comparison can show you the way
We’re only envious of those already doing what we were made to do. Envy is a giant, flashing arrow pointing us toward our destiny.
How are you doing on Medium?
Are you earning four figures and counting thousands of followers? Or are you only reading about those who are?
You know you shouldn’t compare your behind-the-scenes footage with someone else’s highlight reel, but it’s just so easy. Social media sites thrive on peacocks preening under envious glances from the rest of us, selling us their secret sauce along the way. Everyone wants to be a beautiful unicorn, not a plain carthorse plodding through a humdrum life.
Comparison leaves you dissatisfied and unsettled. Far from being a motivating force, it saps the very energy you need to move forward — because you’re number one or you’re nowhere. As Theodore Roosevelt said, comparison is the thief of joy.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Me Me Me
You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.
You’ve probably done this. You look at X who has something you don’t. You feel envious because you deserve that thing, angry because they don’t deserve it, or ashamed of your lack.
Notice that all these emotions point back at you. X is out there doing what they do, and you’re beating yourself up over it. Comparison is a thief. It steals your peace of mind and uses your own energy to do it.
None of this helps you to feel better, or achieve more in your own life. Worse still, when you think about it you’ll see that X is unaffected by all your angst. You are both the author and the sole beneficiary of this bad blood.
You can redirect that energy for your own good.
Envy is a magic mirror that shows your true desires. If you think you don’t know what you want, use envy. What makes you angry when other people have it? What object or activity cuts so deep that you have to cover up the pain with sarcasm or sweetness, otherwise you’d scream?
That. That’s what you want.
And you can go for it because other people are paying very little attention to you. The spotlight effect makes you feel as if you’re the centre of attention, but others are as consumed by their inner dialogue as you are by yours. Even when they scrutinise you, that critical gaze is really a projection of their own self-talk. Just like when you watch unicorns and covet their rainbow manes.
But consider this — what if you could be a unicorn?
Fuelled By Envy
Find out who you are and do it on purpose.
I’m no Medium superstar. I write and publish, and sometimes get discouraged. I have to remind myself to keep going even if there’s no immediate payoff, and to take pride in my achievements even when it feels like I’m failing.
Because one truth lies at the heart of my work — I’m a writer and that’s what I do, good days and bad, fair weather or foul. Still… good days are more than welcome. It’s been a grind recently, for numerous reasons.
A writing group friend who also follows me here came up to me last week and said, “I read your articles and I’m amazed you’re able to write so much.”
He went on to say that he’d been sitting on a story for a long time. Inspired by Medium, he committed to writing one hundred words a day, and he was delighted to have a forty-five-day streak under his belt.
This struck me for two reasons. First, I’d been beating myself up for not writing enough; and second, because that’s how I started my serious writing journey. I read Shaunta Grimes and took on board her teeny tiny goals. I kept going, and now I’m here.
Maybe you’re not at the goal yet. But perception is relative. The top of the mountain is shrouded in cloud, but you are a speck in the distance to somebody who’s just left the starting blocks. Maybe you’re even an inspiration to them. Rather than envy, they recognise a kinship which motivates them to go on. If you did it, so can they.
Wherever you are, you’re further on than the person who didn’t start yet, further on than you were. The only meaningful comparison is with your past self. Make sure you’re pulling away from your previous position.
Then you’ll find the unicorns are people like you. Yes, they ran faster and/or started earlier, but they all began where you did — at the starting post. They’re on their path, and you are on yours, but remember that there’s room at the top for everyone who works for it.
So keep going. Be inspired by those ahead, and an inspiration for those behind.
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