I remember the day I reached for my phone, swiped to Instagram, and stopped. “Why do I need to see this right now?” Notice that word need. I could feel it in my gut, that desire to be known, to be respected, to be admired, to be loved. Shaken, I put down my phone and challenged myself to go the length of the day without checking to see what others thought of me or how many others thought of me. It was a lot harder than I expected.

While I haven’t got any moral issue with Instagram, I did notice a pattern in myself when I check in on social media. I vacillate between feeling brave and adventurous and feeling completely foolish. One moment I’m sailing the high seas of vision casting and entrepreneurship, the next I’m sinking into the deep abyss of failure and comparison.

Comparison. That word leaves no room for error, less room for improvement, and little room for logic. Your day might completely change for good or bad based on a little thing such as an increased number of followers on social media or the lack of attention to your latest post. But this isn’t a new phenomenon due to the invention of social media. In 1954, social psychologist Leon Festinger published his social-comparison theory, stating that we have an intrinsic desire to assess our progress by comparing ourselves to others. With Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we’ve just managed to streamline the process.

These days we have the opportunity to see inside the lives of numerous beautiful designers, talented makers and creatives, driven entrepreneurs, and grace-filled, loving mothers, not withstanding a flurry of new ideas, opportunities, and communities to take part in. Is any of this bad? It’s not! Beautiful, inspiring women all over the world have diverse, illuminating stories to share. But in moments, what started as a handful of inspiring women turns into a hyena pack of outside competition. What flipped the switch inside of us and put them in that category?

Comparison makes a mockery out of you and me, because comparison has no boundaries, no rules, no sense. Comparison asks the baker why her home isn’t as clean as the interior designer’s, or the new entrepreneur why her revenue isn’t as vast as the CEO of a multi-national corporation. Comparison expects your best foot forward, then weighs you against anyone and anything to see whether you measure up. Comparison creates a hostile environment for collaboration and a dead environment for celebration. How can I celebrate the one who threatens my dream?

There again, logic is lacking in this game of comparing you and me. Somehow along the way the other woman became not only a threat to your current status, but an obstacle between you and your dream. These symptoms can be cured. But, we can’t simply kill a thing. We must have plans for growth.

I propose collaboration, community, and celebration.

When you see something or someone and that itch to compare yourself starts to burn, step back. Ask yourself if this is an opportunity for collaboration. Does this person or product fit well with yours? Does it offer something that could better what you’re doing? Invite the other person in and see if they are interested in working together or sharing their knowledge to help you succeed. There are so many perfect creative collaborations just waiting to be explored.

If collaboration isn’t an option, try sending a message or email to the person and start a conversation. Imagine the friends we’ll make when we start connecting with like-minded women. You could find an encourager, a latte buddy, or an equally avid Dr Who watcher. When you take the person off the pedestal, you’ll discover you’re more alike than you think!

And if you can’t muster the courage to connect in community, choose celebration. Publicly wish the person well and be sure to support them. What an amazing impact we can have by openly sharing the things we love and celebrate in one another! Shut down the voice of comparison and sing out your own song of celebration.

We have a powerful opportunity here to make something good out of an otherwise ugly, demoralizing side effect of fear. Comparison is ready to be cured. Celebration, community, and collaboration are catching!

Comparison manages to snare each of us at some point. What helps you refocus on collaboration, community and celebration?

Emily Dean

Emily is a wife, mother, and muddy feet enthusiast. She is on a mission to reveal the truth about beauty through women's stories. Join the movement at Verity and take part in their latest mission to print their first book.

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