The age of social media has put a heightened significance on what others are doing. Think, for example, back to our parent’s high school reunions. That was the only real time that they could take true stock of how everyone else was ‘doing’ or what everyone else was doing. For us, we need only open our Instagram or Facebook apps to get bombarded with information about who is going where, who is doing what, and who is marrying who.
It’s human nature to take in this information and compare ourselves according to it. We want to feel like we are ‘on track’ amongst our peers. But something else entirely can happen if this comparison becomes habitual: we can completely stop ourselves before we even get started.
I sat down with Angie Lee, the host of the Angie Lee Show Podcast, to talk about how the trap of comparison can be the biggest factor in self-sabotage. Lee has over 10 million podcast downloads and nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, but she started from zero like the rest of us. From her own growth journey, she saw and experienced firsthand how hard it is to cope with the need to compare.
“We are always seeing how others are doing in their business, how many followers they have, and what their social media engagement is like,” Lee noted. “And while this is a great way to be inspired about where we’re headed, it’s also a significant factor in total discouragement.”
Day 2 vs. Day 2,000
One glaring issue with comparison of this type: we’re usually comparing ourselves to those who are much further ahead. “We have this tendency to compare our day two to someone else’s day 2,000,” Lee explained. “It’s not even an accurate basis for comparison. We forget how much work went into their current success, and how many times they kept showing up even when they were coping with comparing themselves to others.”
Truthfully, it’s going to be hard to find someone else on social media who started on the exact same day as you. But even if you did find someone on a parallel journey, comparison would be futile, because you’re different people, doing different things in the world.
“Comparison keeps your eyes off your own prize, and keeps you second-guessing yourself,” shared Lee. “The best thing I ever did was totally block out others on their journey. You can support them and celebrate their wins while also knowing that their journey has nothing to do with yours.”
Comparison as Self-Sabotage
In fact, Lee says comparing yourself to others is the best way to sabotage your own progress. “You have to have relentless belief in yourself – which will sustain your need for courage to push through times that feel embarrassing. And you’re going to be embarrassed. It’s just the name of the game,” Lee said.
“However, that embarrassment diminishes when you do see that you’re on your own journey, and that someone else’s success or results doesn’t mean you aren’t succeeding and getting results.”
All of this sounds great in concept, and inspiring, to be sure. As for how to actually avoid the common trap of comparison, Lee says it’s about noticing how you feel when you consume others’ content on your feed.
“You can always hit the unfollow button or ‘mute,’” Lee smiled. “If it’s making you second-guess yourself and the comparison is turning into procrastination or thoughts about quitting, take control of what is making you feel that way. You can always re-follow later. Right now, it’s about doing what’s best for you and your own progress. You have to take care of yourself first, or else your momentum may pitter out. That’s what we want to avoid.”
The risk of letting comparison win out is far too great. Lee has even seen people stop entirely because they weren’t getting results as quickly as others, or felt like they weren’t cut out for it. This can lead to the sense that one should just “give up.”
“Once you’re finally taking action towards your goal, you have to keep that forward momentum. I always say, ‘ready is a lie.’ Jumping in when you KNOW you aren’t ready (and never will be) is the only way to really push yourself into something great – but that can stop before it really even starts if you start filling your head with what others are doing and why they’re doing it ‘better.’”
Lee is helping hundreds of thousands of women push past their need to feel ‘ready’ and dive into their business dreams. On a closing note, Lee reminds us that the only journey we need to compare ourselves to is our own journey. “It’s always going to be an uphill battle when you’re working on something really big. But when you celebrate your journey for what it is, it makes the ride more worth it.”