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How Do I Overcome Unhealthy Comparison?

“Wow, her Instagram feed is so professional. She just looks great in everything.”

“Man, I can’t believe he landed another five figure client – again! How does he do it?”

“Goodness, how on earth did they manage to land that guest on their podcast? My network is so small.”

Do any of these statements sound familiar? The sentiment behind them, perhaps?

Comparison is a killer. If left unchecked, it can rob us of our own sense of value whilst snuffing out the initiative that fuels our passion to create and share. It is a gateway to feelings of low self esteem, and its more toxic manifestations of jealousy and envy.

If leveraged in a healthy way it can help us to evolve our creative game – and actually serves as the gateway to inspiration. However, unbridled, comparison quickly devolves into something pretty crummy. And friends, we’ve all been there, it’s a very human tendency. 

Overcoming unhealthy comparison is a matter of perspective, choosing to focus on the right things. So in today’s article we’re going to help you to zero in on the right things, with seven tips to assist you in overcoming the stifling effects of comparison. Read on for insightful suggestions on strategic areas of focus that will allow you to locate yourself accurately in your own creative journey.  

Tip number one is all about you…

1. Focus On Your Unique Achievements

First off, let’s center ourselves with a reminder: you’re pretty cool, and you’ve accomplished cool things. This in itself is worth celebrating!

Example?  

Say you’re a podcaster, for instance. You would have likely have had to:

  • Come up with a great name
  • Choose a particular niche
  • Purchase gear or invest in studio time
  • Set up hosting services

And that’s before you even shared your message with the world!

It’s not easy to put yourself out there, allowing yourself to be made subject to scrutiny and critique. But you did. And everytime a brave creative sums up the courage to release something new, a great thing has been achieved.

To fall into a place of comparison is to focus on the achievements of others and allow your perception of those achievements to eclipse your own. Instead, allow the light to shine on your own garland, let yourself feel the weight of the medal around your own neck. In all things, remember: you have accomplished something significant. Don’t let yourself forget it, friend. 

2. Focus On Your Particular Strengths

So, just in case you forgot, you have strengths of your own! It’s easy to focus on the strengths of others, only to forget your own. A minor adjustment to your perspective may be the key that unlocks the door of freedom from comparison.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. You may be the type of person that requires advanced notice, hours of prep time and a clearly color-coded outline in order to deliver a speech, address a classroom or host a guest on a podcast! Whereas another individual may have the gift of the gab, and the ability to sound erudite, charismatic, and engaging with zero notice. Frustrating, right?! Well, that all depends on your perspective. Instead of bemoaning your lack of spontaneity and inability to deliver at the drop of a hat without warning (which is an admirable skill), choose to celebrate the fact that you have administrative prowess, organizational skills, and the ability to create efficient systems that eliminate the potential for error!

At the end of the day, we are all wired differently; our natural dispositions will lend themselves to strengths in one area and relative weaknesses in another. And that’s okay. Instead of allowing this to drive you to unhealthy comparison, instead allow it to drive you to strategic collaboration. The best teams are made up of individuals with diverse skill sets!

3. Focus On Your Specific Genre

Ever heard of the saying: “Let’s not compare apples to oranges.”? There’s a great truth in this old adage that we can learn from.

Here’s the key: focus on your specific genre. Be the best in your specific field. Don’t let what others are doing distract you. Run your own race. 

So, maybe you’re a makeup artist and you feel terrible every time you compare your relatively small influence to the mammoth online presence of a trendsetting fashionista. Shift your focus! Double down and be the most creative makeup artist you can be, and celebrate that fashionista’s eye for color pairings and effortless swagger. Heck, reach out – in these cases, healthy comparison can lead you to connect and work in concert with some cool creators!   

Having a scattered focus is tantamount to allowing yourself to function in a constant state of distraction, and take it from me, I learned the hard way that divided focus is the kryptonite of efficient workflow. Don’t shoot a proverbial arrow in your own achilles. Allow yourself to enjoy the prowess of your favorite athlete, be inspired by the success of the new tech startup, but never compromise on focusing on your own work, in your specific genre. 

But what happens when we find ourselves comparing ourselves to those who are also working in our particular field…  

4. Focus On Your Unique Audience

There will be other people running in your lane and working in your specific sphere of influence. Do not allow this to be a source of insecurity! 

Examples?

Well, say you’re a realtor reading this, you may have a unique knack for finding homes for young families that no other real estate agent can replicate because you and your partner were that young family at one point, so you can speak to their unique needs. 

Or say you’re a local politician with a profound connection to the people in that specific neighborhood, because you grew up in a house a couple of blocks away. 

Your unique story gives you a unique appeal to a specific audience. You can reach people that others cannot, and that’s a great confidence building reminder. And those working in your field can also reach people that you cannot, and that is awesome too. Leverage healthy comparison as motivation to sell to, serve and heal others, by leaning into your unique story.

Related Read: How Do I Make My Podcast Stand Out In My Category?

5. Focus On A Short Term Success 

Celebrating your short term wins will help to prevent you from receiving an invitation to the worst kind of party – a pity party! Here are a couple of ways to avoid that unwanted RSVP request…

A Mission Statement

A mission statement is helpful in reminding yourself of your immediate function, and what daily success looks like.

By regularly reminding yourself of this statement of purpose, you will begin to see the value of your daily, small accomplishments and celebrate them accordingly. Orienting yourself around these short term successes will subdue the pernicious effects of unhealthy comparison, as you will be constantly reminded of your good work, and experience an enjoyable boost of self confidence.

Here is a link to an article on mission statements, how to craft them, and their unique value: What is a Mission Statement?

Setting Daily Goals 

Daily goal setting is another great way to keep comparison at bay. If you have markers of success that are short term and possible to attain within the space of a day you will be constantly adding fuel to the fires of motivation and a healthy sense of self. 

And be sure to reward yourself! Working some form of reward into your daily goal setting system is a way of  “completing the circle”; it’s classic behavior modification – in the good sense (don’t worry, there won’t be any drooling dogs or questionable Pavlovian practices here!). Keeping a reward in sight will keep your motivation high, and you’ll be so busy working and producing that you won’t have time to fall into the comparison trap!

6. Focus On Your Big Picture Goal

Keeping the big picture in mind and allowing yourself to remain focused on your long term goals will also diffuse the harmful effects of unhealthy comparison. A great way to do this is to craft a vision statement and, again, have it readily accessible, where you can read it and be reminded of it regularly.

This long term view will help to keep you on track toward your ultimate objective, whatever that objective may be. Comparison is a weight that will only slow you down in pursuing this goal.

Here is a link to an article on vision statements for your reference: A Guide to Writing the Perfect Vision Statement (with Examples)

7. Celebrate The Wins Of Others

This final point is quite counterintuitive, and does not always come naturally. It may be difficult to do well at first, but it will only get easier with time and will undo the destructive effects of comparison in no time.

Celebrate others!

Comparison is often followed by feelings of jealousy. It’s hard to be consumed by these feelings if you’re actively rooting for the success of those who you could easily dismiss as your competition. Intentionally choosing to celebrate the wins of your fellow creatives will only bring joy to your own life. Is a fellow podcaster crushing it? Give them a shoutout on your next episode! Is your local baker always on point with your favorite sweets? Share a dozen doughnuts with friends and family and give them some free advertising!

Cross pollination will only increase your own circle of influence, and after making the conscious decision to celebrate others it will only be a matter of time before you are being celebrated. 

In Conclusion

Comparison is innate. Healthy comparison, however, is something that needs to be taught and trained. Do not forget your own past achievements and wonderful strengths. Lean in to the affirming power of your own specific genre and unique audience. Have a healthy short term and long term outlook.  And make celebrating others a practice. By setting our focus on the right things you will ultimately weed unhealthy comparison out of your life, and be so much more productive as a result. You deserve it! So let’s hone in on the right things, friends, and allow the distraction of comparison to fade away.

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David Hutchinson

David Hutchinson

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