The Comparison Trap, Part I

Last weekend, I had the privilege of speaking at a Ladies Event. I spoke to a room full of intelligent, dream-filled, go-getting women about how often we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with others.

I’ve noticed in my life that this isn’t just an issue faced by women. It’s something we all deal with on a pretty regular basis. As leaders and even as volunteers, we often run into thoughts of how we gauge ourselves against others. “Am I good enough?” “Can I do this?” Turn into thoughts of “I will never be as good at this as her.” “He’s such a good leader, I’m nothing like him.”

Comparison is often fueled by 4 things: Fear, Doubt, Competition, and what I call “The Wait”.

Here are four prescriptions to help you fight the feelings that fuel comparison:

Symptom: Fear
Prescription: Replace

I read an article the other day that said 2017 was the year of anxiety. Mass violence has created social and crowd anxiety. There’s even something now called Eco-anxiety. It’s a fear of natural disasters and climate changes. This fear has become prevalent because we’ve had so many natural disasters lately. Hurricanes, all the wildfires, droughts, tsunamis, earthquakes, and flash floods.

We are constantly being bombarded and over stimulated with news, content, and images.

Our generation is one of the most anxious and fearful populations, and we live during a time of relative peace, prosperity, and safety. Why are we so afraid?!

Research shows us that we are only born with two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Everything else is learned, which means everything else can be unlearned.

As leaders, we are often afraid that we will not be good enough. That we won’t measure up. That we may fail. We’re so scared we’ll never get that thing that we’ve wanted for so long. We’re afraid to try. We’re afraid we’ll end up alone. Afraid of…fill in the blank.

But some statistics show that 85% of those things that we worry about will never happen. In the meantime, all that fear of the future, all those “what ifs,” are keeping us from accomplishing our dreams of a better future. It almost turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Being so fearful that you won’t succeed that you never end up trying, thus bringing to life those very fears.

So, what’s the solution?

I love the quote by Mitch Matthews, “Don’t forget fear, replace it.”

We can’t just ignore our fear. That doesn’t do anything. It will just keep coming back stronger and stronger. We have to REPLACE it with something else.

I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

Every time we are tempted to feed our fear, we can choose to replace it with something else. We can replace it with love, replace it with actionable steps, replace it with a shift in our focus.

Mitch has a 3 Bucket technique of overcoming worry. He suggests asking the following three questions and then placing each in one of the three buckets

Can I control it?

Can I influence it?

Do I need to let it go?

If it falls in Bucket #1, you have direct control over it and can take steps to change it. If it falls in Bucket #2, you have influence over the end result and can take small practical steps to bring change. If it falls in Bucket #3, you will have to let it go and replace those fears with something positive.

Symptom: Doubt
Prescription: Recharge

Comparison is also fueled by doubt.

There is an issue common among graduate students called Imposter Syndrome. It is the persistent fear that someone will come along and unmask you as a fraud. Even though they have many examples of outward success, these individuals feel that their achievements are only due to luck. But it’s not a lack of their ability that is at the root of this problem. Graduate students and other high achievers who suffer from Imposter Syndrome are often really struggling with self-doubt.

Growing up we spend a lot of our time trying to figure out who we are and what our purpose is for our life. We often think we will eventually outgrow any feelings of insecurity or discomfort in our skills and abilities, but the truth is, until we know who we belong to, we will never entirely find stability in who we are.

When we compare ourselves to other people, we lose sight of who we are and that slowly erodes our identity.

What’s the solution to doubt? We need to recharge.

The definition of recharge is to, “restore an electric charge to (a battery or a battery-operated device) by connecting it to a device that draws power from another source of electricity.” When we recharge, we connect to the original source that gave us momentum in the first place.

As Christians, we recharge by spending time with God. Simple steps like reading the Bible and praying, connect us to our Father and reaffirms our identity.

In an article for the American Psychological Association, Kirsten Weir suggests several steps to overcome Imposter Syndrome and feelings of doubt:

Realize no one is perfect.

Change your thinking.

Remember what you do well.

Recognize your expertise.

We’ll cover the last two symptom’s of Comparison – Competition and The Wait – in next week’s article. In the meantime, make sure you subscribe to the blog, so you get alerts when we post!

4 thoughts on “The Comparison Trap, Part I”

    1. Thanks so much, Mitch! Love your blog, podcast, and books. I read Ignite at the beginning of the year and was really motivated to DREAM BIG. Thanks for all the great content to help people follow their dreams.

  1. Pingback: The Comparison Trap, Part II – Volunteer U

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