You’ve probably heard of the saying, “comparison is the thief of joy”, which -let’s be honest- we all know to be true. When it comes to creative businesses, it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of comparison when we look for inspiration from other creative business owners.
I like to say that there is a thin line between inspiration and comparison. So how do we prevent ourselves from comparing ourselves to people who we’ve previously sought inspiration from and protect the joy in our own businesses?
First we have to know the difference between inspiration and comparison:
When you are inspired, it’s all systems go! You look forward to working and enthusiastically ticking everything from that to-do list and making sure your goals are on track.
Inspiration is there to serve as a nudge to get your brain firing and to work. It’s there to offer an optional road when you feel like you should turn back.
It’s a guide, a suggestion and an “aha!” moment.
It’s the Pinterest boards that you carefully curate and refer back to when things seem to have taken a pause.
The feeling of inspiration is a great one; artists have gone above and beyond in search of inspiration and to many, inspiration could be the difference between failure and success.
I’m sure at several points in your life you have received, seen or heard inspiration that set you onto something amazing. For many of us, it was inspiration that came like a flash of lightning on an otherwise dark day that lit up everything and made things clear.
It’s amazing and brings joy, happiness and motivation. It’s the fuel we need to actually get somewhere.
If you feel yourself starting to compare yourself to others, backtrack. Backtrack fast! I promise you, there is no good that comes from comparison.
When you begin walking down the road of comparison, every hard work you’ve put into your business begins to look pointless. “I’ll never make as much money or get as many clients. Others in my niche seem to be doing much better than I am and within a short amount of time.”
Sounds familiar? It’s that tiny voice in your head that just gets louder and louder the more you feed it by continuing down the path of comparison.
When you’ve been walking that path long enough, you lose passion in your business; everything just seems like an unwanted chore and the to-do lists gather dust or remain blank. Goal deadlines pass and don’t get amended. Strategies don’t get reviewed and your business begins to feel like a heavy burden that you just want to hide from. Then the voice tells you, “just quit. This is clearly not going to work.”
Scary, huh? Imagine working so, so hard and putting everything in your biz just to have comparison threaten to take it all away and make you quit. And most times, we don’t realise this until it’s too late.
But look, you are not a quitter and we aren’t quittin’ over here.
How to get out of the trap:
It’s still okay to look to others for inspiration but to stay on the right side of that line, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind:
Everyone’s journey is different
Sure, maybe the starting point may have been similar to yours but we all take different paths on our way to our objective (yes, even if our objectives are the same). Because we don’t live the exact same lives and have the exact same circumstances, it’s impossible for us to have the exact same journey.
Believe me, life factors and circumstances greatly impact the kinds of journeys we take. So don’t despair when people reach their goals sooner than you do.
There will always be someone better
This directly ties in with the point above. It’s not something we really want to hear but it’s the truth. There will always be be someone who does things much better than you do, that’s the fact of life. There’s probably someone who looks up to YOU and thinks you do things way better than them. It’s the way it is.
The best way to get over this is to instead focus on being better than you were yesterday. Be in competition with yourself instead of with other people. This way, you’re almost guaranteed wins.
Take this from someone who used to play games alone as a kid, with only herself as the other competitor. Shh, let's keep this between us.
Achievements deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated
It is really important to take notes of your achievements and celebrate them, no matter how little they are. Don’t wait until you achieve a huge goal to celebrate; if you’ve put in the work, you deserve to celebrate right here, right now!
Celebrate any and every small wins, be it crossing everything off of today’s to-do list (or even one list), tidying up your work desk or even just doing something productive during a time where it’s hard to be.
The only time you should look back on your journey is to see and take note of how far you’ve come and celebrate that. Perhaps, currently it will not seem as if you’ve done much but I dare you to make a list of the things you’ve achieved from when you first began to this moment in time. It's getting a little long, isn't it?
Competition doesn’t mean you get to fail
Competitiveness isn’t all bad; it can be a great motivating factor to kick your behind into work. It only gets bad when it becomes obsessive to the point where everything you do is to be better than your competitor regardless of the why and aims of your business.
Competition can be healthy and it doesn’t mean that you get to fail. Don’t look at your competitors like an enemy; instead look at them as a source of motivation. If they can get there, what’s stopping you? Remember, it’s not a race but a journey. In races you are focused on getting there before everyone else. On a journey, you’re focused on growing and discovering new things before you reach your destination. And since it’s not a race, there are no losers.
Imitation isn't flattery
Be very careful to not copy what the business or person inspiring you is doing. You don’t have to use the same tools, programs, software, copy voice, graphics, photos etc, as they do. Even if they suggest them.
Because your business is different, what works for them won’t necessarily work for you. Otherwise, before you know it, you would have transformed your business into just another copy and trust me, your audience will know and things wouldn’t fair well to you.
Simply put, stick to your own lane. Acknowledge suggestions but experiment with what works for your business before sticking to things because they work for them.
See how easy it can be to fall into the trap of comparison? I myself have toed the line between inspiration and comparison many times and have even fallen into the trap. When we recognise the signs when inspiration is dangerously threatening to become comparision, we can stop ourselves just in time and save our sanity and businesses too!
I’d like to hear from you. How do you stop yourself from comparing yourself to other creative businesses in your niche. Have you been inspired by a person and had that turn to comparison? Please feel free to comment below!