Ep #38: Comparison Shame and Paralysis
Are you experiencing “comparison shame” by comparing other people’s perceived success to your own and then feeling terrible about yourself? That shame can trigger paralysis in your business – which stimulates further shame. Let’s talk about your own compass and how to honor that instead.
What you’ll find in this episode:
- Knowing the “steps” to take is not the only part of success. The other part in achievement of outcomes is your brain and mindset.
- When learning from top performers: “Don’t just look at what they do. That’s just their action. Ask them why they do it.”
- “Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt
- Are you building what you want, or have you spent so much time focusing on what everyone else has that you don’t even know what that is anymore?
- My favorite question I ask people at my Hawaiian retreat – “What do you really, really, really want? YOU?”
- Stop comparing and start really savoring and enjoying your own journey.
Featured on the Show and Other Notes:
- The Entrepreneurial Management Program.
- The Founder’s Lab is my private coaching program for female founders who are generating more than 7-figures in their revenue. It’s a complement to the Entrepreneurial Management program and is a part of the work you get as a client of mine. This isn’t a “class.” I don’t give you copious tons of things to do. I give you the ones that matter and then we keep talking about them. We apply them. That’s why it’s called the Founder’s Lab.
- There is also the Founder’s Lab Fundamentals – for women who have just gotten started hiring people –making about $200-300K in their business.
- Go here to book an appointment with me.
- Please write a review of my podcast. Go to iTunes’ main page and give it a 5 star if you feel it is worthy and write a review. Do a screen shot and go to Instagram and put that on your story or feed and tag me @KrisPlachyCoach. I will then send you a list of all of my most favorite books that I’ve read over the years.
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Hey, everyone, I’m Kris Plachy and this is How to Lead for Female Entrepreneurs and Founders because the best way to grow a business is to grow the person who’s running it. Let’s go ahead and get started. Hello. Hello. Welcome to the podcast. How are you today? So today, I want to talk with you about I think a pretty important topic that I coach a lot of my clients on and I coach myself on frankly. And that’s on this whole gig that we all fall into around comparison. If you’re an entrepreneur, I know that you know who other people are who do what you do and that’s good. We should know who our competitors are. We should know what’s happening in our market. We should understand our businesses from a business perspective. But what we have to be really careful of is how we use that information to help us or injure us. And so specifically, on this podcast today, I want to talk with you about comparison shame and then ultimately, paralysis.
Because what I watch happen to people is looking at other people who were doing similar work in your space and then using other people’s success, perceived success by the way, and feeling terrible about yourself, and so then feeling shame, which then triggers this really interesting behavior of paralysis, no action, which then stimulates further shame, right? We keep ourselves in this negative spin cycle of negative thinking about ourselves, negative feeling about ourselves, and then ultimately not taking progressive action. So first let’s just talk about comparison.
Okay. So I know that we like to blame social media for comparison problems in the world today. And I certainly don’t disagree that you have a lot more opportunity now, we all do to do comparisons, right? To look at everybody and what they’re doing. But the truth is this is really a human behavior. I mean, the word exists. So obviously, the word existed before social media. So comparison has been something that’s happened forever. “We keep up with the Joneses,” is another old term that we used to say, right? Like, “What kind of car does everybody have in their driveway? What kind of house does everybody have? How many kids do you have? What are your kids doing? Where is your kid going to college?” I mean it’s just ridiculous.
So we can all get caught up in the game of comparison in different parts of our lives and that is not new, all right. And I think you could probably identify with this just outside of being a business owner. There are just some people who really are very oriented towards what’s happening outside of them. It’s a very external journey. And so there’s always this looking at what other people are up to and using that as their measuring stick for their own success. And I can always kind of catch on to people when they look at someone else’s success and it’s motivating to them and inspiring like, “Oh, that’s pretty cool. I didn’t know that was possible. I’m going to give that a shot.” Versus, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Or, envy, which is I think the worst of all when we get into this comparison mode. And B, feels icky and jealous and it puts you into a negative mindset about someone else’s success.
Now, when we compare ourselves to where other people are, first of all, you just have to notice what happens to you. If there’s somebody else who has a similar business to you and they’re doing really well financially, why do you make that mean anything about you first of all? What does that have to do with you? They’re in another city, they’re in another country, who knows, right? Why do you take other people’s outcomes and translate that into who you are? Really think about that. That’s like when we compare hair or we compare eye color, people are their own people. Right?
And when I used to work in my very big company thing and I had a corporate job and we had to train people, of course, there were always top performers and people wanted to be just like the top performer. And it used to kind of drive me nuts because what you could watch is we certainly had formulas and I think we all would say we all have formulas that we know people in our industry follow to get success. But the formula is just steps on paper. Yeah. So the same thing was true in this company that I worked for. We knew the steps. These are the steps you have to follow to be successful.
But if it were that easy, then the mechanics of the steps would just lead to success. But it isn’t because there’s this other part in achievement of outcomes and that’s your brain and your mindset. And so I used to tell people when they wanted to learn from top performers, “Don’t just look at what they do. That’s just their action. Ask them why they do it. Find out their brain, their thoughts, what are they thinking about?” That’s to me what’s insightful, right?
Now, what I think is interesting is I could talk to somebody who does very similar work to what I do. And they may have the same or even better results. But then when I ask them why they think they’re successful, what do they think about every day? I may hear thoughts that I would never want to think. That I may not find that are resonant for me. Like, “I don’t want to think that about my client. I don’t want to think that about my business,” and I get to choose that.
So you can’t just measure your outcomes against other people’s outcomes and think, “Oh, I should have that,” because there’s so much else that goes into a result. A result is just a symptom. It’s like having a fever, right? A fever is just a symptom of something else happening in the body. So if you were to go into the doctor’s office and you have a fever, a stupid doctor would say, “Oh, you got to get that down. Work on that,” right, which to me is what kind of what we say to ourselves, “Oh, you’re not making enough money. Work on that.” “Oh, you don’t have enough clients, work on that.” “Oh, you’re not producing enough product work on that.”
That result is just a symptom of what goes into it and what goes into a result, in the case of what we’re talking about is the way that you think about your work. It’s your mindset and it’s your skill set. It’s how you do your work, okay? So to just compare yourself with some joker on the internet or someone you met at a conference or even people you learn from, that’s too simplistic. You cannot just look at somebody’s outcome and think, “I should have that because I’m doing the same thing as them,” absolutely not. And B, who says? How do we feel like we’re entitled to the same level of success? I want you to really question what you put in your brain.
Now, I believe when you see someone who is a teacher, someone who you can learn from and you feel motivated, that’s awesome. That tells me that you have thoughts like, “Oh, that’s really interesting. I could figure that out. I want to learn how to do that. That person makes me believe in something I never believed in before,” right? Versus when you look at someone else’s success and you think, “I’m a loser, I should have that. I shouldn’t have to work this hard. It shouldn’t be this hard for me. I’m never going to have that. They’re better than me. I look stupid. Other people know I don’t know what I’m doing. Other people are going to find out I don’t know what I’m doing,” any of this resonating, right?
And then what ends up happening is you shut down. There is no value to you in watching what other people do if you cannot make that a constructive positive experience for yourself. And, in fact, I would take that even a next level if you are legitimately suffering because you are watching other people around you doing better than you and whatever that means you’ve got to stop. You have to stop watching other people and get about the business of paying attention to yourself.
Other people achieve what they achieve for their own reasons. You’re watching them and you’re watching their action line and their result line, but you are not in their brain understanding their reason. You will achieve what you achieve based on your reason. So you have to be really attentive to and thoughtful about what it is that you want. Now, if you need to learn how to do something, learn it, study it, practice it, fail at it, fail again. Fail again. It’s a pattern here, right? It’s okay, but to watch other people and then internalize thoughts of failure and lack and scarcity and perpetuate a feeling of shame is so un-useful, but it’s also damaging.
Now, I think a lot of us don’t know we do this. I’ve talked to a lot of clients over the last year who think that what they’re doing is helpful. Like, “Oh, I look at what my competitor’s doing every day. I look at their website, I look at the classes they teach, I look at the money that they’re generating. I look at the places that they advertise. I look at their verbiage and did you know, I think they actually take some of the things I say,” right? We get very paranoid about what they have and what I don’t have. And that is coming out of an inherent belief in and belief system around scarcity. So the only reason I would have to compare my success to your success, in this case, is if I believed there was only a finite amount of something; money, clients, resources. And so if I believe that you’re doing better than me, then you’re taking away from me, right?
I had somebody, I remember years ago who wanted to learn how to be a leadership coach, and I said, “I think that’s amazing. You should totally be that.” And she said, “Yeah, but you’re already doing that, so.” I’m like, “That’s okay. There’re lots of other leadership coaches, there’s plenty of clients,” but if you think that there’s not enough, you can see how that would limit your ability to thrive. The other one is when you have a cluster of people that all do similar work as you, this is a slippery slope, right? You love to be with them because you share common interests. You share common approach. You might even share common goals, but they are far outperforming you, and so you have to really look at, “Okay, what am I making that mean? And if I’m internalizing their success against myself, that is not helpful. I want to be thrilled for other people’s success and I don’t want to use other people’s success against myself. That just puts me in a shame cycle. And when I get into shame, I shut down and I hurt my own business,” right?
And I know that all of us can relate to this on some level. I just think that some of us can get stuck here because it’s like we think we’re telling the truth when we start talking about people who are doing better than we are because we might actually have actual evidence, “Oh, well, they’re making more money or they have more clients,” or they have a bigger presence or they have more followers because heavens, right. They have all that that. And so we think, “Well, I’m just reporting the news. Yeah, they do make more money. So they are better than me.” I don’t know that that’s true.
Maybe they have their business model more figured out than you do. Maybe they charge a different rate than you do. Maybe they prioritize their workday differently than you do. So you have to be clear about what you want in your life. I’ve certainly met lots of people who make a heck of a lot more money than I do and in some cases, I’ve learned a lot them like, “Oh, this is interesting. I love how they manage their time. I think that’s something to learn from.” But in other ways, they don’t have lives that I would want and they don’t do things with their time that I would do, but I don’t think that means I can’t be successful.
So you’ve got to watch your brain here because I know we’ve talked about this so many times, but as a woman who runs a business, you’re the instrument here, right? You are the tuning fork. You are the compass, and if you are harboring a lot of thoughts around the success of others and using that against yourself, it’s going to translate into the results that you’re getting in your business. We have to have a real balance between understanding our market, understanding our client, knowing what potential we have, reinvesting, failing, trying and being really clear about who we want to be and what we want to achieve. But as soon as we put that compass outside of ourselves and we pin it on some guy who you don’t hardly even know, but they have a similar business to you and you use that guy’s success against yourself, you’re already losing because you’re not in the seat. You’re not in a race, right?
They say that comparison is the thief of joy. That’s a really interesting, what is that, colloquialism? It’s a really interesting statement. Comparison is the thief of joy, so as I sit and compare myself to others, I am not able to indulge in and relish in what I’ve achieved. So if this is you and you’re finding yourself spinning, which is where I know I’ve met a lot of my clients are just completely overwhelmed by where they should be in comparison to their peers versus where they are. If that’s you, I want you to just take a minute and I want you to give yourself some personal insight and let’s not even compare ourselves today from where we used to be, but let’s look at what are some things now that you do that you’ve never done before?
What are the biggest successes you’ve had for this year? What do you love about your life? What are you most proud of? What kind of life do you want to be living for yourself? What are your current priorities? What do you want to give your attention to? What are you willing to change right now to be able to do more of that? If you say that you want more revenue, what are you willing to do to get it? If you say that you want more clients, what are you doing to get them? What are you willing to do to get them? If you say you want more employees, what are you willing to do to hire them? If you say you want more time off, what are you willing to do to make that happen?
You, just you, you and your pen and your journal and your brain, not you and you’re searching on the internet and looking at what everybody else is doing and of course what they’re posting on Instagram, it’s all hoopy it’s all part of a social media calendar. So keep that in mind. They’ve built what they wanted, they’ve designed what they wanted from their own brain. Are you building what you want or have you spent so much time focusing on what everybody else has that you don’t even know what that is anymore?
When I take my retreaters to Hawaii every year, one of my favorite questions I’ve asked it for seven years is, “What do you really, really, really want? You. What do you want? Screw the rest of everybody else. What? I don’t care what they’re doing. What do you want?” You started this business for a reason. Get in touch with that. You have your own beautiful compass and wisdom, pay attention to it, listen to it, honor it. Find people you can learn from that when you learn and when you listen to them, you are inspired, you are motivated. You don’t kick off the shame cycle of wretchedness that perpetuates lack of action and paralysis, and if right now you’re feeling particularly vulnerable because you are paying a lot of attention to everybody else, turn it off. Just go in.
You’re so brilliant, you know everything you need to know. And then if you have to learn how to do something better, you can learn. Your inspiration, your success does not lie in others. It is yours. And at the heart of this, this is leadership. The person you must lead first is you. But if you’re busy trying to get that from everywhere else, you’re aimless, right? You don’t have a clear direction and your compass is just spinning. So take some time today and invest in this. I want so much for you to stop comparing and start really savoring and enjoying your own journey. Find pride in what you do, focus on your achievements. And then I think you can have such a different relationship with other people’s success. Thanks for tuning in. Hey, don’t miss a thing. Make sure you join my community at krisplachy.com/connect. Once you join, you’ll get all the information on exclusive and private experiences that I’m offering to my clients. I can’t wait to see you there.