Are you suffering from Compare & Despair? Read on...
They say you can figure out if you’re an extrovert or an introvert by where you gain your strength; for some it’s gained by being around others and for the rest it’s sourced by being alone. I definitely fall into the latter camp.
Now, why am I telling you this?
Because for a long time I thought I couldn’t succeed in running my own business as I wasn’t the most outgoing type. Sure, I can hold a conversation and I am not afraid to introduce myself to others, but I’m not someone who thrives on traditional forms of "networking" and I don't fill social media with #selfies (nothing wrong with it, just not my style).
I would look at others and fall into a pit of Compare and Despair, thinking that who I was somehow fell short of who I “should” be. The fact I had 15+ years experience working in content and marketing, as well as senior roles in some of the most innovative companies in the world all fell to the way side, as the one perceived personality trait I convinced myself I needed for business, was missing.
Mark Twain famously said, ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. It’s one thing to look around at industry standards or hold yourself accountable to your own objectives. It’s quite another to let comparison to other people (many of whom you don’t even know) determine your own self-worth.
So, how did I work through these feelings and launch a successful consulting business? With a little help from my friends (cue Joe Cocker) and the following tactics:
1. Switch Off
If you find yourself riding the comparison train, simply get off. You have the choice who you follow on social media, how often you scroll through your perceived ‘competitors’ feed or how frequently you walk into a competitor’s store. If you’re not learning anything and, more importantly, beginning to feel envious or negative when looking at other brands / people, simply unfollow / stop visiting them and switch off. You’re in control.
2. Ask For Feedback
I send a survey through to every client I work with (using Google Forms or Survey Monkey). I have also asked colleagues, collaborators and friends to let me know three things I do well and one thing I could improve on in a business sense. Getting this honest feedback not only allows me to continuously improve, but enables me to see myself the way others do and be proud of the things I do well.
3. Meet Up With Likeminded People
One of the best things I’ve done is to create a circle of likeminded small business owners around me. These are people I utterly trust and respect and who I meet up with monthly to discuss business challenges, industry issues and opportunities. We encourage, support and inspire one another. It’s hard to despair when you have a cheer squad on your side.
4. Get Some Sleep
Once, on the day I was due to fly from Sydney back to Melbourne, I overslept, waking up ten minutes before checkout. I felt completely refreshed. Now, that doesn't happen often but I know when I make the effort to go to sleep a little earlier, I generally wake up less inclined to compare and despair. For more on this check out The Sleep Revolution, another gem from Arianna Huffington.
5. Just Do You
We don’t compare fingerprints because we know we can’t. Yet, for some reason we try to compare ourselves, when, just like fingerprints each is utterly unique influenced by different experiences. Next time you're hit with a dose of comparisonitis take a minute to really study your own fingerprints. You can only ever be who YOU are. Embrace it.
Don’t let comparison steal the joy away from starting or growing your own small business. The only person who loses is you.
(Ever wondered if you're an introvert or extrovert? I find the 16 Personalities Test useful, particularly when I'm working in a team. It enables you to understand how best to communicate with and manage others who may have different personalities.)