through life (which mostly he does!) But even someone like that has days when he can’t get out of bed. Listen in as he and Derek discuss depression, anxiety, and business both frankly and with sensitivity, it’s a fantastic conversation.
Ultimately, you have to remember that you are on your own path and any negative thoughts are only getting in your way. If it’s not inspiring you, shut it out. Unsubscribe, or take a digital break. If it’s in your workplace find ways to distract yourself from noticing what Gina’s up to.
Focus on doing what you need to do to get where you want to be, and forget the rest.