How to Free Yourself from Harmful Comparison

I have an inner business demon. She’s prone to strike when I least expect it and when she does, she really knocks me off my feet. I’m talking about business comparisonitis.

Have you heard of that?

Most of us are aware of the basic comparison premise in our day to day lives; comparison is “a consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people.”

What we sometimes forget is that comparison can happen to us anywhere and it’s quite prone to occurring at work, especially during periods an intensive push to further ourselves and our achievements. In business I have found it even more prevalent.

Here are some signs business comparisonitis may be affecting you;

  • You continually ask yourself ‘why am I not doing as well as _?’

  • You regularly scrutinise your competitors’ products

  • You regularly check what your competitors are saying on social media, how they take their photos, how many likes they have and the comments from who you think are buyers.

  • You spend way too much time on a competitor’s stall at a show, or their website looking for their secret sauce to success

  • You pick apart competitors instead of holding them up as inspiration

  • You feel sick when you see their shop updates sell out quicker than yours

  • This results in you wanting to give it all up

I can guarantee that at some point as a small business owner you have fallen into this trap. Today on the podcast we are going to work through how to free yourself from this toxic behaviour.

My recent struggle with business comparisonitis

I’m not going to sit here and type an article that preaches letting go of comparison without talking about my own struggles, that would be cheating you from the reality of running a business, especially as a solopreneur. Instead I want to get real for a moment, because I need to.

Eight months ago, a year and or so into running My Indie Life Blog I found myself in a mental ‘black-spot’. As a relatively new business I was struggling to get noticed online in a world of other business coaches who have established businesses of 5 years or more. Most of these very accomplished ladies (and men, although not many in my niche) have thousands of followers on social media and can launch new products successfully to an eager audience. I on the other hand, didn’t have the followers to match and felt like I couldn’t launch and sell to any great success… at least that’s how it felt.

I was exhausted trying lots of different tactics and held back on acting through fear of being seen as an imposter in my new career, despite having eleven years of valid experience from which to teach.

And yet I could see my industry peers and competitors going from successful launch, to successful launch. At least that’s what it looked like to me.

Frustrated, I daydreamed about giving it all up and doing something ‘easy’. Maybe this wasn’t for me.

The more I daydreamed, the less I enjoyed time when I was at work on my business and I started to slow down. Losing momentum for me meant a slowing down of interest and engagement from my audience in return and I began to tell myself, ‘see, I told you, you couldn’t do it!’ My business demon was stealing my confidence.

 
Don’t compare yourself to others. That’s when you start to lose confidence in yourself.
— Will Smith
 

I’m a fighter. I don’t give up easily and I don’t like being told what to do, so this demon was in for a battle.

I knew that what was really stopping me was that I wasn’t understanding how to leverage my message online to find and expand my audience in this new niche. So, I had to do something about that and I hired a mentor to show me what I couldn’t figure out.

Eight months later and a lot of hard work, I launched the Craft Biz Incubator (something I never expected to do for another five years) and am now helping my first enrolled students build sustainable craft businesses, around which they can build a career.

They are doing so well, I couldn’t be more proud!

 
Craft Biz Incubator Testimonial
 

And me… well I’ve learned yet again to let go of comparison in order to move forward and make things happen.

How to Free Yourself from Harmful Comparison

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Business comparisonitis is something we will all face, and it doesn’t go away with time.

BUT it can be managed.

Here are some tips I have found useful in the pursuit of a more positive mindset;

Don’t let comparison become a distraction, or an excuse to slow your own progress

Distractions result in slower progress, or a lack of progress in your own work. The reason you aren’t where you want to be yet, is because you haven’t done the work to get there. So, turn off your mobile and stop hunting out competitors to see how ‘well’ they are doing, instead look at your business, work out what you need to do to get it where you want it to be, roll-up your sleeves and get to work!

Don’t let comparison take away from your self-worth

The moment we start to doubt ourselves we start to hide away. In business this means disappearing from social media from the fear of not being good enough. We may even start producing less creative products because we have lost faith in our abilities. This is such dangerous ground. Countering this mental attitude is important for self-worth and one of the ways I tackle it is to talk with my customers, to get feedback and to work on making them happy. So, ignore someone else’s success and work on building your loyal following. From here you will see your confidence and self-worth return, because to this loyal following you are an important person, doing important work.

Remember there may be something not working for you that is causing you to compare

Usually I find my biggest comparison trap is when I’m struggling to realise a goal, or when I’m struggling to work out why something isn’t working for me. I find it’s usually something where I have a knowledge gap. In my example above it was understanding how to spread the word of my service-based business, over eleven years of experience in marketing physical products – I thought there would be a natural difference. It was only in learning more about how to market my services better that I understood what I was missing in order to be more successful by my own standards.

Remember there is no such thing as ‘perfect’

I remember reading somewhere (years ago in college) that Bill Gate’s preferred Microsoft to launch products that weren’t yet perfect, because perfection came with working on the details directly with consumers. I felt cheated by that comment, what did he mean by launching something not perfect for consumption… was his inference that we the consumer could be outwitted somehow? The truth of what he meant I now understand as a business owner. He wasn’t implying that he was releasing substandard work, instead he meant that he knew that what ever his version of ‘perfect for launch’ looked like, that Microsoft would learn far more about making something more perfect through consumer use.

 
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
— Bill Gates
 

So if you are procrastinating over launching something, or trying something new with your business and distractions are urging you to compare your products and business to someone else, then remember that there are lessons in all launches and it’s these lessons learned that will help you be more successful with your products and services.

Remember business is a long game, so stop looking at someone else’s middle and comparing it to your start

More often than not, the business you are comparing yourself too has been running for some time and in most cases far longer than you have been open for. What does this mean? It means that this business owner has worked more hours on their business, learnt a lot more from failure and worked hard to get where they have. You can’t compare yourself to that, so there is no point.

If your competitor is a new business appearing almost from nowhere then I can guarantee that if you scratch the surface, the business has been started by someone who has a great knowledge base or set of resources. Results don’t happen in the short term, unless you know exactly how to make them happen.

Remember you don’t know someone else’s full story

Sometimes there’s a jealousy in business comparisonitis. Plain and simple green-eyed jealousy. It comes, I think from not knowing the full story and focusing instead on the glory they see in someone else’s ‘success’. The truth is that the business owner you have been following has probably had sleepless nights over their business and moments of failure too. They will do in the future – just like you. So, put aside your petty jealousy and start to focus on you and your business. How can you do what you want to do, better?

Remember you have to set your own standard for success

The biggest problem with business comparisonitis is that we fail to look at our own standards of success, in that we probably haven’t even decided what the version of our successful business should look like in order to make us happy. That’s the important part of the phrase here, ‘in order to make us happy’. The chances are that although the business owner you are comparing yourself too seems to have it all, the truth is if you had exactly the same success would it make you truly happy. If you really look at it, I bet you would change some things. Setting your own standards for success and setting your own path to it, keeps you focused ultimately on what will make you truly, long-term happy.

Only compare your today to your yesterday

I have found over time that when business comparisonitis strikes I need to take a step back and look at my own progress and in that moment I can truly realise just how far I have come (aka my success points). When you do this, remember to look at the finer details, because even though in the grand scheme of things you might feel no further on, in honesty if you have put in the work you have achieved little steps of improvement. This is to be celebrated.

 

Takeaway

Look, I can’t say I have it all figured out. There will be days ahead of me where I suffer from the green-eyed monster of business comparisonitis. What I have learned though, is that in pushing myself to let go of the crushing negative hold that comparison has on me, I have found a truly freeing self-evolution and realisation. I know where my competitors are and it doesn’t bother me, because I know that my journey is beginning to take its own interesting twists and turns and with that comes moments of my own success, through my learning and leveraging of new skills and opportunities.

 

Resources

 

Tell me; what do you think are the golden rules to avoiding comparison? What do you struggle with the most in letting go? I’d love to know your thoughts – comment below! 👇

 

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