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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? 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? 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? 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? 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.