In today's episode of the podcast, I'm talking about dealing with the comparison monster as a business owner. No matter how successful you become, you can always fall victim to a case of comparisonitis. I share how comparison affects me, why it gets under our skin so much and how you can combat it.
Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript.
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Today we’re talking about the c word - no, not that one - we’re talking about comparison. And comparison is a strange thing, because even though we know that it’s a bit silly to compare our lives to someone else’s, we all do it anyway.
And I feel like I need to preface this by saying that I have a pretty good handle on comparison most of the time, but it still gets to me if I’m feeling a bit anxious or I feel like I’m doing a lot of behind the scenes work that hasn’t started to pay off yet. So when I talk about comparison today it’s how I feel when I’m in the midst of it but not how I feel most of the time. And I’m also going to share some of the things you can do if comparison is hitting you hard at the moment.
Especially when it comes to social media, where hardly anyone posts the unglamorous stuff that’s going on behind the scenes, it’s easy to see how well someone’s doing without understandint all of the hard work that’s going into it.
And I don’t know about you guys, but for me in business I don’t tend to compare myself to people who are not in my circle and are that I don’t know and don’t have interaction with other than following and admiring their work. So someone like Sophia Amoruso who is a self-made millionaire I find super inspirational and don’t really find myself questioning why she’s so successful and I’m not at that level yet, because she isn’t someone I see as a peer - and maybe that’s a mindset shift I need to work on! But our situations and lives and even locations are SO different that I’m like, I aspire to be that one day.
Where I find myself comparing is when I see people who are sort of in my circle, like I kind of know them or at least feel like I do, they do something similar to me and are seemingly doing better than me. And it’s like an extreme inferiority/superiority thing, because I feel inferior that I think they’re doing better than me and I feel like they know something I don’t, and I feel superior because a part of me thinks, well what they do isn’t that great, I work really hard and my content is better, and I offer more value, and I should be doing better. It’s not fair. Basically it’s my ego throwing its toys out of the pram and having a tantrum.
It isn’t something I’m proud of but I think it’s something we all do, because we naturally compare ourselves to other people and think, why is this happening for them not me? I deserve it more than them. It’s the darkest side of ourselves and it’s our insecurity in how well we think we’re doing and essentially, how we measure up.
It’s especially difficult when we compare ourselves to someone whose ethics we don’t agree with or who we know has done shady things to get where they are, because we’re like, “Hey, this isn’t how it should be! Why is karma sitting on her arse and letting this “bad guy’ get away with it?”
Or you might even resent someone’s success because you think they haven’t had to work for it. Look at Kylie Jenner. Look at Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is the genius behind Fleabag. Everyone loved Fleabag, but sure enough, within a couple of weeks some journalists are writing articles saying that she only got to where she is because of her privileged background.
As a society we cannot stand the thought of someone who “doesn’t deserve” their success doing well, particularly women, and that’s partially because we buy into the narrative that as women, there’s only so much to go around and therefore we must all be in competition with each other. That if another woman has what you want, you can’t have it. Which we know isn’t true, but when that narrative has been woven into our lives, it’s still hard to break free from. It takes self-awareness and work. I mean, how many think pieces and investigations into the economic backgrounds of male TV writers like Ricky Gervais or Jack Thorne, who was a writer for Skins and This Is England, are there? It’s no coincidence.
And guess what? It’s not up to us to decide who deserves what. Just because we perceive someone to be immoral or undeserving or anything really, that doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s a feeling, and our feelings are real, but they aren’t facts. None of us are higher than anyone else.
If you’re finding yourself scrolling through Instagram and wondering why everyone else is so much more successful than you feel, remember that firstly success has no definitive factors. To be successful literally means to have accomplished a desired result. To you that may be making enough money to pay your bills and go on holiday once a year. To someone else it might have nothing to do with finances and instead mean finally writing their novel.
Success is a very personal thing, but because of social media we’re exposed to other people’s success, making us wonder whether our own desires are wrong. Whether we’re actually doing okay, or if we should also be aiming to work with huge brands, speaking at public events, launching a podcast and working from a hammock in Bali.
We start aiming for things that we don’t even really want, and when we reach them we feel hollow.
So I invite you to really think about what you want from life. Not what your parents want for you or what everyone’s doing on Instagram, but your own dreams for your life and your business, and write them down.
When you’re comparing yourself, revisit that list and if you’re comparing yourself negatively to people who have things you don’t want, you’ll know that you can let it go. If it’s things you do want, consciously shift the thought in your mind from “I want that and I don’t have it” to “they have it and that means it’s possible for me”. You have to consciously do it the first few times, but soon your thoughts will automatically go to that place, so instead of wondering why you aren’t there yet, you’ll see it as inspiration and be motivated to reach your goal.
Stay in your own lane. Focus on what you want, and don’t get distracted by others. If you focus on what your goals are and put all your efforts into reaching them, you won’t feel the urge to compare yourself to how others are doing. It’s like in school, the kids focusing on doing well aren’t the ones looking over the other children’s’ shoulders to see what they’ve written.
If you keep seeing someone else who does what you do being applauded and you feel like you’re working hard but getting nowhere, or your dream customers are working with someone else, remember that your people will find you.
You may not have been right for those people, but your work and message will resonate with the right customers for you. Someone in your area doing well doesn’t mean there’s less available for you. Think of all the times that someone you had never come across before has bought from you, asked to work with you or gotten in touch with you. There’s an abundance of potential customers who need what you do and just haven’t found you yet.
As I mentioned at the start of this episode, I don’t struggle with comparison most of the time. Most of the time, I’m focusing on how I’m doing in comparison to my own goals, whether I’m on track and mostly that I’m showing up and doing the best work possible for my members, clients and audience. I’m not worrying about how I’m doing compared to other people because I’m working hard, I’m putting out high quality work and I’m getting closer to what I want. It’s when I’m in a vulnerable position I start comparing myself.
If I’ve been ill or had things going on in my personal life and haven’t been able to work as much as usual, if I’m having an anxiety flare up, even if I’m having a moment of self-doubt, that’s when I go on to Instagram or Facebook and all I see is people doing better than me, whereas usually I see badass women doing their thing and inspiring me to be my best. And that’s the thing with comparison as well, isn’t it? It doesn’t make you want to do better, it makes you want to give up. It’s not helpful or motivating.
So how can you combat this?
Know your comparison triggers. As I mentioned, if I feel anxious I’m prone to comparing myself negatively, so I make looking after both my mental and physical health a priority by meditating, exercising and eating lots of nutritious food, even making sure that I’m getting enough sleep because lack of sleep usually makes me feel a bit jittery and panicky. And if your comparison trigger gets pulled, protect yourself. If you’re working towards your own goals, you don’t have time to scroll Instagram for hours or look at your ex’s new girlfriend’s Facebook photos from 2012.
Distract yourself positively by reminding yourself of how you can get closer to where you want to be and taking action, even if it’s small. It will make you feel so much better and get you back on track.
Remember that your life is pretty great, and be thankful for that. Gratitude is an annoying topic because it comes up in almost every piece of advice for improving your life, but it’s because it genuinely does make a difference. If you’re listening to this podcast you have the internet, a smartphone or computer, probably a business and a bed to sleep in. They’re all things to be grateful for. Who cares if Sally on Instagram is fully booked until 2022 and is spending Christmas in Hawaii? Your life is pretty great, too. And if you really want that stuff, you can have it too.
Finally, it’s important to remember that you don’t know the whole story of what’s going on in someone’s life, even if they tell you. That amazing, impossibly glamorous female entrepreneur who seems to have it all could be struggling to pay her mortgage or rent. Your old school friend who is getting married before you could be feeling miserable about the wedding process and jealous of the perceived freedom of your single life. The girl you follow who seems just like you but more successful may not be doing as well as it appears online. So don’t get so caught up in the highlight reel facades of other peoples’ live that you forget to live your own.
Thank you so much for tuning into The Independent Girls Podcast today. For more content, you can read my blog or sign up to the Sunday Session which is a weekly dose of inspiration and motivation I send out every Sunday evening to get you excited for the week ahead. You’ll find both of those at independentgirlscollective.com.
You can also follow me on Instagram for more tips and advice - I’d love to have you! I’m @independentgirlscollective on there. Until next time.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of The Independent Girls Podcast! Make sure you tune in next week for business advice, mindset magic and inspiring conversations.
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