“First thing in the morning, I check Twitter, only to have it list off for me all the ways I’ve already fallen behind. A colleague has released a new e-book. Two of my design heroes are announcing a collaborative project. One of my old college buddies has posted a video trailer for an upcoming online program, and she looks phenomenal, polished, charismatic. (I’m still in bed, bleary-eyed, and definitely not at my most telegenic.)”
Whether your personality type is INFP, ISFJ, or even ESTJ, we’re guessing you fall victim—perhaps even daily—to The Comparison Trap.
Though it’s easy to blame social media for many of our modern societal ills, the problem isn’t exactly modern, nor does it have much to do with Twitter. “This isn’t a social media problem. It’s a comparison problem,” says author Lauren Bacon in her 99U article, The Comparison Trap.
She should know. Bacon spent the last year collaborating with leadership coach Tanya Geisler to see how comparison works, what it costs us, and what it can teach us. The result is their digital program called Beyond Compare.
One of their key findings? Just how rampant it is among every creative, growth-oriented person they knew.
It turns out learning how NOT to be jealous, isn’t all that easy. (And, no, it’s not by using the Power of Positive Thinking.) Science keeps proving that comparing yourself to others is hardwired in humans. In fact, in a classic study by Emory University scientist Frans de Waal, a group of capuchin monkeys who perceived they were getting a bad deal compared to the another group of capuchins, threw cucumber slices at the experimenter’s face. But that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through it during your morning coffee and foray into the Twitterverse.
Bacon points out that “admiration and envy are responses that point us toward what we value most. And when we become aware of what we value, we are much better positioned to create a life that’s richly satisfying.”
The next time you’re caught in someone’s success spotlight—say, your old workmate is killing it, according to LinkedIn, anyway—try one of her quick methods to turn your outside comparison on their heads:
- What qualities in her/him inspires me?
- Where do I currently embody these qualities?
- How might my expression of these qualities differ from his/hers?
- What can I learn from my desire to embody these qualities more fully?
Of course, the change isn’t going to come overnight. But starting to break free from The Comparison Trap is worthwhile not just for your personal life, but your creative life, too.
As Lauren Bacon puts it, “There’s gold to be found in your comparison habit, if you’re willing to look for it.”