The Problem of Comparison OR “So, What About Me?”

Written by Molly Mahar


Working with rock stars is exhausting.

Wait, let me rephrase that.

Working with amazing people is exhausting and not for the reasons you’d think. They’re not divas. They’re not snobbish. They are kind, considerate, beautiful, exhilarating individuals that really and truly shine. I’m blessed to be their friend. I’m honoured to be their aesthetic architect. Dually if I have the privilege of both.

They’re writers and coaches. They’re agents of social change. They’ve inspired many people in their work. They speak and it is gospel. They’ve shaped the futures of countless people just by existing and sharing their stories with the world.

When I sit down to really reflect on the whole “why the living hell would they want to work with little ol’ moi?”, it can be just as empowering as it can be confusing. Here I am — twenty-four years old — rubbing elbows with the biggest, baddest mamajammas (and just plain mamas) online. Really? ME?! Bloody hell, that can’t be right.

I’m the stage manager to their actress; the prop master to their director; and the choreographer to their prima ballerina.

While I may be in charge of crafting things behind the scenes, I can hardly say that what I do is inspiring to hundreds, thousands, and millions of people. What I do is create solutions for problems using design as both my medium and my toolset, where the problem is online aesthetic and visual branding.

In spite of all the inspiration and the unbridled amazing, it can get depressing.

While I’m fairly certain that I don’t require the limelight or for people to pay attention to meeee, working with the online equivalent of rock stars (no matter how clichéd the term has become) is a reminder of how much farther I need to go, both professionally and personally.

Let’s face it: I don’t want to be just a web designer or a mama or a branding specialist or a writer or a gamer or… you get the picture. I don’t want to be just anything. The grand scheme of it is to be as many things as I possibly can be without either exploding or imploding from pressure (be it external or internal).

I’m at least part-way responsible for the online development of these personal and/or professional brands/websites. I’m happy to lift them up and help them shine even brighter.

But it’s hard not to feel left behind sometimes.

It’s hard not to feel insignificant.

It creates a problem of comparison.

I could sit here and rattle off the ways in which I fall short. In comparison. The real problem of comparison creates an ego issue, where my self worth can get tied up in their success. The faster and more expansive their success, the better I feel. The slower and less expansive, the worse I feel.

It’s easy to get caught up in the comparisons, especially when I consider my definition of success: financial solvency and freedom to choose. These are people that can work a few hours a day, travel with their beautiful families (or by their sexy, sexy selves), go to yoga, and still manage to make a significant impact on their worlds.

A year ago, I was busting my ass just to make a cool couple hundred.

Six months ago, I busted my ass just to make a few dollars here and there.

The fact of the matter is this: I am a slave to my own ambition. I’m impatient. I wail and cry and beat on the wall until my hands bleed (no, not really). I beg the universe to give me a sign. Any sign. Anything. I’m often thrown into emotional purgatory as punishment, where I sit in dark rooms and brood about my path for days at a time during Vivienne Westwood retrospectives.

I had to stop comparing.

Shortly after my face-plant in the fall, I did the Joy Equation. I plucked myself out of melancholy and forced myself to recognize joy and to recognize the successes in my own life, not just in others’. I had — scratch that, have — an overwhelming tendency to want to be the best, when the best is often both a fallacy and an impossibility.

And, just like my view of balance, the theory of “the best” is bullshit.

No such thing. You can strive all you want, lovelies, but you ain’t nevah gonna get there. There’s always someone bigger and better than you at whatever you do.

My autumnal face-plant forced my to recognize that.

If I sat back and compared my life to everyone else’s, I would ultimately become a derivative; an unoriginal carbon copy of someone else. I’ve sought my whole life to avoid that. I don’t want to be like anyone. I just want to be myself, whatever that self may look like and whatever that self happens to mean in the grander scale of things.

When I tie up my own self worth in the success of someone else, I hand over the reins to chaos and uncertainty. By grasping the reins tightly and saying, “This is your stop, love. Go forth and prosper.” — I’ve retained control and managed my expectations of the situation.

The problem of comparison is self-destructive.

Ultimately, my success and self-worth are no one’s responsibility but my own. It’s not up to my clients and friends to take me along for the ride. It’s not up to my husband to build me up when I feel dismal (although, snuggles certainly help). It’s not up to you — my lovely Stratejoy family — to agree mindlessly with the things I write about.

I think that the more I explore the notion of self worth and success, the more comfortable I become with knowing there’s no such thing as stability within either of those concepts. It’s a constant struggle. It’s a battle waged on many fronts.

Most importantly, it’s far more rewarding to smile at my accomplishments and connections than it is to wonder, “What about me?”

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