Here's the thing: comparison

Comparison is the thief of joyEvery Friday I post a “here’s the thing” blog. “Here’s the thing” is something my mum (and many other wise people) like to say when they’re about to make a good point. Hopefully these posts are also good points.

I am a massive Pinterest fan. It’s my happy place, and I particularly love hanging out on my Mantras board. Full of bits of wisdom I’ve collected, I quite often scroll through finding something that resonates today, something I need to hear.

And this quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” by Theodore Roosevelt is one I often come back to.

It’s also something that’s come to mind this week as I’ve been working with my mentoring clients. Almost everyone has told me that their anxiety, worry, distraction comes from getting stuck in the spiral of doom on social media, thinking about what everyone else is doing. And wondering if they measure up.

It’s a catch 22 of human nature. We’re genetically programmed to learn by watching others. That’s how we learn to talk, walk and exist in the world. In the business world, there’s a good argument for keeping on top of trends, checking out ideas, and being part of the collective.

On the other hand, we all have this annoying thing called shame, which tells us we’re not good enough, we’re not keeping up. Here are some of the things I’ve heard from clients:

“Oh, they’re so much more together than me”

“They’re always bringing out amazing new products – how do they do it? They must be better than me”

“Should I be doing that? Everyone seems to have a plan”

And it becomes a spiral of doom.

You see someone else doing something you’d love to do, or you see them doing what they do really well. And you worry that you’re not doing it “right” or doing enough. And you get caught in the crippling fear – once you’re in the spiral, the good ideas don’t come, you can’t concentrate, you’re too afraid of doing it wrong.

Because the thing about the spiral of doom is that it takes you away from what you’re doing. Because, in many ways, if you’re running a creative business, your work can’t be compared to others’. You’re doing something unique. You can’t be compared.

And you also don’t see the other side of the story. Out there on social media, no one documents the months of prep, or the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes, or the 27,000 bad ideas. When you’re seeing what other people do, you’re seeing what they choose to show you – it’s often authentic, they’re not trying to pull the wool over your eyes – but it’s the good bits. The curated collection of their lives and businesses.

So here’s the thing:

You don’t need to compare yourself to others. It will steal your joy, happiness, and creativity.

Today, this weekend, next week, consciously disengage from the spiral of doom. Instead, make a list of all the things you’re proud of, or all the things you’d just love to do. Pin this quote. Come back to your creativity, your inspiration, your business and life.

Protect yourself from the thief of joy.

Extra note: If you want to learn more about shame, the spiral of doom and how to live with it, I heartily recommend starting with this TEDx talk from Brené Brown.

Additional extra note: Do you like my watercolours? So fun! If you fancy having this (shaky, imperfect) piece as a reminder to avoid comparison, drop me a note in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Here's the thing: comparison”

  1. This resonates so much. The spiral of doom is so very true and I am going to consciously try and disengage from it and start on the list.

    ps: love the mantra board – yet another reason pulling me to join Pinterest

    • Conscious disengaging is the first bit… And go gently, just give yourself a break from social media to begin with. (Pinterest is amazing, and somehow I don’t find it gives me the spiral of doom feeling quite so much…)

  2. ooooh

    [pretty pretty sweetly]

    i LOVE your watercolour and it would be a perfect reminder on my new inspiration wall xx

  3. That has been one of my biggest regrets that I have had compared myself against many crafters who have been in the biz much longer than myself, and I get drawn into wanting to compete be able to offer as many products they do, etc which had started to make my brand which I initially set out to stand out to be a bit muddled and sending out the right message and style. it has taken me leaving my full time job to concentrate on my business fully to realise my mistakes and also to stop responding to the pressure of needing to be in the limelight and having something to constantly show on social media platforms. This blog post just clarifies what I should be doing. Thank you x

  4. Great reminder to stay focused on my own business Jenny, so easy to get distracted by what I *think* everyone else is doing.

    By the way just had a look at some of your other Mantra pins and there are quite a few I really like, particularly Focus on the good. Think that will be a mantra for today. Thank you.

  5. Oh the spiral of dooooooom…what a nightmare that can be!

    Everyone and everyone’s businesses are different. It’s just so hard not to look at other people’s situations!

  6. Love this post, it’s certainly something that has affected me. I have completely pulled back from social media so I am not exposed to the spiral of doom (amongst other things). Running my business can be stressful enough without adding to it by comparing myself to others.

    I also fully agree with the “shame” thing and am a BIG fan of Brené Brown TEDx talks and her books, well worth watching/reading.

  7. Someone once told me…

    Don’t compare your beginning to someone’s middle.

    Every time I have a spiral of doom I try to think of that. Thank you for a great post 🙂


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Life's too damn short to chase someone else's definition of success. I'm here to give you the courage and tools to forge your own path.