How do you compare?
The Grinch isn't the only green-eyed monster might see this Christmas time...
No matter how hard we try, it’s human instinct to compare ourselves to others. There’s a quote that always comes back to me when I think about comparison and jealousy:
“The first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think; what you think next defines who you are.”
So, when you see another freelancer closing their books or celebrating a record-breaking year, it’s not your fault if the first thought that comes to your mind is “ugh.”
And then your second thought is probably guilt for the initial negative reaction, or you might just jump to acceptance and wish them well in a friendly tweet.
The end of the year often brings with it a flurry of Twitter highlight reels full of big figures, awards and other achievements that you just can’t imagine living up to.
This week, I asked Twitter: “Have you ever felt jealous of other freelancers?” and the result shows an overwhelming majority in favour of the green-eyed monster.
Jealousy is completely normal and we all feel it from time to time, so how do we negate the niggling feeling when it arrives?
Acknowledge that jealousy is okay, and your thoughts ≠ you.
One of the key principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is acknowledgement. You are taught to acknowledge thoughts and their patterns and let them pass you by. It’s about creating distance between you and your thoughts so you can understand that your thoughts are not necessarily a reflection of who you are as a person. Ever thought about pushing the person in front of you down the stairs? Or considered veering your car into the hard shoulder? The presence of that thought doesn’t mean you want to do those things - it’s just a thought. And the same goes for jealous thoughts.
Jealous might not always be a bad thing
I also asked Twitter if they used other freelancers of measuring their own success. Fewer people responded but there was still a significant majority one way.
While I don’t condone comparing yourself to others (more on that in the last section), I don’t think there’s any harm in a little friendly competition - even if that competitive spirit is held entirely in your own mind. Identify those in your field who you admire and find out what makes them the best. While this does not work for everyone, there is certainly a large swathe of people who are driven by competition.
Turn foes into friends
I can guarantee that you will gain more from being friendly to your “competitors” than you ever will from seething on the sidelines. Join communities, take part in Twitter chats and connect with people in your field on LinkedIn and you’ll open the door to a whole new world of opportunity, including the potential for referrals or recommendations.
If jealousy is your first thought, don’t let it be your last.
You can’t do what other people do because you’re not other people
When you look past the Twitter threads and highlight reels, any comparison you can draw is truly unfounded. You might be a parent comparing yourself to a childless freelancer, or a solo worker looking at a duo like myself and Craig. Even behind the scenes, there are so many factors that impact our output, like mental health difficulties or concentration problems.
As my mam used to say: “you can only do your best.” Even though we’re rapidly approaching three years since she left this world, Miriam’s words still ring true now.
Have you ever felt jealous of another freelancer or colleague? Pop over to Twitter to discuss @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a confidential chat.
📚 The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
A pretty interesting twist on the typical low-stakes romance as the protagonist is an autistic woman who seeks a male sex worker to help her develop her skills. I do think this book is problematic at times in its depiction of autism, although on other occasions it sheds light on the inner workings of a massively under-diagnosed group - women with autism. So, you win some you lose some with this one but if you like romance then this is an easy read.
Awe-inspiring documentary about Nepalese mountaineer Nims Purja and his team who aim to climb the world’s 14 highest peaks in less than seven months - a record previously set at seven YEARS and 310 days. I can’t recommend this documentary enough. It sheds light on the westernisation of mountain climbing in the east while telling the story of one man’s infallible determination. Fantastic watch.
That’s all from me this week - and for 2021! I am officially taking two weeks off the newsletter (first time ever) and I will be back with more musings about mental health and work culture in the online world on 5th January.
Wishing all my subscribers a wonderful Christmas and New Year - and don’t forget to take a break!
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
8 December: Lessons on mental health from Henry Cavill
1st December: Give the gift of rest this Christmas
24 November: Who are you?
17 November: Christmas comes early
10 November: Does size matter?
5 November: Consistency is overrated
27 October: Winter is coming whether you like it or not
20 October: I got sick
13 October: This girl is me
6 October: Everything is awful… or is it?
29 September: That’s dope
22 September: Have a word with yourself