How to escape the comparison trap and start defining success on your own terms

They say that comparison is the thief of joy, and I could not agree more. Read on to learn why I firmly believe that the key to fulfillment in your life and career is to stop comparing yourself to others, stop chasing standard metrics of success (and these metrics exist in every career field), and instead find your own definitions of success + fulfillment.

I’ve been stewing on this topic for a while now, because never have I been hit so hard by the metaphorical comparison train than after I started my blog. Everywhere I looked, there were people who have become so successful doing what I dream of doing. They had built blogs with hundreds of thousands of readers, had super successful podcasts, had 10k+ instagram followers, or created seven-figure businesses (and a lot of the times had done ALL of these things)!

I told myself when I started out that I hadn’t achieved any of those metrics of success listed above because I was new to all this…I told myself to be patient and not compare myself to those well-established people. They had been at this for years, right? That certainly made me feel better and I’m so glad I was able to recognize that, but then I quickly realized there were a lot of people who started out right when I did or even after I did and were even in very similar niches.

Falling into the comparison trap

So I started comparing myself to those people because there was no reason I shouldn’t be performing as well as them, right? A lot of them were amassing way more followers than I was. I had to leave a Facebook group for new bloggers after reading countless posts from bloggers who had started months after me and had thousands more page views than I did but were still asking how to increase their viewers because they thought their numbers were low.

It’s demoralizing. I wondered what was wrong with me. But then I realized that the people I idolized in the beginning who I view as super successful, with those thousands of followers and blog readers…they feel the same way, too. Because guess what? They’re looking at people with a hundred thousand followers and wondering what they’re doing wrong. If they already have a successful business, which some of us are only dreaming of, they’re thinking they need to hire more employees or lease a larger office to keep up with their peers. And it’s an endless cycle. No matter where we are, we always want more. more. more.

positivequotesWe are not our numbers

I know this issue affects everyone, but for those of us pursuing creative careers or passions, it can be harder not to compare because there is always more to DO, and our work is so often deeply connected to us. But our numbers are not the determinants of our creative worth. And while being a creative or an entrepreneur is exciting in that the sky’s the limit in terms of what we can create and achieve…that’s also terrifying if we don’t truly figure out what makes US feel happy and successful, rather than hitting certain milestones we think we need to reach for our success to be valid.

So, below are a few actions you can take RIGHT NOW that can help you stop comparing yourself to others and reclaim your own sense of fulfillment in your life and work.

Understand what’s triggering you the most and reduce your exposure to that as much as you can (at least for the time being)

I realized I was becoming riddled with comparison from that new bloggers Facebook group, even though I had joined it for camaraderie and support, so I left the group. You could also hide or unmute whatever’s triggering you, or take a full-on break from social media as well (I’ve done that, too, and it can work wonders). If it’s a podcast you’re listening to or a book you’re reading, take a break from it. If it’s a colleague or friend, taking a break can be a lot trickier, so maybe turn inward first and follow the steps below.

Remind yourself that literally everyone (even those people with hundreds of thousands more followers than you) has these issues

Reading the stories of the “highly successful” bloggers or entrepreneurs who feel the exact same way I do reminds me that these comparisons don’t automatically go away when we reach certain outward milestones. We don’t automatically feel “successful,” even though we think we will. The comparisons will only lessen when we look internally and define success on our own terms. That motivates me to continue to turn inward when I start noticing myself compare or feel like I need to be hitting certain metrics to feel good about myself or my blog.

growingReflect on what success looks like to you

Figure out when you feel happiest with your passion/business/career/life and seek more of that, rather than more standard metrics of success like making six figures or hitting ten thousand instagram followers. That’s not to say that you can’t hit those milestones, of course, but if you do it will be a nice surprise, not the main way you measure your achievement or worth. Even if you’re not focused on hitting certain numbers but you’re trying to grow by a certain number of page views/followers/etc. per week or per month, recognize that that can be damaging, too. I’m not telling you to ignore your numbers completely and never strive to grow, but don’t buy into the idea that you need to be constantly growing to be successful.

Release yourself from “shoulds”

It’s easy to see people in your field doing all sorts of things and think, “I should be doing that, too.” But really, everyone’s path looks different and if there was one list of things we need to do to be successful, everyone would already be doing it! Don’t do anything because you feel like you “should,” because people can tell when your heart’s not in it. Do what lights you up and excites you the most, and people will see that and will come to you organically. And if they don’t, be okay with that and know that at least you’re doing what YOU love.

Appreciate how far you’ve already come

One day long ago you were only dreaming of the things you’ve accomplished today. We can so easily get caught up in the “go go go” mentality and set so many goals that we rarely take time to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come. Remembering what you’ve done well this year or even feeling gratitude for your small wins will remind you that it may not feel like you’re accomplishing anything, but you are. Don’t lose sight of that in the rat race of constant achievement.

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Remember too to rinse and repeat these steps as often as needed – whether that’s every day, every week, or whenever you start to feel the comparison train coming ‘round the mountain at full speed. This is a PROCESS and is not a one-and-done solution. We ALL struggle with these feelings, and they often creep up when I least expect them, so it’s so important that we’re constantly checking in with ourselves and repeating the above steps as often as necessary.

I can’t promise that these feelings of self-doubt and comparison will ever go away completely (they won’t), but I can promise that it will get easier with practice to recognize when they’re coming up and reframe them before they completely derail you. I struggle with comparison daily and I know it’s something I will always be working at, so we’re in this together. Hopefully these action steps can help you stop comparing yourself so you can keep creating, keep living, and keep finding joy in what you’re doing – because those are the things that truly matter.

Xoxo, Melina

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Hi, I'm Melina! I'm so happy you're here. Join me as I explore how to be well in this wild world 🌿 I'm a writer, poet, educator, and pursuer of all things related to personal growth, self-love, and wellbeing - body, mind + soul. Over the years I've struggled with anxiety + depression and have developed tools along the way to create a healthy and balanced life for myself, and I want to help you do the same! Thank you for reading!

8 thoughts on “How to escape the comparison trap and start defining success on your own terms

  1. SO many good bits of advice in this post! I especially love that at the end you remind us comparison will always be there, but it’ll just get easier to bounce back from it the more you practice. You have a beautiful, comforting way with words! Keep it up 🙂

  2. This post really spoke to me! There’s an old saying in Chinese “there’s always a higher mountain out there” and it’s a good reminder that the people we compare ourselves to are probably comparing themselves to an even higher mountain peak. It’s tough to remember this at times. Thanks for sharing these thoughts!

  3. I love this post, Melinda! Your writing is so enjoyable to read, I could read it all day!

    Comparisons are easy to make, but I try not to look at the stats and just keep doing what I’m doing. We’re all on our own journeys. Consistency, quality and hard work (plus some experimentation) are the only steps to success. 🙂

  4. Funny enough, just before I started reading your post, I looked at the notice saying “6 comments”, and I was jealous, because I’m not getting comments yet! But then I read your post, and I not only felt caught, but realised you’ve really put it in a nutshell. Great post, Melina!

    1. Hahaha oh no!! Thanks, Claudia! It is SO easy to fall into all that…I do it every single day. All we can do I think is recognize when it’s happening like you just did and then be kind to ourselves and remind ourselves of the steps above!

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