The comparison game.
Sort of the least-fun game ever.
It has become very real to me in the past few weeks and months. It’s always been real: I’ve always struggled with feeling ‘less than’ in my areas of perceived weakness. Or fear. Or confusion.
But at this time all our fears and confusions and weaknesses are being enhanced a bit. Or blown into greater proportion. Or I’m just having to face it more, since there are fewer distractions.
I’m being forced to get to grips with why the comparison game is the stupidest game ever, and why no one ever wins at it.
Look at that business owner – they started their business five years after me, and they’ve got ten times as many clients or far more visibility. They’re making more money or achieving their goals faster.
Look at that person – she’s prettier/thinner/more fit/making more progress than I am.
Look at them, look at them, look at them.
Look at that, look at this, look at those.
And how do I “know” all these things? Why am I looking at them?
Because that’s what those people are sharing. That’s what’s visible and evident, at least as far as I can tell.
Which is the kicker. As far as I can tell.
One thing which has always helped me in the comparison game is to actually talk to people, personally, if I can.
If I can’t talk to them personally (they’re a celebrity or a big deal or have millions of followers), I can look at their approach, their language, their style.
Try to see people for who they truly are, not only what they say or what they share.
When I do that, I find one of two things.
Either they’ve got just as many struggles as I have, and I build a new connection and more trust; or I find out they’re not my kind of person, and we don’t talk the same language.
Either way, it shuts down the comparison game straight away. Because if I know there’s a ‘real story’ behind their picture-perfect insta post, I don’t feel as intimidated by it. Or overwhelmed or disappointed. I know there’s a story behind it and I know they’ve let me in (even if it’s privately via a DM or a conversation).
And if we don’t talk the same language, then my realisation they operate so completely differently than me helps point out why they are where they are, and I am where I am, and that’s okay.
For example, I was watching an instagram live video of a business owner who has been wildly successful (in the business/financial sense), and he started talking about how it’s fine if you’ve been productive in painting the garden fence or reading books, “but that’s not going to change your life”, and he was pushing his listeners to be productive in the areas that would change their life. And that’s good, and makes sense, and I’m sure is all very inspiring to those who want to be pushed that way. But it felt like pressure, and it felt like “you’re not doing enough”, because my language would probably end up saying the same thing in a different way. Painting a garden fence can definitely change my life: but it does so at a slower pace than this guy. While mindlessly painting a fence, I make a tiny little progress on something mentally. And mental progress does change my life.
So I stopped watching the video and went on to something else. Maybe it was just that day, and another day I’d find it hugely inspiring. Maybe it’s that person, and I don’t need to follow them. But I don’t have to negatively compare myself, because I’m not them.
And then we come full circle to the true question, the real reason we all play the comparison game: because the hardest question to face is not “how do I compare to that other person”, but, “who am I really?”
What are MY gifts, my talents, my abilities? How do I approach things and why? What needs to change in my life and what is just the way I do things?
I’m processing a few of those, and there are a few truths about me I’m working on accepting:
I impact one person at a time, in small ways.
This means the comparison game always feels heavier when I’m with or connected to someone who tends to impact lots of people all at once.
I take my time to process things and think things over.
The comparison game will be stronger with me in relation to people who process lightning-fast and pivot instantly and create new products and new businesses and change their lives at top speeds.
I connect at a deeper level when I share the hard and sad and struggling things (more so even than when I share good and victorious things).
The comparison game kicks in faster when I’m still processing things (see the previous point) and am not yet ready to share what I’m working through. As soon as I share it, I get that connection with those who are feeling it.
I really would rather be quiet, with a book, than at a party with lots of people.
The comparison game will be a greater battle when I’m around people who are more extroverted, more instantly energetic, more visible.
I will always prioritise one on one time with people, talking about what really matters.
Spending three hours talking deep things, life things, with someone will always be better to me than spending three hours on any kind of work. Or any project or any business or any anything. I’ll put relationship over sales (or over any kind of task) any day of the week. So the comparison game rises higher when I’ve been doing more talking and more relationship building than ‘doing’ or achieving, which someone else has done. (Or seems to have done).
I get big things done but it takes me a long time.
Because of who I am and how I process things, my big achievements take years rather than days or months. I just don’t feel in such an all fired hurry, even when I do actually want to achieve something, and my priorities are people first, relationships first, hard stuff first, quiet first.
Hope you, like me, can keep using this time to get to know who you really are. The better you know you, the lighter the comparison game weighs on you, lighter and lighter over time.