Late last year I met a really cool lady. Inspiring even. We were amongst 6 people attending a trick training and liberty clinic by the inspiring Sandi Simons. She sat opposite me, and for the overnight stay we were ‘roomies’. The first morning, we shyly said hello and briefly chatted to each other, and then the day began. If anyone has ever been to a Sandi Simons clinic, turns out there is always a group discussion first and well, you have to go to one to understand what happens, but let me assure you it is wayyyyy more than horsemanship that goes on in those sessions. (side note, I highly recommend one of Sandi’s clinics to anyone, no matter your level of horsemanship and confidence.)
So anyway, I could tell this lady didn’t have normal vision but did not pry into the details, it wasn’t what I found interesting about her, it was that she was just a genuinely nice person to talk to. I thought nothing more of it until watching her work her horse in the round yard. The horse is at liberty in the round yard and the idea is you use body language and your own energy to influence where the horse goes and with how much energy.
It wasn’t until we were watching her work her horse (incredibly well I might add) that someone mentioned she had only something like 30% or less vision and that to her, the horse was just a big brown blob moving around. So whilst I am watching my horse’s ear angles and nostril flare and leg extension to read his body language, she can’t see any of that. I felt amazed, humbled, and then, honest truth, a bit inadequate because I instantly compared myself to her and thought that if she could do what she was doing with not much vision, then I should be able to do a lot more than I did with 100% vision. Mistake number 1 and a lesson I learned well that weekend.
My day went fine, thought it turned out I am pretty hard on myself, which isn’t a new thing to me. Knowing how not to be hard on myself is a work in progress still. The evening was great, then later on this lovely lady and I got talking and she introduced me to a great word, and a concept that stayed with me long after the weekend passed.
If comparison -itis were a real word (and I know it isn’t, my spell checker keeps yelling at me about it) I imagine the dictionary entry would read ‘an affliction where the infected constantly compares themselves to others’. It might even say illness instead of affliction, but the sure truth is that it’s not healthy, nor productive to compare ourselves with others.
Why do we do it then?
Well, there’s lot of explanations, we could blame our parents for comparing us to siblings if we had any “you sister never did that!”. We could blame the education system, the school report grading system compares us to our peers on a daily basis. The media could have a lot to answer for if we are looking to point a finger at someone or something. We could blame a whole heap of things, but I wonder something. Do we compare ourselves to others because we are just not confident in who we are and what we stand for? Is there uncertainty and dilemma in our lives because we just don’t quite feel comfortable in our own skin, with our own personality, because we have not accepted ourselves for who we are and are able to embrace ourselves?
Now this is starting to sound like we might need to gather our Indian throw cushions and light a scented candle and consider the universe in meditation. And hey, quite possibly that is needed for many! There is more than one way to do some personal reflection and the important thing to know is that you should reflect in whatever way works for you, not what someone says is ‘the right way’. (for the record, I kind of like the Indian throw cushions and scented candles, but I prefer going to my local waterfall, must be the Piscean in me seeking water for solace)
So what happens when we compare ourselves to others? It can become consuming! In business, you can begin to spend way too much watching your competitors, and then worse, responding to them in a manner that can be, well, unbecoming, whether it is just posting bitchy statements on social media, and for the record, you don’t need to name another business for it to be clear who you are bitching about, or by being unauthentic to yourself and bringing out a product, freebie, or writing something that is very, very similar to your competitors. It’s just not necessary, you do your thing and they can do theirs. Being bitchy about competition is very poor form and is only a sign of your own lack of confidence.
Or you might self- sabotage. Not put yourself out there because you don’t think what you have to offer is good enough. Put yourself down constantly, even to the point of attention-seeking. The question is, what IS good enough? And who does it need to be good enough for? Who gets to decide on that? The answer is you get to decide and until you realise that, you will be looking for someone else to approve/decide/help you.
And in business this can lead to people grossly undervaluing themselves and their time. Like the massage therapist that was doing clients for free or just fuel money because she had only just qualified and felt unworthy of payment. We worked on her self-belief a little, and the end result was she finally became able to charge appropriately for her services, and make her business financially viable rather than it costing her money to have clients. She was comparing herself to other, more experienced therapists, and felt that because she was less experienced, she was worth nothing. I hope you are nodding in agreement with me that she was in fact worth something after all.
Comparison-it is leads us to start to self-doubt and judge everything we do and everything that anyone arounds us does. Like I did, thinking I wasn’t doing well enough with my horse at the clinic. Then tendency to want to quit can become strong in some people; ‘if I can’t do it perfectly I might as well not bother’ and both that desire to give up, or just sheer frustration can ensue.
It can lead us down a path of following someone else just because you think what they do is better than what you do in some way, when in fact, allowing yourself to follow what is right for you is the better option.
So how does one cure comparison-it is? Well, when I am fully cured of it I will let you know, but for now, let’s work on the idea that we are already good enough (as it happens, and shameless plug, I created a beautiful coffee table book called You Are Already Good Enough – copies available here) and remind ourselves of that every day. Let’s stop worrying about what everyone else does, and worry about what we do. Let’s start thinking positively about ourselves and our abilities. Let’s accept ourselves for who we are and what we do, and be ok with what we do, and how we do it.
Meet you soon when we all reach that place we are accept ourselves for who we are?