Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of comparing yourself to other people. I said, “Comparison leads to arrogance or shame, but never happiness.”
A number of people responded and said things like, “but what if it inspires you to step up your game? What if it makes you say, ‘If so-and-so can do it, so can I?'”
I think the feedback I got helped me see something important, there’s a big difference between inspiration and comparison.
Seth Godin inspires me. The way he writes, the way he communicates his view of the world, the way he takes risks inspires me.
Robin O’Bryant inspires me. I wrote about her in my new book Do Over because when she was told “no” by every publisher she didn’t give up. She self published, sold her books out of her trunk and eventually hit the New York Times Bestsellers list.
Those are two, of the many, people who inspire me, but inspiration is not the same thing as comparison.
Let’s look at some of the differences:
Inspiration tells you anything is possible. Comparison tells you everything is impossible.
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Inspiration fills you up. Comparison empties you.
Inspiration drives you forward. Comparison pulls you backward.
Inspiration tells you there’s still time to accomplish something amazing. Comparison tells you it’s too late.
I wish I could give you an exact formula or a canary in the coal mine that made it obvious when you’ve left the world of inspiration and entered the land of comparison, but I can’t.
I can just tell you how it works for me.
When I am inspired by others, I want to clap for them. I am able, with an honest heart to cheer their accomplishments. When I get stuck comparing myself to others, I want to criticize them. I am not happy for their accomplishments, I am jealous of them. I misinterpret their success as a reflection on me. (If you’re looking for a definition of “narcissism,” just use that last sentence.)
Want to escape the comparison trap? It’s easy.
Celebrate others. Clap loud. Cheer for somebody else when you get the chance. (And you always have the chance.)
Criticizing people is easier than celebrating them. But one leads to jealousy and one leads to joy.
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I hope you find people who inspire you. The world is full of them, but when you do, don’t let your inspiration mutate into comparison.
Inspiration is a gift. Comparison is a curse. And each day we get to choose which we’ll embrace.