Wondering why you are not getting the results you think you deserve? By focusing on other people, you may be sabotaging your own success. It starts when you are young. Your brother gets a fancy birthday party, so you want a better fancy birthday party. Your sister got an expensive makeover for Christmas, and now you think you deserve one too. It's human nature to compare yourself to others. In small doses, and with a healthy frame of reference, it can be a positive thing … especially when your observations lead you to take actions that lead to more of your own success.
But when viewed through feelings of self-inadequacy, looking at the entrepreneurial success of others can poison your own small business journey. Scientists call this “social comparison bias,” and it happens when you experience feelings of bitterness and dislike after perceiving others as having more opportunities, better outcomes, and more success than you.
Scientists have discovered a striking correlation between social comparison bias and feelings of depression and anxiety. Social media, Facebook in particular, has exacerbated this problem in many ways. According to this article in Psychology Today, “Facebook users may tend to regard themselves as ‘competing' with their various Facebook friends and can often feel inadequate as a result.”
If you are an entrepreneur, you must connect with your peers on some level on a regular basis — usually through social media and industry events. This means that you have to work hard to protect yourself against social comparison bias. Here are three ways to do that.
How to Avoid Social Comparison Bias
- Start each day focused on you. You have to start here. Before thinking of a single other person in the universe, focus on yourself. Whether you do this through a formal mediation routine, exercise, journaling, or just sitting down with a cup of coffee and a favorite book or hobby, put your attention on the one thing you can control — YOU.
Review and plan what you will accomplish during the day. Embrace the positivity that you can and will bring into every situation and encounter. Meditate on what you want to achieve and what you will do that day to achieve it. When you start to feel that you may be drifting toward unhealthy comparisons, take your mind back to the start of your day and the promises you made to yourself. Over time, as your mind becomes filled with joyful experiences from your own accomplishments and successes, what other people are doing will has less of an influence on you.
- Unfriend and unfollow accounts that cause you to negatively compare yourself. Make it a habit to unfriend or unfollow accounts and conversations that cause you to unhealthfully compare yourself to others. You have complete control over what you see and what you do, and if you cannot manage a social media outlet without it having a negative impact on you, you need to either leave the platform or unfollow people and subject matters that are having a negative impact. Unsubscribe from all email publications that make you feel inadequate or envious.
Don't let yourself feel badly about unfollowing a particular person or conversation. This is not about judging yourself by highlighting your shortcomings. It's about positioning yourself to embrace things that affect you positively and reject things that affect you negatively. Do what you have to do, without judging.
- Learn how to learn from, rather than compare to, others.. Get into the habit of looking at successful people with a curious eye. For example, when you see that Lisa has won a prestigious award or is featured positively in a blog post or social media update, peek behind the scenes to see how Lisa might achieved her success. Chances are she took the initiative and proactively applied to nominate herself for an award or opportunity. Unless Lisa has some kind of super human capability that you do not have or cannot cultivate, then you can find out what she did and then go and do it yourself.
If you cannot do this for some reason, and you still experience negative feelings when you encounter the success of others, then go back to number two above, and unfriend or unfollow. You can always go back later, if you wish, when you are stronger.
Donna Maria, Indie Business Network
Have you experienced social comparison bias? Have you seen the damage it can do to others who have, and how it poisons the environments they touch? Feel free to share in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.