Wednesday, June 13, 2012

8 Signs You Are Falling into the Comparison Trap

Have you ever been cruising along on course until at once a vine entraps your leg yanking you down what feels like an endless hole? Yeah, hasn’t really happened to me either. Except metaphorically it has. Seems to be a regular thing for my cognitive labyrinth. Par for the course for writers. I think it’s because we’re highly attuned to our surroundings (yeah, that’s it).
No matter, it happens. We’re all vulnerable to fall into the comparison trap. It’s one thing to challenge ourselves, to engage in healthy competition, but it’s something else entirely when our self-worth and our sense of being tumbles into the trap. It’s important to remain on guard for vines desperate to tangle around our ankles and holes that appear out of nowhere.

8 Signs You Are Falling into the Comparison Trap:

Souring Outlook
When the world tints from a lyrical “What a Wonderful World” to “Welcome to the Jungle” then you know you’re likely about to hit quicksand. Sentences in your head go from “Man, what a beautiful day” to “I’m sweatin’ like a beast.” Optimism straight down the elevator shaft to pessimism central.

Shrinking Dream
Directly tied in to your souring outlook, lately you’ve also discovered your dream seems like it’s been shoved in a Ball jam jar with the lid sealed tightly on it. Your dream used to be giraffe tall, bounding across expansive plains. Now it’s a barely flickering firefly.

From Curiosity to Obsession
At first you just convince yourself you’re checking in on “her” so much because she’s your competition. “Little healthy competition never hurt anyone, right?” Not so fast. You’ve gone from a sneak peek to setting up camp on her yard, on her website, heck you’ve practically braided yourself into her hair. Time to back away from the so-called competition and evaluate the two “I”s. Investment and intention. How much time are you investing “comparing” and what are your intentions?

All about Numbers
In my industry social media has become the new “it” craze and following numbers can get a little addictive. It’s easy to lose perspective. To click on Google Analytics in the morning, noon, and night. To feed your numbers craving by assessing your Facebook page stats, blog stats, Twitter stats, heck even Pinterest stats (why leave Pinterest out of this?). Surefire indicator your foot is slipping, when numbers become your god.

Waning Love of Vocation
You used to pounce out of bed, excited to reach the drawing board. To have a crack at the craft. But you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling. It’s petered out like a Fourth of July sparkler. And to what do you owe this waning feeling? You’ve set yourself up against somebody you’re not supposed to be—some role you’re not meant to fulfill and it’s lights out for you because of it.

Green Grass Syndrome
My neighbor planted the most beautiful flower bed near her driveway. I look at it every morning in admiration (and a tinge of jealousy). Her grass is green. Her grass doesn’t have grubs. But then I visit with her and she tells me about all the other kinds of pests she deals with on her lawn. It’s never as green and bountiful as it appears, trust me.

In Want
Suddenly you are paying much more attention all you don’t have. Commercials hold more appeal. Women look prettier, glossier, with killer mascara. Moms are carrying gorgeous bags and sporting those TOMS canvas shoes. Everyone seems to be with it but you.

Seeking Validation from All the Wrong Places
We all like validation. It’s part of our wiring, to hear that we’re doing okay, that someone is proud of us, etc. But at some point we need to know and trust our own steps on the path. If you’re constantly looking behind you, to your side, or up ahead for someone to nod before you take another step, be warned that next step might very well be down a gaping pit.

What happens when you’ve fallen into a trap? It’s immensely difficult to get out. That’s why it pays to know when you’re close to losing ground. So you can stand firm, then move in the right direction at the right time. Have you experienced any of the above?

*photo by stock.XCHNG


  1. Comparison by the numbers ... thanks for distilling it down, Wendy.
    And, yes, the checklist is familiar. Now I have something to shred when comparison comes skulking to the doorway of my mind.

  2. Yes. Sadly, I recognize some of those things in myself. With social media, it's too easy to play the comparison game. I think taking little social media breaks and getting plugged back into "real life" can help.

  3. I've seen myself in every one of those places at some point in my life. Thankfully, like you said, I've learned to recognize when I'm losing ground and take action before I fall too far. For me, it all comes back to the root issue--am I trusting in God or myself? When I play the comparison game, I am trusting myself and the only solution is to get my eyes focused firmly on Jesus and to stand on the truth that He is the one in control, not me. Great post, Wendy!

  4. I have been there--I think with the number game I just don't care but watching other writers who I started out with move forward and I haven't has been hard some days--hence the long break I took to get my head and heart right.

  5. Yep, I've been there, more times in life than I care to count. I'm trying to learn that God has a place for each of us, and my place may not be HER place. And the validation? Trying to remember my self-worth comes from Him too, not from what I do.

  6. Yep, I can check off more than a couple of those things. I finally just said, "For the love, this is ridiculous." I love social media and I love connecting, but I can't tell you the last time I looked at my analytics or klout (what is that?)If I focus on relationships and people, I tend to not worry so much about numbers. But man, I've been there!

  7. You're right, Wendy, our posts do go hand in hand today - but I won't compare them! Because if I did I might fall down the pit of "Boy, Wendy has way more insight into this subject than me..." :) I'm so thankful I am not alone in this battle. I'm even more thankful I have friends who understand it and can keep me accountable and encouraged as I face it.

  8. Yes, I've definitely been in a few of these places. And if it stops in one area, it seems there's always another area calling. I hope that each time I'm learning and growing, but I know it's going to be a never-ending process.

  9. Oh wow, you are so spot-on in every piece of this post. I could see myself at different points in each paragraph...which scared me, but in a warped way, comforted me. Because I know I'm not alone. But the wonderful thing is, in each of those steps along the road to unhealthy comparison, we get the choice to go a different direction, choose God and His validation...focus on the right things...

    I love how, through this post, you shined the light on the scary places I don't want to be...such a good reminder!

  10. This is awesome. My favorite line?

    heck you’ve practically braided yourself into her hair

    Classic Wendy-ism.

    So much wisdom here, Wendy! Something ALL of us fall prey to, regardless of where we are in the journey. Because there will always be somebody ahead, selling more books and finding more success.

  11. I've visited more than a few of these places - The souring outlook, the's all there. Sadly, we all visit these places at one time or another. The trick is all about keeping it to a short visit if we must go, and not a long term stay. We usually come back from it all the wiser.

    Great post, Wendy.

  12. I've been guilty of a lot of those. I remember someone saying to me once and it might have been in Sunday School, that comparison is never good because either you become prideful or depressed.

  13. I'm definitely a number cruncher. It's hard not to feel snubbed by the stuff. A little, silly something like, when see your comment section empty.. having poured out your heart to get one measly response, and then see someone post about something like hot dogs and pull in dozens. So easy to fall into the comparison trap. Agood reminder is the story of the shepherd seeking out the one lost sheep. God isn't concerned with numbers like we are. Great stuff here!

  14. I hate it when people write about me.

    Oh, yeah, did I mention I'm a narsissitstist?
    And a bad speller.

    I should have a green crown to go with my IMAX sized envy.

    Pray. Surrender. Pray. Surrender.

  15. I'm one of those people, at least with my writing, who is always looking around, wondering if I'm doing it right. Thanks for this reminder that I really only need to look up for validation.

  16. I think I toe the line okay. I am interested in the numbers, but really only look at them 1-2 times a week. I find my validation in struggling through a scene, and then being satisfied when re-reading it that I have written the best I can. Just found your blog - love it. New follower.

  17. If I'm not careful, I slide into pessimism. Keeping my eyes on the goal and on the One who set it helps me stay focused.


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