I asked my newsletter subscribers what they struggle most with in their business, and some of them raised comparisonitis.
It's become a bit of a buzzword amongst small business owners but if you've never heard of it, then it's likely you're already in your lane and don't suffer from it!
Comparisonitis is the compulsion to compare one's accomplishments to another's to determine relative importance and self worth (Wiktionary)
And I totally get this, because I’ve suffered with it intermittently over the years and it can leave you feeling completely defeated and deflated - and lacking in the energy you need to move forwards.
With the rise of micro influencers and lower barriers to entry to business than ever before, it can feel like we're competing against the world and his dog on social media.
What I know for sure, is that there are a lot of people on Instagram who know a darn sight less than you about your subject, but who appear to be the expert because they’re showing up with shed loads of energy and confidence...
Wallflowers like us aren't helping anyone by sitting on the sidelines, wallowing in our modesty, waiting to be recognised.
It seems to me that if we want others to see us, then we have to recognise ourselves as an expert first; only then can show up in the right way and kick comparisonitis to the curb.
"Just stay in your lane and put the blinkers on", they say - Not as easy as that though, is it?
Repeating ‘I deserve to own this space’ 100 times a day doesn’t work.
You can repeat mantras until you’re blue in the face, but if your subconscious doesn’t actually believe you deserve to own the space, then that’s what's going to affect the experience for us.
Some of this comes with experience and personal development, so there might not be a quick fix, but these are some of the practical things that have helped me to quieten the comparison.
What I wish I'd have known sooner about comparisonistis...
You need to reframe your story to unlock your gifts
Comparisonitis has showed up for me a lot because I didn’t start my working life in a creative vocation - I started it as an accountant working for retailers including John Lewis & Harrods.
I’m a career changer and I’ve self taught myself all things branding, photography, website design and SEO.
Being a career changer and being self taught can make you feel like a fraud when you’re starting out - ‘who am I to call myself a designer / photographer / SEO expert? (*edit as required).
But when I started instead to focus less on what was lacking (such as a formal qualification and agency background) and more on how my experience brings an entirely different perspective to my projects, I could see that my offer was actually incredibly unique.
A solid background in the foundations of business.
A unique empathy for career changers so I can hold their hand as they create their brand.
A passion for helping others to find freedom after corporate.
The ability to provide a holistic, joined up service right from branding to photography to web.
A very personal and bad experience with my first website (Wordpress) that led me to find a more empowered solution and to master Wix.
An obsession with learning and adding new skills to my mix, so that my clients can always benefit from an increased portfolio of services.
This is different to my competition - which is a great thing!
Your unique story and tapestry of experience will be your point of differentiation too, and the more of this that you can bring to your brand, the better...as confirmed here by a client that I am onboarding this week for web, brand and photos.
The main reason for choosing for you is I admire your story, your style and I feel that you will be collaborative in approach whilst still holding my hand with advice.... and of course will produce something beautiful and impressive to meet my needs!
Having a strong website and brand behind you will give you confidence
When you're building a business, passion is not enough. You need it, but more than passion you need to unlock the purpose that drives that passion. And then you need a brand that is aligned to that purpose...so that other people can feel it too.
I can not begin to tell you how much more energy I have for marketing my business now I’ve spent some time realigning my website to my brand (still work in progress as my rebrand is not yet launched)
It gives me a new confidence to respond to enquiries, and makes me want to actively promote my services.
Get the basics in place - but know that they’ll evolve.
Start creating credible expert content early
Every morning for years I would wake up with the copy for a blog post running though my head, and every day for years I would ignore these words.
I'd think to myself:
"Oh yes, that's a great topic for an Instagram live...I’d better make a note of it so that when I get the confidence to do one, I’ve got a list of things to chat about"
Dear Idea, thank you for visiting me in the night, but it's a no.
My strength and what I enjoy is not talking to camera, it’s the written word. And I’d been ignoring my blog and my newsletter for years.
When I finally started blogging, rather than pushing these ideas down, I was giving them form through my posts.
As I wrote more and more, it was as if I had turned on the tap in other areas of my business too - leads, enquiries, bookings. I can’t explain this, other than to say that I had stopped fighting against my natural tendencies and was finally owning my voice.
My mindset also shifted just knowing that I had a growing base of content behind me, which meant I felt confident to actively market my business.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to find a platform for your voice.
Your platform might not be a blog like me, it might be a podcast, Substack or video content - or initially it might be your newsletter - but I’d encourage you to find a way to unleash your voice so that you can share your perspective with the world.
You are not treading on anyone else’s toes
Even if you are pivoting to do something completely different, know that you have just as much right to do what you are doing as anyone else.
So don't mince your words to make it sound like you're doing something different because you're worried about pissing someone off.
Because again, while you're busy playing down your business to keep other people happy, you're secretly telling your subconscious that you're not worthy or you don't really want this to happen.
And we all know how important the subconscious is.
There will always be overlap with other people, but you should never dim your light.
Become an expert in your field
If you don’t feel like an expert, then make a conscious decision to plug the gaps you think you have in your knowledge.
You might not need to do a course - podcasts and audiobooks are your best friend here!
I love nothing more than a gym session with a mind-expanding podcast or two. I personally find that I have most of my brainwaves and ideas for content like this!
I like to listen with the speed ramped up to get more of the goodness.
And listen to the podcasts in the niche that you serve, you’ll get familiar with industry trends and challenges your ideal clients are facing, as well as the kind of language that’s used - all of which is like gold dust for attracting your people because they will feel like you're speaking directly to them.
This leads me nicely on to:
But also know that what you know is probably enough
I am an eternal learner but I feel like I never know enough.
In my Human Design chart, I have the gate of depth plus an undefined Head and Ajna (for those of you with an interest in HD). All of which means I have a tendency to never feel that know enough, even though I do.
Recognising this in my chart has been empowering because when I realised that I probably DID know enough after all, I could see where I’d been limiting myself and started to behave more like the expert I actually was rather than paying for yet another course.
Which in turn called in more opportunities.
Remember you only have to be the expert in a room of 10 people, not the world.
Followers and likes do not validate us
We’re human and getting the likes and followers makes us happy because it’s a sign that we are accepted by our tribe.
But if you're focussing all of your marketing efforts on social networks, then it’s easy to feel a pressure to get the likes / follows and then to use these as a measure of success.
I believe that the way to get past this is to revert to my point above - creating credible expert content.
Start to create your credible expert content first (blog / podcast / newsletter), and then sprinkle it over Instagram.
Instagram is where your content should end up, but if you create just for Instagram then you’ll be creating for likes and without a strategy.
Honestly it saddens me to think of all the strong, graceful women who have felt the pressure to revert to dancing reels to get attention when they could be positioning themselves as the expert instead.
If dancing is on brand, by all means do it - but don’t do it just for likes if it feels unaligned!
Because people can tell...if you feel uncomfortable doing it, then we feel uncomfortable watching it. We are not performing monkeys.
Mute the triggers
There are going to be people who trigger you and for some reason, those people seem to show up EVERYWHERE.
They’re the ones nailing it on Insta, getting the brands and clients you want to work with.
It’s been said a million times but all is not what it seems on the surface and the quicker you realise this, the better. For some reason though, we seem to think OUR trigger people are the exception to this rule.They aren't.
When you're scrolling, it’s good to explore what's triggering for you, because there will be a lesson in here. What do they have that you secretly want? What do you admire? What are they doing that you find offensive?
And then unfollow or mute those accounts (if it's an industry peer) because you want to create a social space that feels positive, rather than triggering your self doubt.
Accept that you won't be the right person for everyone, but for some people you will be perfect
It can be hard when you see other people working with the clients you'd dream to work with - I know in particular I've been triggered over the years when I see people choosing to work with other photographers.
But I've come to accept this is fine and it's now just water off a ducks back - for some reason unbeknown to me, this person is not actually my right fit, even though I think they might be.
In fact, sometimes I even actively encourage my website clients to work with another photographer if my light and airy style is not going to be aligned to their aesthetic.
I believe that the right clients and customers will present at the right time. Not all clients are equal and not all clients are perfect for you.
When you go big on embracing your brand purpose and heartset, you'll start to magnetise the right people towards you...trust that above all else.
That's all for this post and my ponderings, I'd love to know your experience of comparisonitis and how it shows up for you in your business. Do you have special ways of dealing with it?
I'm a brand designer, photographer and Wix website designer based in the UK. I help wellness & creative businesses build their brand and online presence through photography and web, brand & human design, so that they can create positive ripples in the world.
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