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Comparisonitis, and what to do about it

Getting too deep into a comparisonitis spiral is the fastest way to kill your mojo. At least, it is for me. Why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we look so hard at what other people are doing?

If you’re prone to this, know that it’s normal. We’re wired to look at what other people doing, and adjust our behaviour accordingly. It’s basically how society functions (or not, depending on your point of view).

We do it because we’re trying to figure out how good we are at whatever we do, to feel better about ourselves (ever hate-followed someone?), or to get some idea of what our future might hold.

Now, it’s also not necessarily a bad thing. Looking at what others are, or have been, up to and using it in the context of our own life and work is how we develop. It’s how scientific theories have been developed and proven, it’s how artists have created great works (everyone’s inspired by something), and it’s what motivates changemakers.

What’s important is recognising when your comparisonitis takes that darker turn, and steering yourself back on track.

How to do that? Well, here are some thoughts.

  1. Take a good, hard look at what you’re consuming.
    And ask yourself, why am I consuming that? Are you consuming content from other people in your industry to stay up-to-date with current trends and conversations, or to get ideas? And if it’s to get ideas, why? Are you feeling good about what you’re providing, or are you trying to measure up to how other people are doing it? Yeah, this is a lot of soul searching! And I know that more than once my comparisonitis has tricked me into thinking it’s research, but it’s actually a feedback loop.

    I used to follow a ton of business coaches to get ideas and learn things, but what ended up happening was that I got overwhelmed by the courses and the launches and the ‘I should do this’, that I started to get really negative about it, and had to really cut down on who I followed. If that’s happening to you, a bit of judicious unfollowing for a while might be in order.
  2. Ask yourself, what am I really thinking and feeling?
    Are you thinking, ‘I’ll never be good enough to do it like that’, or ‘I need to start doing that or…’, or ‘I’ll never know as much as he does’? How is this making you feel? Like there’s no point? Like it’s way too hard? Like you’ve got to get out there and learn ALL THE THINGS right now? Like you’ll never get there?

    Then ask yourself what evidence you really have for any of those thoughts and feelings. Does that person’s following mean you can never have a following of your own? Because that person offers that service, do you absolutely have to do it too (even if you hate the idea)? Does everything really have to be done right now, or would it actually be better and easier to learn and implement things gradually?
  3. Consider what you want for yourself.
    Why are you doing what you’re doing? Is it because you feel compelled to do it, and you know in your heart it’s the way forward for you? Or is it because someone – a friend, a parent, a business coach, an article – told you you ‘should’ do it? All this stuff you’re comparing yourself with – is it in line with your ‘heart’ goals or your ‘should’ goals? Be really honest with yourself here.

    What excites you about the picture that your comparisonitis is painting for you? Is it money, free time, status, lifestyle, values, image? Is there a way that you could look to achieve that with what you already have? Maybe you’re already halfway there and didn’t realise.
  4. Remember what’s different about your life and situation.
    This is where my comparisonitis really kicks into gear. I see all these people who meditate and journal in the morning, ease into their day, take lots of pictures of the stunning rural scenery outside their tidy and beautiful home, listen to podcasts with a cup of tea, and generally seem to have all the time in the world to improve themselves.

    But that’s not my life. My three work days begin with the school dash, and I smash through whatever I can get done before about 3.30 while gazing out the window at my messy garden (which has been on my to-do list for months). I can’t listen to podcasts while I work – it’s like someone yelling random numbers at a mathematician – and there are few leisurely cups of tea in my day! I’ve had to learn to stop comparing my life and business journey to child-free people who have seven days a week to build their businesses, because there just isn’t a comparison.

    It seems a bit catty, but it can help to turn it around – I have this that she doesn’t, I get to do this and she isn’t. Stop for a second, and think how others might compare themselves to you.
  5. Know how unhelpful negative comparisons are.
    Easier said than done, I know – but when you’re comparing yourself to someone else, you’re the only person that misses out. The good news is that you do have control over most aspects of your life – and you have full control over your business. Things happen that you can’t control, but you can choose how you react and respond.

    You can do this. You’ve got this far. Think back to where you were a month, six months, a year ago. Would you be comparing yourself then with yourself now?

Things to remember when you’re deep in comparisonitis

  • Do you show your entire life publicly? No? Neither do other people. Most people don’t show the really hard bits, the bits where they also feel completely lost and crap at what they do. Or if they do, it’s in hindsight, with a positive spin. You hardly ever get to see other people’s messy middle.
  • Don’t compare your chapter 2 with their chapter 6. I see this a lot, and that’s because it’s true. We all progress at our own pace, because we all start at different places. If you start from scratch, but they start from a base of followers from another venture, your journeys will look different. That doesn’t mean you won’t get to where you want to go eventually.
  • Comparisonitis is very good friends with imposter syndrome. You are good enough for where you are now – that’s how you got here. You know a lot more than you think. Keep learning and you’ll keep moving.
  • Nobody does what you do in the same way that you do it. You’ve got your very own set of experiences and knowledge that nobody else has, or at least uses in quite the same way. That’s your advantage.

Comparisonitis is the stop before Procrastinationville.

The last thing I’ll say here, and I think it’s pretty important, is that if you find yourself regularly procrastinating, ask yourself if you’ve been suffering a bout of comparisonitis recently.

Comparisonitis can lead to analysis paralysis, where we overthink so hard that we don’t know what to do and can’t make ourselves pick a path, so we do nothing. And that’s basically procrastination right there. Suddenly it becomes easier to decide that now’s the time to take a consuming interest in Fair Isle knitting, or armchair travel, or vintage watches.

So watch out for comparisonitis. We all get it – for me it comes and goes, especially when I’m tired and have a lot going on in general – but it’s easier to beat it if you can diagnose and understand it quickly.

You’re you, and I’m me, and they’re them, and we’ve all got our own strengths that the world can use.

Now get out there and show me what yours are.

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