Living in this era of social media makes falling into the comparison trap all too easy. And this doesn't just apply to our personal lives; many small business owners, creatives, and entrepreneurs building their start-up businesses see and hear about the successes of others on a daily basis, and wish to emulate it. We can feel like we’re not doing enough, or achieving enough, ignoring the fact that we’re all different, and at different points in our lives.
But we can only live our own lives, run our own businesses, and bring what we have as individuals to the table. Which is why every day I remind myself to 'stay in my own lane'.
Am I falling into the comparison trap?
If you're not sure whether you are straying into another lane, ask yourself:
Am I looking at what others are doing with their lives, and then making a decision about what to do with mine based on that?
Are my decisions based on what I think I should be doing, and based on what I’ve seen?
Am I more focused on other people than on what I am doing?
It takes an incredibly strong person to never do any of those things. But the truth is that if you try to emulate another person's journey too closely, then you might end up in the wrong place for you.
We can certainly learn from others, but we should discard the elements that don’t work for us, tweak others and apply learnings in our own way, making sure everything feels right for us and our own version of success.
How do we stay in our own lane?
1. Choose inspiration over intimidation
Staying in your own lane is difficult, especially as we engage with our community and peers on social media, read other people's blogs, and consume video and audio content.
The answer is not to stop all of that, as it's often incredibly motivating, educational and uplifting content. A good podcast makes me feel like I am in conversation with friends, and I have learned so much over the years from others online, on both a personal and professional basis. But it is sensible to be careful about how much content we consume, so that we don’t get overwhelmed or ‘psyche ourselves out’ by believing we could never match up to others.
After a few too many episodes in a row, event the most inspiring podcast hosts can leave us feeling intimidated, and we can lose track of our own sense of self. It's brilliant to learn from and cheer on others, but fulfilment ultimately comes from focusing on ourselves and our own work.
Be selective with your consumption, seek out what you need within the moment rather than trying to absorb everything the internet has to offer. And if you begin to feel intimidated, switch off for a while. Only consume what inspires you.
2. Take responsibility for yourself
If we’re taking responsibility for ourselves, choosing ourselves, and remembering that we can control our own lives, we’re less likely to fall into the comparison trap.
Or at least, when we do fall into it (we’re human after all!), reminding ourselves of this will help us to find our way back out.
Rather than looking at what other people are doing, remember that the only thing that matters is what you am doing, and how you are reacting. Because if we can't make ourselves happy, how could we expect anyone or anything else to?
This extends making ourselves happy and being immune to the comparison trap: if we are satisfied with who we are and how we are showing up, then outside influences cannot affect us so easily.
Remembering all of this and taking responsibility takes practice, but it feels incredibly empowering and helps us to stay focused on what we’re doing.
3. Create and remember your anchor
An anchor is a thing, a mission, or set of values that help us to stay focused on what we’re working towards. They bring us back to what really matters, and allow us to take a step back from comparing ourselves to others: we can look at something objectively and ask ourselves if something aligns with our version of success.
I use my values as my anchor. I shared them for all to see, and so that I don't lose track of them. They are what I want for my business, and they represent how I want to show up in the world. They remind me of what I am working towards, and why it is fruitless to focus on others.
In identifying your anchor and values, it can be interesting to ask yourself:
What would I do if no one was judging?
How do I want to feel in life / business?
How do I want to make others feel, and how can I serve others?
What am I trying to achieve?
And if you're bogged down in negative beliefs or fear, ask yourself:
Who could I be without this thought / belief / feeling?
The answers will help you to start understanding what really matters to you, and forget about the rest.
Wherever you are right now, it's likely to be a necessary part of your growth, your path. Remember: everything had to happen exactly as it did to get you to where you are going next.
By doing what you want, what feels right for you, you're more likely to be aligned with your own set of values, leading to greater future happiness.