biz ladiesLife & Business

biz ladies: How to Escape the Comparison Trap

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from photographer, writer, blogger and all-around artistpreneur Becka Robinson. Becka has a passion for inspiring other creative business owners, so she began her personal blog to candidly share the struggles, lessons and triumphs of creative small-business ownership. In this post, Becka offers valuable tips on avoiding the comparison trap and maintaining a confident outlook on all that you do in business and beyond. Thanks, Becka, for this positive and encouraging advice! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

I’ve never been one of the cool kids. And this fact, to this day, is why I do a lot of the ridiculous things I do. I’m pretty easy to get along with, so I’ve always been a friend of some cool kids, but never really one of them. I’m just on the outside, not really invited to the party but sometimes I get to go by proxy. Do you know the feeling?

For the last year I’ve been intentional about trying to distance myself from that feeling. It’s hard, I’ll be honest, because the internet makes comparisons so stinkin’ easy. Just a click here, a URL there and boom! I can easily find 10 websites that make me feel like I suck, like I’ll always be picked last for kickball. (And I’m actually surprisingly good at kickball. No lie.)

I thought that maybe I’m not the only one dealing with this, so I figured I’d share some tips that I’ve used over the last year to help remove myself from the comparison trap and set myself up for success. Because let’s be honest: If I have no idea what the cool kids are doing, I won’t feel left out.

Step 1. Clean out your RSS and pare it down to the best of the best.

First and foremost, I pared down the places I visited online. There’s no need for me to see what every single one of my peers did this week because, inevitably, I will compare it to what I did, what I accomplished, where I shot, where I was featured, whom I got to collaborate with, etc.

Step 2. Hide the people you don’t actually know from your Facebook feed. You’re wasting time and brainpower trying to keep up with them all.

Second, I hid a BUNCH of people from my Facebook feed. And by a bunch, I mean hundreds. I did not un-friend them; let’s just clarify that from the start. But I now only keep people in my feed whom I actually know in real life and/or work with. It takes me about 5 minutes to catch up on their lives when I open Facebook (instead of the hour or so it took me to read about every single contact I had). And when I’m curious about a particular person, I just look her/him up.

Step 3. Take Twitter with a grain of salt. Everyone wants to appear happy and successful, so they will usually only share the best. Remind yourself that they have bad days/months/seasons, too.

I’ll be honest, I wish there was a way to apply Step 2 to Twitter because Twitter is even more dangerous. Some days it is just one big brag fest and a constant name drop. And everyone’s positivity when I’m having a bad day can be depressing. But Twitter is a necessary and wonderfully addictive evil in my life (kind of like ice cream), and I love that I can communicate with so many people. So I work Twitter to my advantage and filter what I read through the knowledge that everyone is trying to promote themselves in a positive way, just like I am.

Step 4. Find whatever inspires you and start spending more of your time there.

To allow myself a positive form of internet distraction, I started branching out from my own creative genre. I’m a photographer, so to move beyond my niche, I added a bunch of personal, design, fashion and inspiration blogs to my reader. Only about 10% of the sites I follow currently are inside my own industry (just enough to keep me in the loop). I now love my time reading them and come away inspired instead of frustrated.

Step 5. Stop trying to be like your idols, and stop trying to copy the trends. Do what you love whether it’s in style or not, and do a kick-ass job of it.

What fills me with joy? What do I want to do with my time? What do I do really well? What do I think is total rubbish? I’ve been doing more of the first three and cutting out that last one. At the end of the day, I’m never going to truly leave an impact on this world by following the people I think are cooler than myself. I’ve got to keep doing my own thing. Dance to the beat of my own drummer.

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  • Fantastic post. This is exactly the sort of thing that I have been talking about with some of my fellow bloggers. Thank you for putting this message out there.

  • Not 30 minutes ago I turned the key in my door asking myself if it is just me – or do other people flip-flop between loving what I am trying to do and wondering if I am just fooling myself – waiting for the world yo also me with a reality check! You hit the nail on the head – high school thinking!!! After all these years and true successes…there it is if I let it in. Thank you.

  • Thanks for sharing your wisdom! I always find that social networking makes me feel bad about myself, because I spend so much time online lurking my acquaintances who are living fabulous lives in New York and Paris. Your post gave me insight as to how stupid that is! Thanks for reminding us to keep our focus on what makes us happy, rather than what the Internet tells us to do.

  • Such a great post! As always! I once read ” stop following a blog/ someone’s work if it don’t makes you happy”. Sounds logic but made me think twice!
    And well, THIS column is generally so great and helpful! woooouaah!
    You should do another book just with the tips of the “biz Ladies” column!

  • You can purge the noise on Twitter by using lists. Make a list of the people you can actually remember and that you want to actually read. Then use Hootsuite (or similar tool) to create a stream for that list.

    Also, I use FlipBoard on my iPad to follow Twitter Lists, Friend lists on Facebook and select RSS feeds that I really enjoy following. I turn to this regularly for enjoyment. When I have more time and am in the right mindset, I’ll ‘work’ my way through all the other stuff I want to stay up-to-date on via google reader rss feeds etc.

  • Brilliant Advice! And you’ve just prompted me to sort out my Google Reader, which was long overdue. I’ve not been totally ruthless – yet- but I have stopped following the feeds I think I “should” be reading but never do (and then feel guilty as a result!) Next up I’m going to take advice from Christelle (comment above) and stop following anything that doesn’t make me happy!

    Next up that Facebook feed…

  • It’s simple,it’s easy and still we all get caught in this ‘web’ sometimes. Our ego tricks our real self by a constant comparison with others….It’s hard to shake off, but I do believe it can be very liberating if you get it. So note to self! Read this post once in a while. Great job Becka!

  • THANKS SO MUCH. I can’t believe you’ve written about something I’m going through just this week… I’ve had a major blog/internet/lurking overdose and I’m completely drained from comparing myself to what everyone else is doing. It can really put a damper on the creative juices and I need to stop that now… thanks again for this hugely honest and real article.

  • Thank you for such an honest post! I have had similar conversations with other designers over the last month, and just yesterday had a large class discussion about this topic with my design students. One thing I always try to remember is that when things looks so glossy and polished, something off in the distance might be a total mess. No one has it together all the time. Also, just as we admire/idolize the work/press/accomplishments of others, there is often someone looking at our own work thinking the exact same thing.

  • I DO know that feeling!! Wonderful post at the perfect time. Much appreciated! You might consider keeping a running list of your accomplishments that you can review every now and then. Just when I start thinking I can’t do something or wish I could be like someone else, I usually get some sort of reminder that, “hell yeah, I can do this!” It just sometimes has to come from within. Thanks for reminding us all that we aren’t alone.

  • Thanks for this list Becka – so helpful to know that others out there also struggle with this. I probably waste more hours of my day catching up on other blogs, facebook and twitter than actually writing or creating my own blog posts. I need to remember this for sure!

  • This post is amazing! I’m new to your blog but i just gad to leave a comment. I found my own voice when i finally stopped trying to fit in. The comparison trap is so deadly. I’ve noticed that many who say “i’m not creative” are really saying “i’m not like so & so”. Nate berkus said something on his show that flows with your thoughts perfectly:”trends are designed to make you feel bad about yourself”. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  • This post completely resonates with me. When I’m doing my own thing, working on projects and my blog, I’m completely happy. But when I try to catch up on Twitter, FB, my RSS – I feel completely drained and anxious because others seem to be so much more succesful. That said, you can learn from how others do, so a measured approach is probably the best thing – which is the hardest. Great tips to help you along though.

  • This is great. 70 comments? Even more great to know how this resonates with so many people and me! ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ This is one of my fave quotes (dunno who said it). thanks!

  • Such a great post! My husband and I are musicians and make our living that way as a family. We are constantly looking for ways to grow our business and I’m currently working on getting a blog up and running for better interaction with our supporters and community. Just getting the thing designed has me fighting the urge to compare! I love the idea of paring down to just “the best of the best”. I think that’s a concept that would benefit many areas of life. Thanks Becka!

  • Your post made me realise that sometimes we compare ourselves with too many people at the same time. X is doing awesome work, Y is making good business development, Z has lost weight! And then we expect ourselves to achieve ALL those things. Simultaneously. Maybe it is a better idea to take things one at a time and put that focus back into our own lives. Great post :)

  • Awesome post! SO true – sometimes you need to block out what everyone else is doing and do what you feel is right or what you’re good at. Sometimes I have a hard time focusing on what I’m doing instead of what everyone else is doing.

    Thanks for this!

  • It’s Friday the 13th and I considerate it lucky. I also agree and understanding
    truly in my mind and heart how were sometimes do that comparison thing
    I do painted wine bottles and was feeling rather upset .
    thank you for your thoughts and words I really needed that …

  • As a new business – this is something I’m really struggling with and at time can actually cause by creativity to crash! Why try? I’ll never me that good… I’m going to take this advice and put it into practice. Thanks for sharing x

  • Ha! Right after the first paragraph I stopped and re-read it out loud to my husband saying “it’s like she’s talking about me”.
    Thank you for this post, I didn’t know Becka. I will now definitely check out her blog, good stuff! Cheers :)

  • Thank you for this. I needed to be reminded that I have to stick to what I feel is inspiring and not worry about the rest of the world. This was a great read for a Sunday morning.

  • These Biz Lady posts are always great, but especially when they speak to human nature as this one does. (I actually found a little metal box with the Biz Lady on it at a thrift store and have it in my studio/office as a reminder of these posts.) Comparisons are always a killer….they either bring you down or worse, make you too comfortable where you are (when you find you’re doing “better” than someone else)….I didn’t see much here on the latter aspect but it’s just as harmful.

  • This is exactly what I needed to hear! I was pretty down on Friday about my shop and the things I was creating. But it is good to know that everyone gets that way sometimes and I can be proactive at preventing that feeling from happening as frequently as it does.

  • Thank you. Hit home right away. Everything she said from the the first paragraph to the final tip is so true and that’s how I’ve been keeping sane for the past few months. (I actually unfriended all the unnecessary prople on fb.) Reading this post makes me realize that it’s normal; what I am feeling.
    I’ve also realised that when I spend less time, online, gawking at what others have accomplished, my work tends to be more original.
    Thank you again for this candid and uplifting post. The number of comments says it all.

  • Good to know I’m not the only one that compares myself to everyone else! You always hear about a select group of wonderful creatives doing wonderful things, and don’t really realise that there’s way more people out there just like yourself! Not to mention all the down days the wonderful creatives had before they hit their stellar idea! It’s all a matter of perspective.

  • Remember when life was just comparing yourself to your inner circle of friends, people you knew? With social media suddenly we’re comparing ourselves to random twitter feeds, facebook friend number 311, someone we barely know, assuming their life is better. Why is is hard to remember people don’t share the rough drafts only the final version?

  • Well done Becka! And as for Twitter, how I handle it is by making lists. I created a list of “pals” that are the people who’s twitter feeds I actually care about. Much like how you’re handling your Facebook wall. It works perfect!

  • You are so kind to share this with us – and I so needed to read this. Having just started my biz its so easy to compare myself to others and of course it ends badly. I did read that Comparison is the thief of joy and I try to remind myself of the same but its easier said than done. Maybe if I remember your article I will do better. Thank you again.

  • Thank you so much for this! The fear of comparison has actually stopped me from moving forward, this kind of thinking gives me some courage to work on getting out there.

  • Thank you :) I really needed this too. I have been stalling and procrastinating due to the fear of being compared to everyone else, and not measuring up. I have already re-read this post twice and I am saving it for reminders whenever I need it. Thanks again.

  • The only bad thing about this post is that I just found it now! I’ve been doing this all year (comparing and despairing) and it’s contributed to lots of sullen brooding and surly moods.Thank you for these wise and practical tips!

  • My brother suggested I would possibly like this blog.

    He used to be entirely right. This publish actually made my day.

    You cann’t believe simply how so much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

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