The Comparison Delusion

It usually happens at night, with my laptop in my lap, the screen illuminating my face and The Property Brothers finding asbestos in someone’s dilapidated $800,000 house they’re renovating humming on my TV in the background.

A nervous energy keeps me buzzing as my bulldog, Bruno scrunches his face into my thigh. I pet his head and sigh. I’m unsatisfied. Again.

There’s always something to be doing. Something to be learning. I feel behind. Behind my deadlines. Behind the latest technological advancements. Behind the secrets to success. Behind my competitors. For some reason, I think, I’m always the last know.

So I buzz. A lot of fussing. A whole lot of nothing.

Then, I do it. It’s inevitable. I start sizing myself up to someone else. I trick myself into thinking it’s a smart business move (even our art is business). Surely smart business owners track their competition to keep the edge. It’s fuel to keep the pace of the hustle.

It’s a business strategy. For some. For me? It’s a trick. I’m off to compare with a mind full of lies and judgments on myself and everyone else. If I get lucky I’ll discover I’m doing better and take a hit off that superiority high. But most likely, I’ll discover I’m not doing quite as well. I’ll pet and pull on Bruno’s cold ears and feel really sorry for myself.

Compare-Post

Why is my heart racing? Why do I feel flushed? Comparisons that lead to jealousy puts my body in fight or flight mode. Meaning? Fear. I’m afraid. What am I afraid of?

Not being good enough. Never being good enough. Being good enough, but never figuring out how to make it. If we’ve been hustling, we take stock of the time we’ve put in and resent that we haven’t seen results. Time wasted. Wasting time. Dream starts slipping. Lies, lies, lies.

Justin Timberlake is singing “Cry Me a River” in the corners of my mind and I wish I had a donut, preferably cream filled. I’m not an emotional eater, I just skipped dinner and I’m hungry. Ok, maybe I like donuts when I’m sad – get off my back!

This person has a million followers. This person has a book deal. This person is on the Today Show. This person just put out something really stupid and crude and people are falling all over themselves. This person put up an Instagram photo of their Starbucks cup and got 5000 hearts. Blah, blah, blah, who freakin’ cares?

Then Bruno decides to stand up in my lap, stepping directly on my crotch, which hurts worse than you’d think for a woman and I’m not complaining so much as just trying to tell you that when I rains, it pours.

Some of my favorite writers inspire me. I don’t compare, I get energized. But some content creators make me feel bad about myself. I don’t know why, they just do. Instead of pretending that isn’t true, I accept that it is, forgive myself and bid them adieu.

I can be a bigger person, but not today. I get them out of my newsfeed, I unsubscribe. Not because I don’t like them, but for the same reason recovering alcoholics don’t hang out in bars. If I can’t control myself, then I’ll at least control what I’m putting in front of my face.

We don’t just compare ourselves to our competitors, colleagues or cohorts. We compare our bodies. Our hair. Our clothes. Our paychecks. Our families. Always assessing. Always placing. Always sizing it up. For what? For nothing, really.

The cream always rises to the top and we’re all the cream of the crop about something. Baking, writing, teaching. My path might have a huge traffic jam up ahead and yours doesn’t. Who cares? It probably means I need to learn something. Get over it, stay in my lane.

Many motivational writers will remind us that most people who we think just “miraculously made it” were actually working their butts off for years, even decades, behind the scenes before they hit it big.

And it’s true. But we don’t need this justification to just do what feels good and avoid what feels bad.

Do we?

Why feel the pain of wanting to be better than someone else when all I really can be is a better me?

Probably because we’re addicted. Stress, drama – they all cause adrenaline to flood our veins. Good or bad, it’s a rush and we keep taking hits. Undisciplined and lost, we’re at the mercy of our subconscious.

All this reacting, who’s even creating? Reacting to our phones. Our notifications. To someone else’s success or failure. We’re keeping score in a game no one else is playing.

It’s the Comparison Delusion. It separates us from who we really are and distracts us from our calling.

My coach (yes I have a coach, we can talk about that later) gave me a challenge. She told me to stop reacting for two weeks. Do my work, post it, then pull away and create. No reacting, just creating.

I have more time than I know what to do with. My mind is clear and ideas are bubbling over. Sure, I see things on accident. Sometimes I don’t like them, but I promised myself to walk away. Then I get lost in something I’m creating and it’s making me laugh.

It feels like peace. It feels like joy. I feel abundant. Good enough, because I am.

And you know what else is weird? Important people are returning emails. A friend called me out of the blue with a genius idea and a lucrative lead.

What a beautiful world we live in that flows with provision when we scrounge up enough courage to get out of our own way.

Imagine if we stopped comparing. Imagine if we stopped reacting.

Imagine the time, the freedom now, to just create. Without baggage, without fear. Just joy and your life’s purpose.

Oh, what a wonderful world this could be.

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15 Comments on “The Comparison Delusion

  1. You’ve once again struck through to the heart of it. I love your description of the freedom and joy you have experienced as you unplug a bit. And honestly, I’m glad I’m not alone in making comparisons, self-judgement, jealously, and just all around feeling like crap about myself. I’ve been beating myself about the fact that I compare and judge and it just becomes a downward cycle. And like you, I’ve been trying to unplug from the people that bring out my green-eyed-monster – not because they aren’t great – but because I can’t control myself either. Thank you for putting all out there. I’ll be right there with you in learning to walk in the freedom of being my best self each day. No comparisons.
    Thanks, lady!!

  2. Beautifully put. I sometimes feel like all I do is strive, strive, strive and I will one day be laying (lying? laining?) on my deathbed and regret all the time spent worrying and trying to measure up to these standards I have for myself…the ones I imagine others have for me as well. I’m learning that, as much I look up to others for advice, encouragement, inspiration, others look up to me as well. Maybe it’s just because I make some to-die-for brownies or the fact that I haven’t yelled at my kids yet today…either way, I’ll take it. I’m learning to love who I am, even if that means I’ll never get below a size 16. I’ll appreciate who I am, if for nothing else other than the fact that I love my family and am constantly trying to be a better person. That’s enough for me. And, for what it’s worth, you are someone I look up to and find inspiration from. Your posts challenge me, make me laugh, help me find the joy in those not-so-great moments in the day, and ultimately make me want to reach out to others and spread joy like jam on toast. Bless you, Anna!

    • I’m in love with this. Our desire (and all the striving that comes with it) can easily become our idol. Other than Billy Idol, that’s the worst idol ever. Let’s just relax, create and trust that when we show up with intention and with our talents, miracles start happening. Speaking of creating, write some more funny stuff for HooHas already!

  3. Wow, Anna. Love it! I’m constantly comparing. I see other people who have a million followers, and I don’t even think their stuff is as good as mine. Not that I’m Jimmy Fallon or anything, but you get it. It seems people think you have to use rough language to get a laugh. I admire the people who don’t do that, i.e. Jerry Seinfeld. You’re so right about thinking you have to read other people’s work bc it’s a business, right?

    YES!— All this reacting. Just create! That’s gonna be my new mantra.

    It’s true—get the people out of your life that cause you to be less than who you really are. Sometimes, it’s a tough choice.

    I’ve written several things for Hahas For Hoohas, but I’m new to your blog. I’ll follow. Keep it up!

    Cathy Cantu
    The Frazzled Mom

  4. What a beautiful idea(s). So beautifully and poignantly said, thank you. Also, I only you know you through your blogs but I’m pretty positive I either a) need a pocket sized Anna or b) just need you to be my coach 😉

  5. Thank you SO much for this!

    I so need to quit reacting. The worst time for me is at night. I lay there thinking how much more I could really be doing and how much better I could be and my kids could be and my house could be.

    Thank you for inspiring me! I am really going to give this NOT reacting a try!

    Btw ~ Love your work!

    • Isn’t it awful? I do it too – like I can always be doing more. Better. I’m learning to be compassionate towards myself. To choose peace instead of panic. And then, of course, guess who gets more creative and inspired when I just freaking CHILL!

      Try not to react all week and just focus on creating – then shoot me an email and tell me how it goes! (hint: it will be awesome).

  6. Thank you. Again. For putting everything into perspective. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my weird, comparing world of self doubt! How did we get this way?!
    Hugs to you!!

  7. I unfortunately am a comparer. I have been working on me lately though and have been trying to be happy with me, not “jealous” of others. Not always easy, but nothing worthwhile is.

    • It’s never easy and WE ALL experience it. Comparisons, judgments, jealousies – I’m learning – are all normal, human, responses. It’s what we do with these thoughts that matter.

      A brilliant woman I spoke with said something once that really stuck with me – she said “They’re just thoughts – don’t beat yourself up. Have compassion on yourself. Don’t judge your thoughts, be curious about them.” So, when I’m feeling jealous or insecure, I stop and think, “Hmm, why am I feeling this way? What do I need? What should I be focusing on instead?”

      We’re all a work in progress, sister! We’re in it together. 🙂

  8. Wow! I confess I read your blog because I was rolling on the ground laughing for an hour at your fart story, but now that I’ve read some of your other work I LOVE what you have to say! Thank you for being so real, and so uplifting, you really are like those people you mentioned that inspired you instead of making you feel poorly.
    I have struggled with the comparison bug as I’m sure all women have, and I also have found that when I just relax and do what is right for me (not even looking at the likes or responses I get) that that is when I am happiest and when I produce my best work. I am always in my best shape when I exercise and eat healthy because that’s what I like to do, and not because I have to meet some standard before I like myself. You write this idea so beautifully, thank you.

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