How to avoid jealousy and the comparison trap // How to avoid jealousy and the comparison trap

You know that feeling you get when someone posts or talks about the new cool project they’re launching? That sinking, panicky feeling of, “Oh man, they’re doing something cool and I’m not doing anything!” That worry of not being as far along as you wanted to be? Afraid that everyone else is ahead of you in a race that doesn’t actually exist? So sure that they’ll take all the readers, clients, customers before you can get your shit together?

That feeling stinks.

Jealousy and comparing yourself to others are the two quickest ways to kill your ambition, motivation, and make yourself feel just plain bad. And it’s not just online; it’s wondering if your coworker is getting better reviews, if your partner’s ex was cuter, smarter, or more fun than you, it’s watching your friend doing something that you wish you could do. Even the most confident person runs into the green-eyed monster every once in a while.

So how do we shut it down?

Every time I start wondering what so & so has got going on over at their blog, I remind myself to stay in my bubble. I literally think this every time my mind starts to wander into comparison-land. I focus on what I’m doing, where I’m going, what my readers would love to read & would benefit most from.

In aerial classes, Irina is big on telling students to not worry about what everyone else is doing and instead be concerned with whether you’ve improved on what you did the week before. Can you hold yourself up longer, move deeper into a pose, run through a routine with more ease? You’ll be much better off if you put your focus on you own progress instead of stopping yourself short by being bummed that you can’t do as much as others.

Online or off it may appear that people are creating things, growing their blogs, and living with the utmost ease. What seems like a picture perfect life may only be a fraction of their story. I’m not writing about all my personal struggles and I’m guessing most bloggers don’t either. Keep that in mind when you start worrying that your life, blog, business doesn’t seem as carefree as others.

Every time you start comparing yourself to someone else try focusing on your strengths. Think of 5 awesome things you’re doing, 5 of your best traits, 5 reasons people read your blog/buy your products, or 5 reasons why you’re lookin’ fly. Make it a habit – jealousy creeps in and your brain should immediately switch into confidence building mode.

Also dig a little deeper and figure out where that jealousy is stemming from. Is there a project you’ve been thinking about but have yet to start? Are you on a path that you’re not satisfied with and yearn to be doing something else? Is someone in your life telling you should to look, be or do something different? Knowing where the feeling is coming from may help you find a strategy to turn it off.

How to keep it from happening in the first place

Clean out (or hide) all those people and sites in your reader, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram who make you feel jealous, sad, annoyed, competitive, or any other no good very bad way. Hell, clean out your offline life too! There’s nothing wrong with politely declining requests from people you constantly compare yourself to or get jealous of.

One of my favorite quotes is “Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.” Stay focused on what’s in front of you instead of wasting time checking on everyone else. They’re not looking at you and worrying what you’re doing, they’re forging ahead. You don’t gain anything from comparing yourself and you might throw yourself off track just by doing so. It’s self-sabotage and it’s not worth it.

What are your best techniques for staving off jealousy and comparison?

Original image Chantal Thomass Spring 2013

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  1. says

    Thanks for writing this post.

    Especially since others are more likely to TALK about what they are doing than I am (the introvert in me), it may seem like they are in a better place and I get concerned. Although I do not choose to block them out, I try to learn from what they are doing and push down my tendency to feel inferior. Just because some people are better at promoting what they do does not mean that I am not doing alright myself.

    “The only way to succeed is to not worry about what anyone else is doing”

    Love your blog! :)

    • says

      Yep! It’s so easy to focus on other people who are always blogging and tweeting their success and forget the awesome things you’re doing yourself.

  2. says

    So true, great post! It’s so easy to start feeling like so many blogs are way better when for all I know that’s someone’s full-time job or other things in their life might be suffering from a great blog… I love your tips, I did that on Twitter a while ago and it really was so refreshing!

    • says

      Exactly – it’s good to take a reality check every once in a while and remember we’re only seeing a fraction of people’s lives. I could come up with a whole crabby post full of complaints but I’m pretty sure people don’t want to read that!

  3. says

    Oh yes, been there, done that, waaaaay too often. One thing I find really helpful is keeping a daily gratititude journal, just a notebook in which I have to write at LEAST 3 things daily that I am grateful for or that make me happy. It makes me appreciate what I have way more. Another thing is celebrating success, no matter how tiny. I’ve recently bought myself some little neon green stickers and I record every little step of progress in my calendar and stick a green dot next to it, taking a moment to savour that little bit of progress, no matter how small. It makes you realise how much you actually do get done as opposed to just seeing the completion of big projects now and then.

      • says

        Haha, that’s a cool idea :) I don’t have an iPhone, but the gratitude journal does help with a daily moment of reflection. And it has me making mental notes on what I could write down in the evening throughout the day.
        The sticker “reward” system has been really motivating recently :) You just want to fill your calendar pages with little green dots ^^ I really feel it makes a difference when you give credit to the little achievements instead of thinking everyday “man, I still haven’t finished that big project…” Instead it’s “whoohoo, another three little steps towards finishing the big project!”

  4. says

    This is such a great reminder! I’ve been known to get hung up comparing myself to others and I try my best to stop those thoughts when it happens. I do find that a little bit of jealously pushes me to better myself, especially in my work. The goal is to not let it consume you, which is sometimes easier said than done.

    • says

      Yep – definitely have to find that balance. I keep a few really successful designers in my Twitter and reader to almost set the bar and keep me going.

  5. says

    Hi Sarah – this was a great post to read today. Not only because we all need reminding, but also because yesterday I was totally down in the dumps about something related to this. I think the reminder to not compare the beginning of our jourey to someone elses middle is just what I needed. I’m at the beginning of my journey in one part of my life, and I was so down yesterday because I saw someone else who was farther along then I am. It’s a good reminder to just keep going on my own journey and not worry about the others, as I will definitely get there one day. Thanks for the well-said post! :)

    • says

      Then I’m glad I picked it out of my drafts! That quote helped me a lot too when I was getting started and it seemed like every other blogger was racing ahead of me.

  6. says

    I hate to admit it, but jealousy gets the better of me far more often than it should. I’m guessing it stems from low self-esteem, which is a hard *itch to kill. This post really helped a lot though. Honestly, it’s going in the bookmarks for when I start feeling a little green-eyed again.

    Confession? I’ve felt jealous of you quite a lot! I know how silly that is, since I love your blog and your personality that shines through it, plus you’re a huge inspiration. I just wanted to say thank you for that, and don’t ever stop doing what you’re doing!

    • says

      Thanks Whitney! No need to feel jealous, I have completely shitty days like everyone else. I post a few cranky tweets, but I find the less I complain the easier those days fade away. I think jealously definitely relates to self-esteem. I know the better I feel about myself the less I care what other people are doing, though it’s not always easy to feel that way all the time. It’s almost like muscle memory – the more you catch yourself and refocus your thoughts the easier it becomes.

  7. says

    It’s like you read my mind! I JUST logged on to facebook and saw something that instantly took me to that jealous place. THANK you for posting this today, and reminding me that I’m doing good things!

    And Hi, I’m Katie! I don’t think I’ve commented before!

  8. says

    Such an honest post. Inside us all there is a green eyed monster waiting to come out haha. There were times it used to be sitting on my shoulder but I’ve had a word with it now. And myself for that matter! Instead of dwelling on other peoples achievements I’ve channelled my energies into creating my own achievements and I feel so much better for it. Great post. P.S I’ve had a blog makeover and have added one of your buttons. xx

  9. says

    It’s so funny because I just wrote a post like this stemming off of my WANT to open an etsy shop but not really being there yet. Remembering that quote that you posted above and being patient while working hard helps me keep confident! Thanks Sarah for another great post!

    xx Jess
    Jess Classy | design x lifestyle

  10. says

    But if you cut out the people whom you’re jealous of, wouldn’t that be extinguishing an inspirational fire that could drive you to be better? I mean, I get that the feeling of jealousy is bad, but the people that you’re jealous of… are usually pretty awesome and worthy of that jealousy.


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