Comparisontis, the compulsion of comparing your accomplishments to those to others is the worst, but is not a new concept – keeping up with the Joneses is an idiom that is well-established within the English vocabulary. While it is a rather ridiculous (and immature) notion, it’s a surprisingly easy mindset to develop into once it has started and at its most extreme comparisonitis has the ability to rob us of our self-esteem, leave us feeling depressed and anxious and become judgemental towards not just ourselves, but those around us.
I’ve been blogging and working in social media management for a number of years and for the most part it has been an amazing experience. I love my job – I usually wake up in a morning excited to start work, and there’s almost nothing better than the feeling that accompanies a sudden wave of inspiration, a new-found connection or a well-received response to a piece of content.
While I’m fortunate to be doing something that I enjoy, the consequences of turning a favourite hobby into a source of income means that time spent, perspectives and goals shifted from a hobby to a business mindset. Of course, this is necessary to ensure continued success, but when the majority of my day is spent online I found that the cold doubt of comparisonitis was gradually starting to creep in, especially over the course of this year.
I have always had role models and mentors that I have looked up to and respected within the blogging world, but for the majority of my blogging life I have largely been unaffected by it, usually preferring to follow my own schedule and content in a way that suits my lifestyle. However, in recent months I became more aware of the negative feelings that accompany comparisonitis as I was working my way through my daily checklist and planning my content.
Admittedly, a large amount of this was the result of my new-found obsession with Instagram. I’ve been on the platform since 2016 and paid little attention to it, but since I started Instagram management I found myself immersed in hundreds of absolutely stunning images and content ideas every day. I wanted to create beautiful images like the ones I saw, but my initial inspiration and excitement was quickly dashed when it became evident that it was a lot more complicated and time-consuming than I expected. The results were never quite what I had envisaged and my thoughts of “I can do that!” became “I want that / I want to be able to do that!”
This is the biggest issue with comparisonitis: I want, instead of I have, can be a dangerous mindset to enter into. The I want becomes Why can’t I? and this can potentially turn into I’m useless because I can’t and the negative spiral that follows can have quite devastating effects on someone’s self-esteem and mental health.
Worryingly, comparisonitis started to spread into other areas of my blogging life. I currently have about twenty blog posts languishing in my drafts folder, most of them half-finished and promptly abandoned after being deemed not good enough. I avoided posting things on my social media platforms that I wouldn’t have thought twice about before because it didn’t fit the aesthetic or content plan that I had created.
The cycle of comparisonitis was also a huge trigger for procrastination. I would spend hours planning, writing and then walking away from blog posts, or setting up flatlays, sometimes taking hundreds of photos and then deleting them after seeing gorgeous images in my feed within a particular topic and so I started to avoid doing things altogether to prevent myself from feeling discouraged.
It was unproductive, an enormous waste of time and utterly exhausting, and after having a minor meltdown over a flatlay that didn’t work I decided that I’d had enough. It took some time and retraining to get out of it.
Struggling with comparisonitis? Here are a few things I used to change my mindset.
How to Deal with Comparisonitis
Make it about you and work out the why. Why are the beautiful images / amazing blog posts important to you and your blog / business? Who are you doing this for? Comparisonitis often becomes most prevalent when we are focused on the aspirations of others. Figure out your goals and be brutally honest with yourself. In the online world popularity often equals opportunity and there is nothing wrong with coveting a lifestyle, but understanding your reasoning and intentions behind what you want to create is crucial. Remember that, whatever your goals may be, they should always be focused on what will make you feel fulfilled as a person – doing something to please someone else never ends well.
Take a step back and think rationally. The now rather cliché notion of taking years to become an overnight success is entirely applicable here – it is almost guaranteed that the person who may be the cause of your comparisonitis started from nothing and has put years of hard work, skill development and networking into their content before it became popular. It’s impossible to measure yourself against someone who has been doing the same thing but for a much longer period of time.
Look at what you have and practice gratitude. I’m a big fan of gratitude journalling, creating a Daily Gratitude Challenge earlier in the year when comparisonitis was really beginning to affect my mindset. It works – challenging negative thoughts with a mindful task on a daily basis helps to retrain your thinking patterns and creates a more positive outlook.
Remind yourself reguarly that it is all about perception. What we see online is what we are allowed to see – often the best possible perception of a place, person or thing that has been carefully crafted using pre-set filters on Lightroom for observers standing on the periphery. This is a very small part of reality – their reality, not yours – and the key difference is they aren’t you. Your uniqueness is what makes you special.
Switch off. If someone’s content is so jaw-droppingly beautiful and creative that it is causing negative feelings towards yourself and what you do, stop looking – it’s actually as simple as it sounds. This doesn’t mean that you have to unfollow or block them, just avoid looking at it / reading it until you have worked out your own direction.
Create a plan and develop your skills. Figure out what you want and what you need to do to get there. Want to create better images? Watch some photography and editing tutorials and practice. Want to grow your following? Create a social media schedule, engage and interact with others – if the audience likes the person behind the blog, it is likely they will like the blog too. Don’t waste your time complaining and feeling dejected because you can’t do something – push yourself into learning something until you can.
You get out what you put in. It’s a harsh truth, but it is often likely that those who are (or at least appear to be) at the level that you wish to reach are spending the time and putting in the work. Patience is key – another cliché unfortunately, but worthy of a reminder. You aren’t going to get thousands of views by pressing the publish button or posting an image of something pretty – it’s all about putting in the time and effort. The Instagram account I became completely obsessed with posts interesting content with great descriptions that made me want to read it regularly. Do I do that? No. Have I updated my blog theme in over five years? No. Do I post and engage regularly? No. So how can I compare myself to those that do?
There is always going to be someone who is doing the same thing as you, but seemingly doing it better. However, taking a step back and changing your perspective, knowing what you want and how you plan to get there will help to bring the joy back into everything that you do. And in times where comparisonitis starts to rear its ugly head, remember this from Jackie Martin:
Someone else’s success is not your failure.
What about you guys? Do you struggle with comparisonitis?
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