The Fallacy of Comparison
Last week I had the privilege to be a part of The IShallBe Restored panel at Bamboo Detroit. The IShallBe tour was put on by Shelby Tinsley, who created the app IShallBe (get it, her name is SHALL-BE) in which people can receive daily positive affirmations that might inspire or get them through the day. The affirmations can come in the form of a quote, a song or a video. The app is totally free, and you can download it right now. What else are you going to download, Angry Birds 47?
Anyway, Shelby developed this event where she invites a panel of local entrepreneurs and discusses the importance of finding a happy place. It was an evening filled with positive messages, great stories and camaraderie all around.
One of the subjects that came up the most was social media and how it has an effect on our feelings and overall happiness. Most people agreed that social media can become dangerous when you start comparing people’s experiences to your own. Five minutes of strolling through Facebook or Instagram could lead to a massive case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and despair… People on the beach, kids having the time of their lives, great food and great times. Everyone showcasing their best experiences, which just reminds you how much you are NOT doing. I heard David Spade (SNL, Tommy Boy) on Howard Stern the other day, and even he said he gets sucked in. He said that he goes to social media and is just reminded of how crappy his life is, then he remembers, oh yeah, I have a pretty sweet life.
The reason we do this is because from an early age we are taught that competition is healthy and that we should use it as a barometer to know where you stand. Think about it, in sports you are looking to beat someone else, in school you are measured against other students through grades, and at work you are ranked against others in your position. Through your entire life you are compared to others, and your goal is to come out ahead.
The same goes through social media. You end up posting what is perfect, and amusing, and funny, so that others can react to it. The problem becomes that most of us will start seeing social media life as a competition, and by result feel bad if we see others having a greater experience than we do. The greatest fallacy of comparison is that it advertises itself as a positive by giving you incentive to thrive, but in reality it serves as a way to bring you down because no matter what, someone will be greater than you in something.
This happens because we think of life as a game. Winners, losers, etc. However, life is not a game. There is no end (well, there is death, but by then you can’t count your points). So why do we measure our worth by looking at others instead of looking at what makes us happy and being ok with that?
The same happens in business. Instead of being ok with our performance reviews, we can become incensed because Tommy got the promotion, and we are sooooo much better then him. Stupid Tommy.
In order to be ok with ourselves, we need to focus on us, not on others. In what is going to make us happy. Simon Sinek (author of “Start with Why”) says it best: “There is no such thing as winning or losing in a game that has no end. There is only what’s ahead and what’s behind”.
At the IShallBe event, one of my fellow panelists, Jaired Epps, brought up something he read that really resonated with me. Here is the gist: We are all on our own time zones. If you are in California, and you are worried that New York is three hours ahead, you are not living in your own time zone. So even though it might seem that they are ahead, they are really just in their time zone.
Jaired’s wife Britney Epps (another panelist) put it even more in perspective. She told the story that she saw a tweet from a successful entrepreneur that she follows that said: #founderhours. It was 11:00pm. She immediately felt that she was not working as hard as he was. While she was watching TV, he was hard at work on his business. At 11:00pm. Only that he lived on the west coast. For him it was 8:00pm. Perspective is an amazing thing.
I have a question for you. Moving forward, what can you do to start living more in YOUR time zone and not on others? What can you do to avoid comparisons and run the race against yourself? Find what works for you and let go of the comparisons. Ben Folds said it best in one of his songs: “Smile, like you have nothing to prove, no matter what you might do, there always someone out there cooler than you”. So… don’t worry about it. Go do you.
Andre Mello is a Certified Business Coach and is done comparing himself against those ads showing a 23 year old coach that says he made 7 figures in three months. He has been in marketing and leadership for over 17 years. If you would like to connect with Andre please visit www.wysecoaching.com