Overcoming the Comparison Trap
When I was 13 years old, my family and I moved from Savannah, GA, to a suburb, which meant I had to begin my 8th grade year at a new school with new kids. I vividly remember how awkward I was at that time: naturally frizzy curly hair that my mom blunt cut with kitchen shears, big tortoise shell rimmed glasses that sat crooked on my face because of my lopsided prescription, and my lanky frame complete with chicken legs and knobby knees.
I remember being excited to start school for all of about 5 minutes. As soon as I laid eyes on the other girls in my new school, my heart sank and I hid out in the shadows. They were so pretty, with their perfectly straight hair, make-up on their perfectly clear faces, brand new name brand trendy clothes...and they all knew one another. Comparison hit me like a ton of bricks, and I let it sit there for the entire school year.Fortunately I made friends, matured a bit, and things improved over the years, but I wasted a lot of time comparing myself to the other girls at school and beating myself up because I wasn't anything like them.
As an adult, I still fall into the comparison trap, but for very different reasons. As I've been building my business, I catch myself comparing my business model, my educational content, my ideas, my website, to other bloggers in a similar niche. I used to allow myself to get frustrated, then angry, then hurt, then have a pity party and tell myself it's not worth it...and eventually I would get over it and move on. Fortunately, I've developed ways to dig myself out of that trap, and avoid it altogether most of the time.
Today I want us to have an open, honest conversation about the beast that is comparison, because every single one of us deals with it at some point in our lives, and as bloggers and online business professionals, it's real, and it's out there on social media everyday.
Theodore Roosevelt said, "Comparison is the thief of joy,"and boy was he right. Rather than allowing comparison to steal your joy, it's time to take control and learn how to Overcome the Comparison Trap once and for all.
NASTY SIDE EFFECTS OF COMPARISON
For a lot of us, we consider comparison as part of life, and it's become ingrained in our brain as a natural occurrence that we just have to learn to live with. It happens so often that we just expect it at this point, but we don't have to live with it! If you consider the negative effects of comparison, you'll realize how important overcoming this trap really is to your life and your business.
Comparing ourselves to others can feel like a never-ending race to a finish line that seems to get further and further away. The people we're racing, however, don't even know it's a race but somehow always end up winning.
It's kind of like those scary movies where the bad guy walks slowly but always seems to be ahead of the innocent victim. Comparison is our bad guy. By setting yourself up with these unrealistic expectations, you automatically set yourself up for failure. You'll either exhaust yourself trying to accomplish things or you'll throw you hands up and quit altogether.
You can't compare your beginning to someone else's middle. It's not fair. Everybody starts at the beginning, falls a few times, learns and grows. When you compare yourself to someone who has been around the block longer than you have, you haven't experienced all of the mistakes that foster growth like they have. You haven't found your rhythm.
Remember - apples-to-apples, not apples-to-oranges.
LOSS OF FOCUS & PRIORITIES
I can tell you from firsthand experience that constant comparison makes you forget why you do what you do in the first place. You can end up pushing everything else to the side - family, health, faith - and focusing all of your efforts on being as good as the person to whom you compare yourself.
All you're doing, friend, is running a hamster wheel - working hard but going absolutely nowhere fast.
FALSE VERSION OF SUCCESS
It's important to know how you define success, and chase after that. When you get caught in the comparison trap, all of a sudden you are trying to attain what the other person has. How many blogs do you see that are essentially cookie cutter versions of one another? I was guilty of that myself a few years ago - trying to emulate "bigger" bloggers and do what they did, all the while becoming a sellout.
It wasn't until I took time off and truly determined what success means to me that I was able to come back to blogging and actually be successful. Funny how that works, huh?
THE DESIRE TO QUIT
When you allow yourself to get sucked into the comparison trap so deep that you can't see straight, you probably want to throw in the towel. I hear you. You tell yourself, "I'll never be as good as her. Why bother?"
The sad truth is, friend, that so many potentially awesome bloggers do quit. They get overwhelmed by all the to-dos that other bloggers seem to be doing and feel like they can't possibly keep up or compete with them, so they give up.
The good news is that the comparison trap can be dealt with, and oftentimes avoided altogether! I've learned how to manage this nasty little beast and so can you.
OVERCOMING THE COMPARISON TRAP
If you struggle with comparison, I want to encourage you to give several of these tactics a try before you drive yourself crazy. One or any combination of these tricks may be just what you need to discover that you are the best version of you that anyone could ever be.
TURN OFF THE NOISE
I'm all for reading and learning as much as you can about your blog niche and your business. A big part of that hunger for knowledge usually takes the shape of newsletters or social media notifications, but when you start comparing yourself and your abilities to people you follow, it's no longer healthy.
In the months prior to launching Sweet Tea, LLC, I had to unsubscribe from several bloggers who I had been following for a long time. I was becoming overwhelmed and frustrated by the seemingly endless amount of content they were creating, awesome courses they were launching, and was even jealous of the positive responses they received from other readers. Although I had learned a lot from them, it was more of a distraction from my own business so it was time to disconnect.
If you receive an email or social media notification, and instead of joy you feel a dark pit in your stomach, get rid of it. You can always resubscribe or follow them on social media again later, but when you have allowed your comparison to turn into jealousy, it's time to take a big step back.
SEEK POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Every one of us should have a few people in our lives that are naturally encouraging, and don't judge us when we whine. For me, I have a group of Christian women, also bloggers, who love me for me, support my crazy ideas, and push me to succeed. They love me when I don't love myself, and I'm so grateful for them.
And when all else fails, I have my mom. (Because mom loves us, dirt and all.) Find your tribe and lean on them. Be honest and transparent all the time, even when you feel like it's ugly or stupid or lame. You need that sometimes.
Also, if you ever receive encouraging email from a blog reader or fellow blogger, create a folder in your inbox and save those bad boys! They're so inspiring to read when you're feeling down in the dumps. Because things like this always give me the pick-up I need:
So, I was just reading through my favorite newsletter (cough...YOURS!) when my eyes lit up to see a leetle book I recognized had been featured on your blog this week.
Now, allow me to paint a picture of my many different reactions while watching your video:
-waves and waves of chills-smiling so wide, my face hurt-getting all blushy-faced-audibly saying, "Oh my goodness," at least 5 different times when you said something that made my heart swell (especially when you were talking about our friendship!)-prayers of gratitude for God putting you in my life and you in mine. seriously, just when I think, "There's no way I could feel any more loved by Kirsten than I already do," you go and make a video like this. -laughing out loud at you calling me a genius followed by a gift-giving goddess. Whenever I need a confidence boost, I will re-watch this.-feeling such a kindredness to you (for the 100th time), especially as you shared your own philosophies of gift-giving and what means the most to you and your fam-feeling utterly inspired by the ways you used photos to create such meaningful gifts and keepsakes for your family
I don't feel deserving of a video like this, but thank you for believing in me and in this book, and for being the amazing woman you are.
Sending you an attack-hug (the kind that is so strong, it almost knocks you down) and a mason jar full of love.
That's from my dear friend Lauren who has such a way with words that she could make me feel beautiful even if I was covered in warts and lost all my hair. That's powerful stuff right there.
This little tip right here? I depend on this one. When I feel myself getting frustrated for any reason, especially because of comparison, I walk away. I turn off my computer, close my planner, and step away from anything resembling work.
We all need a break, but a lot of the time we allow ourselves to become so engrossed in a project that we forget to take a break for hours on end *cough* me *cough*, and we get cranky like those people in the Snicker's commercials. When we crack, we allow negativity to seep into those cracks and fester. A little sunshine can wash all that away, so go find your sunshine - a good book, a craft project, a walk around the block, or anything else that brings you joy.
REFLECT ON YOUR GROWTH
I don't care if you've been blogging or running your business for five years or five minutes, you've surely accomplished something in that amount of time. Reflect back on all you've been able to accomplish. Remember where you started and see how far you've come.
Journal about it, or heck - write a blog post about it! I can guarantee you that, if you would have asked me six years ago if I'd ever be a full-time blogger working from home teaching other bloggers how to be awesome, I would have laughed until sweet tea came out of my nose. But here I am, doing what I love and enjoying it so much more than I ever imagined.
Document your journey for just this reason. Save screenshots of your blog, write about what you learned recently, make notes of your milestone moments, because one day, you'll look back on those things and realize they weren't super exciting compared to where you are today. But you'll remember how proud you were of them at the time, and it will be a sweet reminder of how far you've come.
GET TO THE ROOT
Remember what I said earlier about comparing apples to oranges? If nothing else has worked to get you out of your comparison trap, do some research. Dig deep into the person to whom you are comparing yourself and learn as much as you can about their journey to where they are today.
I can almost guarantee you'll end up with a new respect for them, and an appreciation and deeper understanding of the work they put in to get to where they are. You'll also realize that you have been comparing yourself to them unfairly, because you're the apple and they're the orange.
When all else fails, put your nose to the grindstone and DO WORK. I can still hear our high school football coach yelling to the boys in gym class to "DO WORK!" Comparison doesn't just rob us of joy, it makes us lazy. We start making excuses, procrastinating, and doing half-ass work, blaming it on somebody else instead of our own bruised ego.
You know what? There will always be somebody out there who is doing more than you, or working harder than you, or making more money than you, or getting more pageviews than you, or whatever else you consider important.
But there is only one YOU. I can promise you that. Nobody can do what you can do because they are NOT YOU. So go be the best version of you that you can possibly be. I'm rooting for you!