Have you ever….
- Researched online to figure out how old someone is… so that you can see how you stack up in terms of how well YOU’VE used your years?
- Wondered why the hell you haven’t been a guest on over a dozen podcasts already?
- Imagined yourself in the place of that badass presenter at that conference… only to tank your mood because of how impossible it seemed?
- Made list after list of all the things you need to do to become as successful as everyone else?
- Looked at your follower count or email subscribers… and felt lame because the numbers weren’t as high as your top local competitor?
I sure as shit have.
Comparing ourselves to other people makes us feel guilty/shameful/insecure/hungry-for-chips-a-hoy. It’s the mental equivalent of picking at a zit: guaranteed to make an oozing wound out of a small flicker of a problem. Yet, like the zit-picking, we often feel unable to resist doing it, no matter how much worse we know it’ll make things.
But what if comparison itself isn’t the problem? What if the problem is the direction we’re looking when we do so?
What if we started comparing ourselves to, well, ourselves? Hear me out.
I’ve found self-comparison to be a surprising exercise in gratitude and optimism. Shifting our comparison lens from outward to backward forces us to remember how far we’ve come. By default, we begin to think it’s not only possible but probable that we’ll look back the following year and feel good about what we’ve accomplished.
When we do this, the I’m-running-and-running-and-tripping-and-falling-and-so-behind feeling starts to slow down with your heart rate. You begin to feel a warmness toward yourself. You start to actually believe the aspirational platitudes that used to make you roll your eyes like a good little cynic. Trust the process. You’re doing better than you think you are. You’ve got this.
So, let’s try it. Shift that comparison lens from outward to backward. Back one week. One month. Six months. Nine months. All the way to this time last year. Okay, stop. Try to feel the moment viscerally. The room you were in. The people around you (or not). The perspective you looked into the world with.
Where were you?
Physically, I was sitting at a desk in a hotel room in San Francisco while my boyfriend slept, frantically finishing a novel I was ghostwriting for an extremely cheap rate.
Mentally, I was fogged. I was busy, but not in control. I felt like an overworked employee, slap-dashing off every writing project because I didn’t have time to think deeply about them.
Emotionally, I was panicked. I felt incredibly alone, trapped in an online world where I was making money but didn’t have any support. And I didn’t know how to get out.
But hands down, the worst part about last year’s me is that I was embarrassed about where I was. I felt like I must have been doing everything wrong to feel like I did, to be broke like I was, and to be so alone. I couldn’t bear to have anyone look too closely and confirm it.
Honestly, I was doing a lot of things wrong. But so what? Why did I think it was expected of me to knock it out of the park my first year in business?
Really, the only truly wrong thing was the shame I felt. It kept me in that panic-stricken place for several months, because I was too embarrassed to ask for help and too embarrassed to admit that things weren’t working.
That’s why the thing I’m most proud of this year’s me is finding the courage to ask for help.
Looking back, here’s how I’ve asked for help this past year:
- In January, I did a 4-week program where I learned how to create processes for my freelance business. In this program, I also got introduced to the greater world of freelance writers and copywriters, which helped me see that I wasn’t alone, not at fucking all. I took my first baby steps into networking with other writers.
- In March, I enrolled in a Copywriting Masterclass to sharpen my professional skills.
- In June, I joined a copywriting mentorship group where we freely ask one another questions, get feedback on client work, and attend regular coaching calls and webinars.
- In July, I partnered with a web design friend to revamp both our websites’ copy + design.
- In September, I enrolled in an intense SEO course so that I can offer this service in 2020.
- In October, I hired my first regular subcontractor—a proofreader, so that my clients get error-free words.
- In October, I reached out to a social media strategist friend to help me launch confidently on Instagram.
- In November, I started coworking every Friday with a group of local copywriters.
- In November, I took the leap to hire a business coach for 2020, with the goal to stop running my work life like a freelancer and start running it like a business owner.
This year, I’m still too busy for my liking. But now the projects I take on are all copywriting projects, and I genuinely enjoy each one. Most of my clients are referrals from my network or previous clients, which makes me feel more plugged in to the world around me, not lost in online obscurity. And I’ve begun developing friendships with my freelancing/business-owning peers.
Most importantly: I’m looking into 2020 with a plan, with support, with zero panic.
This holiday season, if you’re feeling “behind,” start comparing yourself to…yourself. I bet it’ll make you feel pretty damn grateful.
Content courtesy of Krista Walsh, creative copywriting for purpose-driven companies and passionate people
CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR, KRISTA WALSH
Krista Walsh writes website copy, blog posts, and product descriptions for small eCommerce companies and service-based solopreneurs. Her writing and messaging strategies help her clients speak to their customers’ values and emotions, for meaningful sales.
In her free time, she writes about purpose-driven business and freelance life at kristawalshcopywriter.com. On the off chance she’s not writing, she’s volunteering to walk the big ole’ dogs over at the Dog Café LA or watching (pretty bad honestly) TV dramas on Netflix.
Connect with Krista through her website, Krista Walsh Copywriter