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How to Avoid the Compare & Despair Trap

Long Road

It’s easy to get caught in the compare and despair trap when others appear to have more, achieved farther and look better. From this limited perspective, we can always find someone who has “figured it all out” leaving us to judge our own lives harshly in the shadow of their apparent success.

I’m not immune from this, either. I am a relatively newer entrepreneur who is hustling to grow her small business. If I’m tired and allow my mind to compare my business to the myriad of successful coaches, authors and photographers out there, my ego can find lots of proof to support why I am not as spectacular. It’s all in my thoughts and perspective.

Social media is breeding ground for the compare and despair syndrome. Most folks only share the shiny-celebrations unless they’re looking for attention for the misfortunes. Let’s take Instagram as an example. Its purpose is to perpetuate pretty pictures of perfection. Pinterest is similar with its gorgeous, professionally taken photos representing what we assume is an average Jane selling her smart, creative DIY solutions. All germinating admiration and, in extremes, jealousy for what others can do or experience that we can’t or aren’t.

As a former coaching instructor once said, “Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.” Things aren’t always as they appear. We only have to look at celebrity suicides to recognize the picture on the outside doesn’t match the storm raging on the inside.

It’s understandable, though. Our mind is always searching for context and where we fit in the world. Our logical brain is labeling and organizing. Socially, we naturally create a pecking order. So, what should we compare ourselves to if not others?

When you start to judge yourself, my suggestion is to compare your current self to your former self. Where are you now in relation to the past? What do you know now that you didn’t know then? What growth has happened? Where are you better off than before? What skills, knowledge and experience have you gained?

When I can see myself through the lens of former versus current self, I acknowledge the many ways I’ve grown, learned and successfully moved my business forward. I appreciate my accomplishments and challenges I’ve overcome. I notice the powerful impact I’ve made in a relatively short time. I give myself permission to learn from my mistakes and travel at my own pace.

As long as we are moving forward – and everyone who is not in a coma is – then we’re doing this thing called life the right way. Each of us will have a different experience. Pitfalls and setbacks are growth opportunities. Struggles are guidance systems. Happiness is all in our perspective on how we choose to look at it.

Some of my greatest gifts were also my hardest challenges. My hunch is, if you can find a way to give yourself credit instead of tear yourself down with comparison, you’ll also find self-perpetuating motivation and strength.

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