Kicking the Habit of 'Comparing Self to Others' Right in the Nose: How I Plan to Change in 2023


I was going to start off this piece with the claim that one of the big challenges for a creator and in my case specifically a writer, is the toxic habit of comparing myself to others.

Except this nasty little repetitive quirk existed long before I declared myself a professional writer and got my first pay cheque. 

Comparing one to another is a dangerous activity done by one no matter the profession or life choices. I still lack the power of being all-knowing but with great confidence, I can at least use the word 'most' when describing the population afflicted with partaking in comparison.

I was never destined to be the next Michael Jordan, but when it comes to athletic ability, I was probably a few notches below Mr. Bean. But like most, I grew up with lots of kids who loved sports and I had a few close friends that earned the label of 'athletic' or at least had the gift of competent coordination. Even though imagination was more my jam, and I had the power to quickly plunge myself into far off worlds and could craft a sweeping tale off the top of my head, I found myself often comparing my skill in sports with my peers.

The comparison never ended up being golden for my emotional and mental well-being because I couldn't even dribble a basketball until deep into middle school, and my greatest gift in baseball was my ability to spot dandelions. I did win Most Improved Athlete in Grade 8, but likely had more to do with the fact I was now good enough to be a prime benchwarmer rather than completely cut from the team.

There was a strong sports culture among my fellow students, and this is likely what motivated me to care that I wasn't in the league of many of my peers, but the fact it mattered at all to me now seems absurd. Coordination may not be my super skill, but even then, I offered many other things such as my creativity, imagination, humour, and though not perceived as super cool, kindness.

My habit to dabble in comparing my skills or achievements to others has a long history. But the last few years, it has been focused on elements of my career success. And it is always a complete waste of time and an exercise in futility. Yet of course, here I am admitting that I do it anyway.

I look at podcasts that have been around shorter than The Movie Breakdown and see they have several times more the subscribers.

I see Facebook pages with multiple times more the followers.

I stumble on websites that get a multitude of comments with each article.

I have several Facebook friends that are not necessarily using social media to help build their career that seem to effortlessly land massive amount of likes while my biggest wins barely get up to ten.

I see writers my age that have enormous audiences and are landing multiple book deals.

I see writers that appear to get everything they pitch get accepted by editors and publishers.

When I mention all these things, I could just as easily insert the word 'obsess' or 'dwell'. And this may surprise, but doing it never makes me feel good and often is an excellent spark for my depression.

But much like the basketball mostly bouncing off my left foot in Grade 3, none of the above perceptions garnered from comparisons actually matter. None of these things have anything to do with my own success or the potential for my writing career in 2023.

Stephen King had to find a thicker nail to pin up all his rejection letters he received early in his career. I hear he is doing okay now. But in the 1960s, it probably wasn't healthy for him to put his writing success up against Joseph Heller or John le Carre. He has said many times that he never imagined the success his writing career would realize.

Why do I spend so much energy on comparing myself to things that don't really matter?

There are people that are far more successful than me in my chosen field. There are people who are more successful than me at getting engagement in social media. There are people who are far more successful than me at podcasting.

So what?

A while back, I was talking to a fellow writer that has thousands times more the social media followers and has a bestselling book to their credit along with a new podcast that already has way more regular listeners than I have. We weren't really chatting about our careers, but since we both are in the field, it did inevitably come up. I was absolutely shocked when I learned they recently were struggling with their career not being a success, because it was no where near their peers who were being invited to host shows on streaming services and having their works adapted into major movies.

Wait, Hold up. This writer that I admit that I have sometimes struggled with being jealous and feeling had everything figured out also struggles with mental health and constantly frustrates themselves by comparing their accomplishments to others?

Apparently, this comparison thing is an activity that can happen no matter how successful one ends up being. And when one compares, they don't believe they are a success no matter what they can honestly put on their resume.

So, I mind as well take up the daily activity of running headfirst into a tree while humming Gangnam Style, because it is just as worthwhile and valuable as comparing myself to others.

There are many reasons why I can say social media sucks, but a big one is how easy it is to directly line up one's life against another one that appears to be happier and more successful, Except, you never get the full story, and most don't openly post who they are wasting time wishing they could be.

I don't know how my career will turn out in 2023. But I know growing my audience, landing a literary agent, getting sponsorship deals, joining the Online Critics Society, being published by major publications, and writing something that goes 'viral' won't happen by devoting time to stewing that Charlie Penguin got fifty times the likes by posting a photo of himself standing in front of a Subway.

Because who cares? Well, I guess, his followers care, because they hit that like button. But why do I care that the piece I spent hours on only got 5% the likes. It still got likes. It still attracted readers. And tomorrow, I will put my heart into another piece and that will attract some readers too. And I will keep on pushing myself to write better and be more creative, and I will implement strategies, so that my work finds more and more eyeballs.

A creator should want to grow their audience. especially if this is how they have chosen to make a living. I don't think there is anything wrong about having huge dreams that one can constantly push themselves towards. But working hard to be better has nothing to do with comparing one's success with others. If anything, that is the secret formula for disappointment and constant failure.

As I strive for 2023 to be the most successful year for my writing career, I'm opting out of Team Comparison. They have crappy uniforms anyway. If I aspire to make this site a place that is welcoming and positive, and I want to be a writer who can encourage, inspire, and motivate other dreamers, then I am devoting myself to replace comparison with hard-work and optimism.

If you find that you wander down the dark path of comparing your life to others, then I want to encourage you to join me. Team Positive is cooler, and we have cheerleaders too.

Well, we don't, but my daughter could burst out into song at any minute.

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