#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: How to beat comparisonitis

Watch this article instead!

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2 Hi folks! Today I’m participating in the first #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a blog hop for writers who want to learn from each other and build a community. This month I’ve decided tackle one of the most common personal struggles writers face: comparisonitis, the tendency to make yourself feel like crap by comparing yourself to other, more successful/wealthier/happier/more in love people.

Signs that you’re suffering from comparisonitis

Do you read about Stephen King writing 2,000 words a day and feel like less of a writer because you aren’t writing the same amount? Do you see other writers gaining acceptances and feel bad because you’re only getting rejections? When you look at other people’s social media feeds, do you think “wow, I wish I could be like them”? Have you ever spent hours stewing in thoughts about how you don’t measure up to others in your professional field?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, you’re suffering from comparisonitis, also known as the comparison trap. And I’m here to tell you a secret:

Everyone suffers from comparisonitis at some point, especially writers.

But you can overcome comparisonitis for a happier, more fulfilling, and more creative life.

I struggled with comparisonitis for a long time, especially when I heard about another young person accomplishing their Big Life Goals. My mind immediately said “I’ve known I wanted to be a writer forever, why can’t I already be there too?” Often this led to a downward spiral of listing all the “reasons” why I hadn’t published my books yet. I was a terrible writer, a slacker, and a horrible human being who didn’t deserve that level of success.

One day I realized that these comparisons were the thing holding me back. They undermined my confidence and encouraged me to waste my time. That wasted time was more time between me and my published books. And I wasn’t getting any younger.

So I developed a set of strategies to prevent myself from playing the comparison game. It took years of hard work, but now I hardly ever compare myself to others. When I do, it’s because I want to use their success as a blueprint. Not because I’m counting the ways in which I’ll never measure up.

3 Strategies to beat comparisonities

These are the most helpful strategies I’ve discovered in my journey to beat comparisonitis:

1. Understand the difference between a good comparison and a bad comparison

We are naturally inclined to compare ourselves to others, and this isn’t always a bad thing. Comparisons can be powerful tools. They can help us establish where we are in our journey and create a blueprint that builds our ideal life. For those of us with a competitive nature, the right comparison can be an effective kick in the pants.

Bad comparisons, on the other hand, give us negative inspiration. They weigh us down and can even cause the bouts of depression I mentioned above. So how do you tell them apart?

Ask yourself three questions:

  • Is this comparison realistic?Β If your focus is writing books, you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to professional athletes. There are a tiny number of people who can do both, but most people need to spend every moment of free time working to become one or the other. You should only be comparing yourself to other writers. And you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to anomalies like JK Rowling and Stephen King. A huge amount of those careers was based on luck. Comparing yourself to them is unrealistic, and it sets you up for disappointment.
  • Does this comparison motivate me to do better?Β A comparison between you and someone else should motivate you to do better. You should be looking at their accomplishments and thinking “hey, I can do something similar”. If you’re thinking “I could never do that”, the comparison is hurting you.
  • How much time am I spending on this comparison?Β Things that start off healthy can quickly take a turn for the worse, especially comparisons. If comparing yourself to others is part of your everyday life, or something you do for several hours at a time on the weekends, it’s become an obsession.

Ask these questions every single time you realize you’re comparing yourself to someone else. If you realize the comparison is harmful, move on to my next strategy.

2. Repeat after me: “I am unique”

When you catch yourself falling into the comparison trap, pause and actively challenge the thought. Instead of thinking about how you wish you were like the other person, remind yourself that being unique is what makes you so amazing. If you’re having trouble believing it, say it out loud. When you say something, you make it real.

Not sure what to say?Β Try these sayings:

  • “My journey is my own, and only mine”
  • “I am unique, and that is what will eventually bring me success”
  • “We are all unique, and that’s what makes life so amazing”
  • “No two people are the same, so no two journeys are the same”

Every time you find yourself making an unhealthy comparison, redirect your mind to one of these thoughts.

3. Eliminate news/social media channels that encourage comparisonitis

Part of the reason why I spent so much time playing the comparison game in the past was that I gave myself so much to compare to. I read every success story I could get my hands on. The more outrageous, the better. I studied the routines of the most successful writers, even writers I didn’t like, in genres I didn’t like. My inbox received daily messages from places like The Change Blog and Upworthy.

These moves were supposed to be strategic ways to inspire myself, and to balance out the negativity of the regular news cycle. Instead they became another source of depression, as I compared myself to every incredibly successful person those platforms spotlighted.

I still get Upworthy emails, but I’ve deleted most of the other “inspirational” subscriptions I used to have. Now my focus is on subscriptions that truly inspire me – the ones that help me become a better writer.

Do you struggle with comparisonitis? What strategies have you developed to beat it? Let me know in the comments section below!

37 thoughts on “#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: How to beat comparisonitis

    • dlgunn

      Glad you found the article useful πŸ™‚ Good luck implementing these strategies, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Comparisons to other writer’s is a complete waste of time. I especially agree with eliminating the toxic social media sources. I routinely clear out all subscription stuff because it sucks the life out of my writing time and my writing routine, which is really far more important than someone else’s writing routine.

    • dlgunn

      95% of the time I think you’re right – but it is important to note that comparisons can be drawn in a healthy, encouraging way. Aaaand I think I’ve found my topic for next month’s blog hop πŸ˜‰

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Wow, what a great article. “I am unique!” I love how you’ve marketed this at the top as well with the “watch this article instead.” You’re brilliant! I’m going to throw this up on Facebook in a couple of days as well.

    • dlgunn

      Thanks! I’m really enjoying doing the videos, too. I’d say more writers should try it but there’s already enough competition out there πŸ˜‰

  • I don’t suffer from this, but I’m a woman of seasoned years πŸ™‚ and have outgrown it. The only one I’m jealous of is the woman I could be, and I try to beat her dreams every day.
    You can wallow in it-could-have-been-me, or you can start, do your best, and improve. Learning never ends. That’s half the fun of the journey.

    • dlgunn

      I still get jealous from time to time, but I suspect some day I will be in the same boat as you. I certainly hope so!

    • dlgunn

      A long time ago I heard another writer (no idea which one) say “the only healthy comparison is a comparison to your previous health”. I really like that idea, and think it’s something I’ll have to discuss next month πŸ™‚

  • Great post! The comparison game is always a difficult one to play. One thing I always tell myself is that it’s good to stretch myself and to always think about ways to be better–and comparisons can help with creating those stretch goals–but it’s a fine line to walk since it can easily become an obsession, as you say. I’ll be returning to this blog anytime I feel overwhelmed by comparisonitis. Thank you for sharing!

    • dlgunn

      That’s a good way to think of it πŸ™‚ This really is one of those places where there’s a fine line – but once you’re aware of it, that line becomes pretty distinctive.

  • This is great advice! When we spend too much time looking around at others and envying what they have, we’re not focusing on our own work. It’s also easy to look at great people and think they were always great, but that’s definitely not true–everyone works their way up the ranks and struggles!

    • dlgunn

      That last part is SO true. Everyone struggles, but some of us don’t talk about it – and when someone’s been successful as long as, say, Stephen King, sometimes it’s hard to believe that he used to live in a trailer and wallpaper his walls with rejections.

  • “Does this comparison motivate me to do better?”
    This is my favorite line. If something is helping, do it. If it’s tearing you down, don’t. Sounds so simple, but its so difficult to really do.
    In high school, I had a friend who did all the same things I did, but she did them better. As a result, I gave up on most of those interests. I’ve only recently started writing again. I wonder how much further I would be if I hadn’t taken all those years off.

    • dlgunn

      Glad you like it πŸ™‚ I’m trying to ask myself similar questions about everything I do, frankly. I know if I can break my worst thought patterns and habits, I can build the life I want, or at least something close to it.

      And there’s no way to know how much you could have done in those years – only to figure out how much you can do in the ones still ahead of us!

  • This is so relevant not only to writing, but to life. I recently bought a home after three family members/friends bought homes – it was a sort of “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of urge – and we had some friends over the other day, telling us “It just seems like everyone is getting homes. You guys just did it.” Although I adore my home, that comment put things into perspective; there are people “ahead” and people “behind” us, and they are all “ahead” and “behind” others in some way or another, and although we made ourselves feel better, we made someone else feel worse. Every journey is different, and doing something or feeling depressed because you’re not where someone else is is just a waste of time!


    • dlgunn

      Your story brings up a problem with comparisonitis I didn’t even mention – sometimes we sink literal fortunes into our comparisonitis. A good home is still a good investment, but other things we buy to “keep up with the Joneses” often aren’t.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Lovely post. I often tell writers that their writing pace is their own and to embrace it. But I seem to compare myself to writers who get acceptances because one project I am trying to get representation for receives rejections. This isn’t good, especially for me because I suffer from depression, so it’s something I’m working on.

    • dlgunn

      Acceptances/publication are definitely the place where I struggled with comparisonitis most. I never took individual rejections personally, but the sheer number of them often made me feel like it really WAS me that was the problem. I suspect many writers fall into a similar boat. People can tell us rejections aren’t personal but it’s hard to believe that in your heart.

      Good luck curbing comparisonitis in 2018!

  • Anna

    I don’t. Not when it comes to writing. There are too many variables to consider it a fair comparison: how much the other writer worked on their craft, the timing and need of their agent/publisher, etc. The list goes on, and all of this is shared with the general public.

    So like you, I travel my path and do my best. Not much more is possible. πŸ™‚

    Anna from elements of emaginette

    • dlgunn

      Nice to see another writer who skips this trap, at least in their writing life – but it’s worth taking a look at ALL the comparisons you make, not just the ones you make to other writers.

  • I love the questions: “Does this comparison motivate me to do better?” and “How much time am I spending on this comparison?” I think these questions apply to so much more than just comparisonitis. Last year I wanted to find where my time was going so I could use it more wisely. I spent way too much time doing it and found that the process was dragging down my motivation. I wish I had taken a step back sooner and evaluated these questions. When I did I knew I needed to make a change. Great advice, Dianna!

    • dlgunn

      Glad you enjoyed my advice! You’re definitely right – these questions can be reframed and applied to just about any area of your life, and especially your writing routine.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Louise Foerster

    Terrific post — and perspective. Love the questions, particularly the way that you keep the focus on the writer feeling crushed and how the comparison serves them. It really, really, really helps to keep you working on what matters, what you can impact by your own efforts instead of gazing at someone who seems to have it all.

    • dlgunn

      Thanks! I think this is one of the most important mental hurdles for everyone to overcome, but particularly so for writers.

  • Much as I don’t want to compare myself to other people (since I’ll almost certainly find myself on the losing side), I have to admit I find it almost impossible not to, especially when surrounded by so many talented people.

    • dlgunn

      But when you’re surrounded by so many talented people is the most important time to stop comparing yourself to others. Just bask in their awesomeness and don’t think about yourself at all πŸ˜‰

      All right, that was MOSTLY a joke.

  • “I am unique.” Powerful words. The world already has one JK Rowling, why would it want another? It’s only by being different from existing authors that we stand any chance of offering audiences something they don’t already have in abundance.
    Granted, there’s a fine balance of “unique, but also familiar” that usually appeals to audiences, the “disguised” familiar that’s just “different enough” to trick people into not realizing how familiar the story really is.
    But yeah, I definitely struggle with negative comparison, and at the end of the day there is a kind of “no nonsense” attitude of “Does this help me? If not, then drop it.”
    Thank you for sharing.

  • dlgunn

    “It’s only by being different from existing authors that we stand any chance of offering audiences something they don’t already have in abundance.”

    Exactly! Every story’s already been told – it’s the WAY we can tell it, from our own experiences and thoughts, that makes it different.

  • This is such a great reminder about the negative side of social media and ‘inspirational stories’, it’s so easy to see all the great parts of someone else’s life and situation and none of the challenging parts and to think we’re doing something wrong or failing in comparison. I love your tips for reminding yourself to find the positive side of comparisons, I’ll definitely be using them when I find myself scrolling through endless posts about others’ successes and achievements and starting to doubt my own πŸ™‚

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