The topic of comparison is one that is seen and discussed everywhere–we’ve discussed it on the podcast in a variety of conversations–but we haven’t discussed it directly and it’s time. I see too many clients and friends suffering because of it and allowing it in where it doesn’t belong.

So today we’ll cover what it is, why we do it, what it does to us, and what we can do with it. (Hint: It’s either leverage it or lose it.) I realize it’s meta to compare the helpful and harmful aspects of comparison, but somebody’s gotta do it. So, let’s go!

Overview of Comparison

Comparison is a natural human trait that helps us learn and understand new concepts. We use comparison to explain a new topic to somebody because when we are working with what’s already familiar, we speed up the connections. We compare and contrast in order to make the best choices for ourselves. And that’s a given nowadays because we’re inundated with options in stores to the point of analysis paralysis and decision fatigue. Those are also pitfalls of comparing, but today I want to cover one that I think is more insidious than those.

One quick caveat before I share what that is…when it comes to sharing ideas and choosing what works best for you, comparing can be really useful as long as you compare accurately and appropriately. 

The Helpful Side of Comparison

The phrase “apples to apples” readily shows you what I mean. If you find similar concepts and are descriptive, it can work in your favor. You can even use it successfully for your business when you are talking about features: “My strategy sessions are like a professional organizing & decluttering session, only for your mind and calendar.” 

See? You can visualize one thing and then make the mental connection to the other to quickly understand. 

That’s awesome! 

Where we struggle with comparison is when we start comparing ourselves to others. That is when comparison no longer offers us helpful data or inspiration and instead becomes the thief of joy.

There’s a phrase I’ve used “Compare and Despair” that I’m reminded of whenever this topic comes up. It’s easy to remember because it rhymes and because more often than not, comparison leads to dissatisfaction.

I noticed it early in my coaching. One of the first things I wrote because of that–that’s still in my free resources library–was a checklist called Stop Saying Should: Seven Sneaky Ways we Sabotage our Happiness and Productivity. One of the seven is this kind of comparison. 

Why? Because person-to-person comparison gives us inaccurate data that drags us down. 

The Harmful Side of Comparison

Comparing ourselves to others makes us feel like we’re “not enough”. And that feeling leads us to fix problems that don’t exist and chase goals that aren’t achievable while being vulnerable consumers. “Not enoughness” is one of the biggest clutter culprits. 

I’ve seen and product companies rely on it for sales. Not enoughness is linked to feeling unworthy and not only is that completely inaccurate because you arrive on this planet worthy…it also suffers from the flawed logic of using someone else’s ruler to measure your greatness. There’s a saying if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. Too often comparing ourselves to others makes us the fish putting ourselves in the tree!

Even when comparison could be used to inspire, we often do it inaccurately. Have you ever heard the phrase “don’t compare your life to someone’s highlight reel”? I mentioned that one in a bonus episode I did with Alesia Galati on how our mental health is more important than our productivity

This is one of the biggest mistakes we make because we see what others are doing and make assumptions that work against us. It comes from a concept called Positional Bias, where we tend to compare “up” more often than “down” relative to our own standing. And social media influencers are only perpetuating this tendency.

Worst of all, comparison causes us to play small and avoid doing what we’ve dreamed of or even have planned and worked on because we see someone else is already doing it or we perceive what they are doing is better so why bother? We ask Who am I to do this? Who wants to see my version? 

If I went with that theory, you wouldn’t be listening to this podcast! Do you know how many are out there? And isn’t it ironic that all the different product companies don’t worry about repeat options? They just put out new options every day and all you need to do is walk through a cereal aisle in the grocery store and tell me again how your story, your version, your message, your creation doesn’t have a place!?

And your story? That’s especially powerful.

Benefits of Telling Your Unique Story

Your survival story, for example, could be someone else’s survival guide. And I don’t mean a story that’s been told by others. I mean *yours*.

If you decide NOT to do it, then what? I’ve lost count of how many times have I found a comment or blog online that helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.

And YOU are the distinctive element behind what you share. Nothing is original, except you. Not even what I’m sharing here today. There is something in the way we share it that reaches our audience differently. You say something just hits different and that cannot be discounted.

Also, as unique individuals, our experiences differ enough that you sharing yours can make a huge difference. 

My Unique Story

I’m remembering years back as a caregiver for my mom, I needed support and I searched online to find someone like me. 

I searched for caregivers who were dealing with Alzheimer’s. I searched for caregivers who were caring for their moms–caring for the women who used to care for us is especially hard on the heart. I even found caregivers with children. But I couldn’t find anyone else who had been pregnant while being a caregiver to someone with cognitive disease. And I definitely didn’t find someone who had been pregnant TWICE. 

I searched for someone who could talk to me about watching their mom struggle with a puzzle that their toddler completed in minutes. I struggled to find someone with the same sleep deprivation I had because of my mom AND my kids. And I couldn’t find anyone like that. It’s actually what started me speaking at Alzheimer’s events and reaching out to others. 

All this to say…there are many people out there who were in the same shoe store as I was, so to speak, but not quite in the same shoes.

I know as a multi-passionate creative, you are meant to design and share your gifts with the world. So, my dear listener, don’t let comparison not only rob you of your joy but rob the world of your gifts too. 

Stop comparing and allowing it to confirm your suspicions that you aren’t enough. That’s another bias, by the way. It’s called Confirmation Bias and it’s where your brain cherry-picks information to prove you right. Don’t let comparison drive your mindset limitations. While it’s ok to see what’s out there to see what’s possible, it’s imperative you decide to do YOUR life YOUR way.

How to Maximize the Helpful Side of Comparison

What steps can you take now to maximize the helpful side of comparison and minimize the harmful?

1. When you compare, stay CURIOUS. 

When you’re curious, you keep judgment out of it. Look around to see what’s possible and collect the data, but if you start to feel down, cut yourself off.

2. Limit your time on social media, reviewing people you see as peers or competitors. 

If you don’t feel good and inspired watching them, it’s time to unfollow.

3. Focus on nurturing your authenticity. 

Figure out what makes you uniquely you and focus on that. It’s like comparison kryptonite because the very nature of being one-of-a-kind doesn’t allow for comparison

Want to check out my “Stop Saying Should” checklist? Head to https://positivelyproductive.com/resources/ The library is filled with all the worksheets I use with clients plus tons of bonus content, all designed to help you do less, live more, and breathe easier. 

I know I say it a lot, but I appreciate our time together. Remember how I mentioned all the podcasts out there? Well, I am so thankful you are listening and sharing this one with others. 

Whether you tag me in an image on social media (I’m positively_lisa on Instagram), add a review on Apple or a rating on Spotify, or simply share episode links, it makes a big difference. 

And I’d love to hear directly from you. Did this episode resonate? Have you struggled with comparison? Is there another topic you’d like to hear? Message me and let me know. I will happily reply and keep creating the content you want and need to hear. 


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