No matter how confident you may be, there’s always going to be that moment of self doubt where your inner critic tries to convince you that you’re not good, pretty, or talented enough.
I don’t really know how to start this, but it’s something that’s been on my mind for weeks now and with the topic popping up on two blogs that I follow, I just feel like bringing it up here because I just have so many thoughts and comments about it. The topic is comparison, specifically what I’m calling the comparison of success, as in, comparing yourself to other people in terms of how successful you are. Success is a very hard thing to gauge, because success can mean so many different things to so many different people. But I see it as how much you’ve accomplished with your life in a short amount of time. Not to say it can’t take a while for one to be successful, but for the purpose of continuing exploring the discussion brought up by the two blogs I read, I’m just going to leave it as that.
This topic was first bought to my attention by Shannon from Awash With Wonder. She wrote a post entitled The Comparison Blues, Insecurity Monster, And What To Do About Them, where she spoke about stumbling across someone’s blog that she thought was so amazing that she found herself comparing her work to what she was seeing this other blogger do on their blog. She states how she began to doubt her abilities as a blogger, writer and creative, and think that she wasn’t nearly as talented as this other blogger was. She began to look at all these other bloggers and see their successes, whether is was thousands of followers or the fact that they have a book deal, and she began to question why she hasn’t gotten those things yet. Inevitably, this is where the vicious cycle of comparison begins to stir and she found herself really depressed by all of these negative thoughts.
Recently, a similar thing happened to another blogger, Katie from Scarphelia. A couple of her most recent posts, Blog-toxing and FOROOT: The Fear of Running Out of Time, both deal with how the constant presence of social media in her life was bringing about all of these negative thoughts and feelings about herself and her own life. She writes about seeing all of her online peers doing all of these amazing things while she recently dropped out of uni and just spent her whole day doing absolutely nothing productive. These negative thoughts and feelings brought about by comparing herself to others sort of stalled her inspiration and creativity, and she felt as if she weren’t at the same level of success as her peers.
In both instances, I can completely relate. There are a lot of times when I see others doing these amazing things at my age or often even younger than I am and I feel like what I’m doing with my life isn’t up to par with what I should be doing. It often makes me feel like I’m not doing much with my time and that’s a scary thought…that I could be doing more. I then begin to wonder why I’m not doing more and it really always comes down to the idea that all of these other people are smarter and more talented than I. I sort of begin to cycle down into all of these negative thoughts and feelings about myself and it’s very hard to pick myself back up.
But everyone goes through this at some point. I think it’s most prominent during your twenties when you’re just trying to figure yourself out and what you may want to do with your life. It’s often very stressful because you feel like you only have a very small window of time to make up your mind. As Katie so perfectly summed it up, you feel like you’re running out of time. It’s not so much as missing out on things, it’s really that you feel like you don’t have enough time to do all of the things you want to do, let alone think of all the things you’d like to do. Sometimes I just feel like I’m not doing all the things I wanted to have done yesterday fast enough. So when you see others accomplishing so much, it’s sort of the natural response to doubt yourself.
There are ways to get over this urge to constantly compare yourself to others. Like Shannon, I find that I have to remind myself, “is what that other person has something I want?” “Do I want whatever success they have, or do I want something else entirely?” It’s really fascinating that most of the time I don’t actually want what that person has. Like, I don’t want to get married or get my PHD in science when I don’t even like science, or whatever else everyone around me are being successful at. I don’t really want their type of success, I want my own, which I think really is the root of it all.
We want to be successful in our own way, but we still want it to seem better than our friends. And there still lies the comparison. We don’t mean it in a bad or negative way either, we just want to feel like we’re moving forward in a way that is socially acceptable…that makes us feel good because other’s say and think we are good. It’s just a matter of accepting this and not letting it affect you, which is hard. It’s almost like I have to keep myself “in check” and remind myself of what I want and not care what other’s should want of me.
And should that approach not work to lift your spirits, I always try to gain inspiration from it. I will be honest here, when I see someone doing something that’s so great and I begin to question why I’m not that great or talented or whatever, I always try to stop myself and reassess the situation. I ask myself, “what is it that that person has done that I’m so envious of?” and once I figure that out, I ask myself “well, can’t I do it too?” At this point I try and copy what that other person has done, only to prove to myself that I can indeed do what that other person has been so successful at doing and once I’ve accomplished that, I don’t feel so bad about myself. I begin to see and use what that other person’s done as inspiration, as my drive to be better and do more. And that’s the key really, to be able to turn a negative feeling into a positive empowered one.