About four years ago I was at an event where I’d been engaged to deliver a keynote. I delivered my keynote and was mingling and answering questions afterwards. I kept smiling and chatting, but the entire time I felt a weight crushing me. It was almost suffocating.
And it just would not. Let. Up.
The feeling was familiar. It was a persistent feeling of being found out. That people were suddenly going to realise that I wasn’t good enough, smart enough or clever enough. I was around all these incredible influencers and industry leaders and all I kept thinking is, ‘what on earth could I have to offer’.
Even at the time, I knew my thinking was wrong but I just couldn’t seem to shake it. I felt like I was in the wrong room and it took all my strength not to just walk out the door. It was like having a new pair of school shoes on the first day of school — awkward and uncomfortable.
I was deep into comparisonitis.
What is Comparisonitis?
Comparisonitis is simply the compulsion to compare yourself (and judge yourself) based on others’ accomplishments. Sometimes this might seem like a good thing — because comparing yourself can give you the impetus to strive forward. But comparisonitis doesn’t leave you feeling inspired. Because it’s coupled with the imposter syndrome it instead leaves you in a state of wanting, where you feel lack.
What I didn’t know then that I know now is that in all likelihood a great proportion of people in that room were feeling those same feelings. In fact, a study undertaken by Pauline Claunce and Suzanne Imes found that women frequently say that they don’t feel they deserve their job and that they are “imposters” who could be found out at any moment.
Imposter syndrome is a part of comparisonitis, both arising from, and causing it. When we let ourselves believe that everyone else is better than we are, then we begin to doubt our abilities, our strengths, our skills and our knowledge. We get lost in the feeling that we can’t compete.
First, Let go of perfectionism
To crush comparisonitis and play your own game you first have to let go of perfectionism. Of course, letting go of perfectionism is not that easy. We want to look perfect so that we can feel like we can compete. We try to project this perception to people because we are selling ourselves and selling ourselves is very different to trying to sell any other kind of product. Selling ourselves comes with more risk of vulnerability and with an added fear of rejection. That causes us to sink into perfectionism as we try to make everything perfect so people like us and want to work with us.
But portraying perfectionism is not good for your practice. When you paint yourself as perfect, other people around you go into comparison mode, too. They begin to think, “I’m not sure that I’m good enough to work with her. I’m not sure that she would like me. I’m not sure that I’m good enough to be around that person”. People simply don’t want to work with people that seem too perfect.
On the other hand, if you can tap into your authenticity and let go of the need to be perfect, you will actually appeal to people more. When you paint yourself as perfect, people go into comparison, but if you’re authentic, people go into possibility. Suddenly they stop worrying about how they will stack up next to you and start thinking, “Wow, she’s just like me”.
This authenticity creates a greater sense of real connection, and when you can tap into that, you can create a deeper sense of belief for your own clients.
As Mark Twain said, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but it is also the thief of strong, successful personal branding. In order to engage well with your audience, you need to beat comparisonitis. And that means you need strategies to manage it.
- Ask for help
Speak to a support person, friend, family or professional who can help you to put strategies in place if you don’t know what to do. There’s absolutely no shame in asking.
2. Be your own best friend
Research shows that 80% of our self-talk is negative. Catch your negative self-talk and reframe it to speak to yourself nicely.
3. Remember your uniqueness
There is only one of you. Sure, others might deliver similar work to you but they can’t replicate your essence.
4. Create before you consume
Celebrate and amplify your uniqueness by creating. Whether it’s videos, a book, a blog, people will come to you because you can connect with them at a deeper level.
5. Disconnect to reconnect.
Get off social media for a while, a week even. Get back to you and stop looking at what everyone else is doing.
- Who are you comparing yourself to?
- How do you know that what you are comparing yourself to is actually true?
- Who do you need to unsubscribe from, unfollow and disconnect from?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Originally published at https://janeandersonspeaks.com on June 30, 2021.