I look around and see everyone is pursuing these amazing careers and they have great lives. They all seem to know what they’re doing, and they have a purpose. I don’t understand why I can’t get in gear. What’s wrong and missing in me that I can’t figure it out?
I hear this a lot as a career coach. And I also recognize it’s hard not to compare yourself to others. When we are caught up in the cult of comparison, we are often caught up in the trance of the inner critic. It’s our brain’s flawed way of trying to motivate ourselves to move into action by using comparison as the carrot to dangle in front of our faces or more aptly the switch to use on our backs. It works up to a point where it stops working as a motivator. We prove and we prove and we prove and then we get tired. And wonder what it was all for. And that is when we find ourselves on the messy path to growth. To wholeness. To uncovering our true value.
When I first started out as a coach, my confidence was lower. I was trying something new; I was worried about whether I would be a success and I spent a lot of time and energy ruminating about what I was doing in relation to other coaches. I’d see their fancy LinkedIn posts of workshops they were running, filled with pictures of smiling participants, complete with slick materials bearing perfectly polished logos and I’d feel woefully inadequate. I’d use it as fodder to beat myself up with. I’d start to spring into action to post something, to plan something, in a desperate desire to compete, to put my own words out there too. And then I’d be riddled with thoughts about how my idea wasn’t as good. It would never work. And I’d abandon the idea to the graveyard we each have in our heads.
Following your true north isn’t easy
The inner critic comparison attack still happens from time to time for me, and chances it does for you too. But it looks a little different now. Recently I’ve turned down a few opportunities that have come my way, because I’ve sensed they weren’t the right path for me and didn’t resonate with my values. Perhaps they would have been right for a different coach, or if I had a different idea or vision for my business. And it was extremely hard to do because I knew deep down my inner critic wasn’t going to like it. I was afraid of the fire that I knew saying no would brew. Now Gertie (my inner critic) is telling me I was crazy to walk away from the revenue. Telling me I am woefully inadequate compared to the coaches that took that path and look how successful they are. And it’s getting in the way of progressing a couple of initiatives I want to kick off, which was why I said no in the first place, to give myself the space to focus on the things I really want to do, like starting a mentoring circle for women. But Gertie is screaming that I’m lazy and I’ll never make a success of it anyway. I found myself caught in the dreaded comparison loop of the inner critic. Sheesh.
Which leads to the following observation. This week I observed the comparisons in my own head. I recognized they were coming from the voice of Gertie, my inner critic. And then I remembered something important I learned years ago. When I find myself comparing myself more than usual to others, it’s typically a barometer for how I’m feeling on the inside about myself.
Self compassion is the antidote to comparison
It’s almost like an equation: comparison in head = high, self – compassion = zero.
So the question became, what would showing myself compassion look like this week?
Firstly, it would look like acknowledging the attack in the first place, and that it’s okay to feel this way. I’m a human being and these things happen from time to time.
Secondly, it would be giving myself credit for the fact I’m realizing this. And that it hasn’t taken me as long to realize the root cause as it may have years ago. Comparison is the inner critic’s favorite tool. It’s hard to see because it feels so crippling and real. And it uses so many subtle ways to drive us crazy. Practice spotting its crafty ways makes better, there is no perfect in my world anymore.
Thirdly, it would be giving myself some credit for honoring my values, honoring what is best for me, and acting in accordance with them. For having the courage to choose myself when there was an easier and more straightforward path in front of me. There were times the last few weeks when I thought a lot about the title of my company, True North. And what would I choose if I were living in alignment with that?
Lastly, it will be publishing this blog, as a way of honoring this process for myself, sharing learnings with others and demonstrating some vulnerability by letting readers in.
Coaching questions for thought:
- Who are the people you compare yourself to?
- What would showing yourself some compassion in these situations look like?
- How can you find ways to acknowledge yourself for living true to your values and what is important to you?
Shelley Pernot is a leadership coach who is passionate about helping her clients discover their strengths and talents and step into their greatness. Reach out to me here for a free consultation to learn more about the coaching process and how it may benefit you!