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.
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.
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.