Updated February 5, 2016
I got an email the other day from someone who basically asked, “How do you not get discouraged by the success of others?”
I think this is a great question and one I’m sure we all deal with from time to time.
Comparing myself to others is absolutely a struggle of mine. I have not conquered it, but here’s my basic process for dealing with it.
1. It happens, deal with it
I do get discouraged by the success of others, plain and simple. I often hear (and have said myself!) things like, “Blogging is not about competition, but community.” Or, “Blogging is not about competition, but collaboration.”
To an extent that’s true, but let’s face it, most of us are comparing ourselves to others on some level or another. (I wonder how much traffic she has? I wonder how much money he’s making? Look how many Facebook fans she has. I wish I had that opportunity. Wow, look at how many comments she got!)
If those are thoughts that run through your head, recognize them. Don’t act like they aren’t happening. It’s much easier to fight the beast (and live) if you’re willing to accept that it exists.
2. Call it what it is
When thoughts like those do run through your head, be honest. Where do they come from? Jealousy? Envy? Or maybe you feel inspired and you really don’t have ill feelings about the other person.
Mostly my thoughts fit within the jealousy/envy category, but sometimes the negative stuff really is absent and I can sincerely be happy for someone else. But when the feelings are negative and wrong, I need to face that and recognize it as such.
If it’s sin, confess it and then ask for grace going forward.
3. Rewrite the script
Change the subject in your brain. Move on to something else. If those thoughts start rollin’ in, slam the “pause” button. I actually envision myself punching a “pause” button sometimes. It’s a surprisingly effective trick.
4. Avoid it
I find the best way to fight jealousy and discouragement is to avoid them altogether. Don’t even go there. Don’t check out what she wrote today. Don’t look at the number of comments. Don’t compare follower numbers. Just don’t. Pull out your to do list and do your own thing.
5. Compare down, not up
Why is it that we always compare ourselves to those who have more than us but rarely compare ourselves to those who have less than us?
I’ve recently tried to make a habit of comparing myself to those with less than me. I find it encourages generosity toward others, rather than grasping at things for myself. I want to be generous. I don’t want to be a green ogre.
6. Practice gratitude
When I really stop and think about what I do have, it’s pretty much blows my mind. From the unexpected gift of a close parking space to a really fantastic family, I could spend all day listing out the things for which I’m grateful. Thinking about those things has a way of pushing the other stuff out.
7. Reach out (and a real life story)
As I mentioned, sometimes I just need to avoid whatever it is that pulls me into the jealousy / discouragement vortex. On the other hand, sometimes facing it is exactly what deflates the entire overgrown monster. I’ll give you a real life example that happened to me. (She has no idea I’m saying this and I don’t think she’ll mind.)
So, I was blogging for many years in my closet. Not literally in my closet, but I didn’t talk to anyone online. I was content to do my own thing. By myself. Leave me alone. Don’t talk to me. Because I’m part hermit.
Anyway, I thought I’d start a web design business to make some cash. It was my first real foray into making money online. So, I put a site together and got a few clients.
At the same time, everyone around me was talking about Joy from Five J’s Design. I visited her site on several occasions and even though I had never met her or interacted with her, I decided I didn’t like her. Why? Because I was jealous of course.
Then I went to a blogging conference in 2010 and guess what? I met her. And guess what? It was LIKE! at first sight.
Have you ever met one of those people that you think, Oh my stars, this girl gets me. Who else in this world appreciates the beauty of CSS and HTML and has a pastor for a husband ALL AT THE SAME TIME!?!? Five J’s, that’s who.
Late nights chatting on Skype about marriage, being a pastor’s wife, kids and life ensued. Design ideas (mostly her sharing her design wisdom and knowledge with me, not the other way around) abounded.
We’ve hung out and our kids have played together at the park. We’ve gone out for dinner. We’ve commiserated.
And then, when I decided I didn’t really like design after all? I hired her to design for me and I had someone I could confidently refer others to.
Sure, sometimes I wish she would lend me some of her brain cells, but you know what? I’ve got a brain too and we eventually decided that together, with her design ability and my usability ideas, we make a pretty good team.
My point is, the whole jealousy thing with Joy that I had built up in my mind has since evaporated. Completely. I’m sad when I think of what I would have missed if I had never gotten over what I thought she was like. I was so wrong.
I won’t say, “Never compare yourself to others,” because you might.
I won’t say, “Never be discouraged with the success of others,” because it’s hard not to.
What I will say is, don’t sell yourself short by entertaining, embracing and nurturing those thoughts. Fight ’em. Hard if you have to.
I saw a quote once, “Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to.”