The Comparison Game
Growing up, self doubt was always lingering, creeping up when I least expected it. Sadly it’s one of those things that I have carried into adulthood, and running my own business means that self doubt makes an appearance on a regular basis. Self doubt and comparison are tightly interwoven. I’d imagine you feel the same way, too.
Comparison is a funny thing. A few days ago, I caught myself comparing my work to someone else’s. The work was in a photography genre I have no real interest in, so why did I let it affect me? Why choose to focus on our differences? The ugly truth is that comparison brings up a wide range of emotions, from self doubt, to jealousy, and all the feelings in between. This time, I managed to catch myself feeling this way before it all had a chance to spiral out of control. You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? “My work will never be this good”, “Who am I to do this, what do I know?”, “What do I have to offer that’s different?” It can be soul destroying.
I know that we’ve all been there at some point. In the past, comparisons’ tight grasp would last a few days at a time, whilst I spent hours looking through someone else’s work to ‘see how I could improve’, and ultimately falling into a cycle of self-pity. Recognising the warning signs can be crucial in managing the feelings that come with comparison and self doubt, but I know that it’s hard when you’re ‘in it’, when the emotions are running high and you’re doubting every decision you ever made. Learn to spot what triggers you - if it’s a particular person’s social media account, unfollow them for a little while. It’s totally okay to choose not to see their content. In a world where we consume so much information every single day, it’s okay to let go of the things that are not serving you right now. In all honesty, the grass is hardly ever greener, and I know that you know this, even though your judgement might momentarily be clouded.
We all know that comparison is not healthy, and that ultimately, it doesn’t change anything. For me, it often means that I’m less productive, because I’m not giving my work 100%. It tends to set the tone for the day, and I end up moping around instead of focusing on how I can grow my business. That being said, it’s important to remember that it’s totally natural to have those feelings, and it’s okay to feel them too. I guess what is not okay (or beneficial, in the very least) is dwelling on this stuff for too long. It will not serve you, or your business, and ultimately could stop you from sharing your beautiful work with the world.
Over the last few years, when comparison has been at its highest, I have found a few things that help. If you have someone you can be really open and honest with, share your feelings with them. For me, it’s always been my husband, who quickly manages to talk some sense into me. I’m always sceptical about the complimentary things he says. After all, he wouldn’t want to say anything to upset me, would he? But after all this time, I know that those feelings are fleeting, and won’t last forever. Slowly, I start to ease back into my normal state of being - cautiously optimistic. Optimistic that I CAN do the work that I want to do, even if it may take some time to get there.
Once I’m on the other side of my comparison daze, I like to set myself a little challenge of doing something that will push my business forward. Something that I’ve been putting off for a while, because I was scared of the response. It helps me to regain control, ready to take on whatever this business life decides to throw at me.
So the next time you catch comparing yourself to others, stop. Recognise that it’s all in your head, and channel that energy somewhere else, somewhere that will have a positive effect on your business. You get to choose to be positive and there’s so much power in that. And remember - everyone’s journey is different (as cliche as it sounds, it’s so true). We are all at different stages in our lives, in our businesses, having had different experiences throughout. That’s the beauty of it all - we are all unique, and this is your greatest gift of all.