13 April, 2011  |   46 Comments

Healing from Painful Comparison

Record Player
One of the bad feelings I work hard to overcome is the familiar pang of envy. It’s hard to not feel less than on this world wide internet.
It’s impossible not to compare.

See, there’s me, with my hand-me-downs, graham cracker spit stained pants and a digital camera from 2004.

It’s funny, the way I turn my jealousy into blasé dismissal.
(Hi coping strategy!)

I dismiss the people I’m jealous of. I don’t take their opinions seriously because, well, obviously they have it so much easier that I do.

I dismiss this person because they live in a town with their parents so they have extra help. I dismiss that person for being well-off. I dismiss that one for having a stay at home wife who raises his kids. I dismiss that one for having such a strong church community behind her and I dismiss that one for having gotten there first.

I envy that one for not having kids and that one for having kids older than mine.
I envy this one for living in a less expensive town and that one for getting to go to all those conferences.

It makes me not take their experiences as authentic because, well, isn’t it so obvious about how much better they have it than me?

Envy makes me sound like a turd.

bouncy

Thankfully, I’ve been learning to deal with it through all my Artist’s Way work. Jealousy is a very accurate map as to what’s missing. When I pay attention to jealousy, I’m much happier.

So how do I get out of the jealousy trap?
I make a jealousy map.

I fold a piece of paper into three columns and write at the top of the first column, “WHO.” On the top of the second column, I write, “WHY” and on the third column, I write “SO NOW WHAT?”

It might look like this:

Who?

Why?

So NOW what?

Ariel Lots of professional success, found her niche. Find my niche.
Jenn Crazy entertaining web site that I’d never have enough time for. Make more time for my entertaining web site.
Aubrey Amazing job, regular paycheck, works with celebrities and events. Find a retainer client or part-time job. Outreach to public figures for my own career.

Some of the “So NOW what’s” come off as so simple they may sound flippant. Don’t let them fool you. It’s actually KISS at work.

Now, when I feel that familiar sinking in my stomach that means I can’t ever possibly measure up, I take it as a call to action.
What is this dismissal/jealousy telling me about what I need to do next?

This little exercise has practically dried up most of the painful comparison I do.

But let’s pretend making this list doesn’t help. You just stare at the names and the reasons and seethe that life has dealt you such a shitty hand.

I keep the following things in mind when I feel I’m not measuring up:
Rooster1. It’s all being sold to us.
We can’t sell without a need. The quickest way to create a need is to inspire a fundamental unease with your customers on the inside.

Your breath! It is bad!
Your weight is wrong!
This season’s spring fashions you just can’t be without (lest you are ridiculed)!

I work in marketing. I work with brands on blogs. I get it. But sometimes when exposed to all those images on the internet, it’s too much keep up the psychic strength. They win. They make me feel that I’m not enough without these items.

It’s also hard for bloggers because that’s the language we’ve grown up consuming. It’s the language we know how to speak in. It’s why the majority of bloggers signed up for this, to make a million dollars a year selling things to people. So we’ve got all these blogs selling their fabulously styled and presented lives to you for maximum brand acceptability.

And it’s making us feel terrible.

2. It’s easier to sell/market/talk about NEW products on your blog. Images for and links to new products are much easier to procure to demonstrate your personal taste. Mood boards, giveaways, they’re all for new stuff. New stuff you probably can’t afford. That constant churn for the need for new stuff is exhausting.

Washing Machine

3. Oh! The quote is trite by now, but everyone is having a hard time of it. Every. Single. Person I know is going through something awful right now. They are the only support person for someone who depends on them, they are having relationship issues, they are healing from abuse, they are dealing with the effects of illness, they are struggling financially. Blogs that only show the good part of life are designed to do just that. It’s only about what we choose to reveal. So let those images buoy you, not drag you down. It’s only a tiny slice of our whole, messy, complicated, and YES, difficult lives.

4. At the very least, don’t go to the sites that make you feel worse about yourself.
(But I need to see my competition! But I need to keep up! But! But! But!)
No.
Don’t visit them.
Add them to your hosts file (how to here) so that you can’t visit them even if you want to.
Don’t go until you feel strong and whole down there in your gut about what you really need.

5. Now this is the obvious Oprah answer but it really does work. When feeling particularly useless in the face of envy, I make a big fat list of all the things I “have” that I love. Products, friends, family, pets, experiences. At least 20 but I’m hoping for more like 100. It works. I feel better. I remember the stuff I DO have that I’m not using, and I come up with better (free) ideas for how to show my gratitude.

Spending all this time consuming details about other people’s lives has not been part of our culture. It’s just a theory, but I don’t think we humans are psychologically ready to be so connected to all the humans in the world.

We need a few tricks and a few reminders that we’re pretty cool the way we are.

So, how do you deal with jealousy online?
Or are you above that?
(If so, I envy you.)

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46 thoughts on “Healing from Painful Comparison


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