The One Time It’s Actually GOOD To Compare Yourself To Others

Friends, permit me to begin this post with a personal anecdote followed by a (potentially) heavy-handed business metaphor.

A few years ago, I decided to undertake the white girl’s right of passage: the novelty 5k. Yes, like everyone else in your Facebook feed, I signed up for some color run/mud run/well-intentioned fundraiser run and then proceeded to question that decision.

But like the try-hard that I am, I downloaded a Couch-to-5k app and proceeded to train my ass off. I bought cute pink sneakers and started doing that walk/run interval thing that every training program suggests.

Walk run walk run walk run run run

Despite what seemed like a fairly sane training program, I found myself incredibly winded and exhausted. “Maybe I’m even less fit than I realized? Do I have lungs the size of almonds?”

I kept training and I kept feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. On a whim, I invited a veteran runner friend to join me on a training run; at least I’ll have a companion and witness to my misery, I reasoned.

When my friend met me, I explained my interval training program and we took off at a brisk walk. When my C25K app beeped, I broke into a what I thought was a jog. I did what I thought I was supposed to be doing, going at a pace I  thought I should be going.

“Whaaaaat are you dooooing?!” my friend yelled from 10 feet behind me. “Why in the name of Nike are you sprinting right now?”

But I didn’t know I was sprinting.
I thought I was ‘jogging.’

I thought I’d set realistic expectations for myself, when - in fact - they were ridiculous and unsustainable. And I didn’t realize that until I showed my friend what I was doing.

The goals we make for our businesses and online lives are very frequently private. They’re often based on what we want for ourselves - more Instagram followers, more clients, more traffic, more money. They’re not always based on what’s sane, sustainable, or realistic.  We might not even know we’re setting ourselves up for stress and heartbreak because we’re so busy playing our cards next to our chest.

The moral of this story, dear reader, is that we might be sprinting when we should be jogging. We might be expecting to land a book deal when a self-published ebook that earns $1,000 might be more realistic. We won’t know the difference unless we open up to our friends and peers about what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go.

Let’s commit to building honest, open friendships with our peers so we can get the truthful feedback we need. Let’s have conversations include questions like “Do you think that’s realistic?” and “How long did it take you?” and “Am I going to hate my life if I do this?”

And in the spirit of healthy, sane-making comparisons, let me tell you:
* It took me eight VAs, two years, Susan Drumm, and Trello to figure how to manage someone
* I’ve been writing professionally for 15 years and some blog posts still take me foreeeeever
* Sometimes it takes me 45 minutes to find and format the right photo for a blog post
* I run my blog posts through Grammarly, I proofread them backward, I print them out and edit them by hand and typos still sneak through

Sometimes a little intelligent comparison can be a good thing.

Tell me! Has comparison ever helped you and your business? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

photo by Death To The Stock Photo // cc



Yep, sharing works! I’m often quite secretive about my goals (fear of failure maybe?) - when I open up and discuss my ideas, hands down, every time, I get helpful feedback that I can really use to tighten things up.

Another time I find comparison helpful is in the whole ‘has this been done a gazillion times before?’ thing. I have an idea…then I check out what everyone else in my field is doing… and hey, hang on, they’re all doing that! So I know to drop or niche-fy or otherwise tweak my idea. OR, hey, no-one else is doing this, WA-HEY, could this be a super special flagship project? Etc etc.

Generally though, like you, I’m 100% down with not comparing my work/income/whatever to others. That way lies misery!


Yes! A little share and kind-hearted, intelligent comparison can make all the difference!


Great story Sarah and how refreshing to see someone sharing that she still doesn’t have it all together. Thank you very much for your honesty.

Andréa Jones

Oh yes, comparing yourself to your industry is sometimes a very, very good thing to do. It’s a bit harder when we’re home… alone… with our computer and our pug. (Or is this just me?)

In all seriousness, I’m thankful that I’m starting to build relationships with other bloggers for that very same reason! Plus, now that my husband is also a freelancer, we get to bounce ideas off of each other.

Great post!

Krithika Rangarajan

This post is all Sarah: sassy, sexy, sweet, smart and KICK ASS <3

LOVED it - thank you #HUGS


PS: Pink Sneakers sound cute…and that's the extent of my association with running programs 😛 I am a treadmill'er', NOT a runner 😉

Jen @ Jen's Favorite Cookies

Oh my gosh, thank you for writing this!! I have been thinking the same thing for years. Comparing my photos to others photos and trying to imitate their lighting / composition, etc., has helped me improve my photography a TON. It’s not so much that I want to be the person I’m comparing myself to, I just want to experience a similar skill level. And short of spending my life savings on training, teaching myself through comparison has been the single biggest boost to my skills.

Incidentally, I hate running with a raw burning passion. But I will take some pink sneakers! Great post.

Janet Murray

Love this post. And how reassuring to hear how long and how many VAs it took you to learn how to manage someone. Still grappling with that one!


Just yesterday I compared myself to own my saner self and what I wanted for my summer. I realized that the extra mega writing I’ve been doing for 2 months in order to better organize my website from a marketing perspective was driving me into the ground. I acknowledged all those subtle little cravings I’d been brushing aside to be able to read a little, pull a few weeds, be a blob and vegetable a little and go to the BEACH with fiction. I realized that I’d lost the joy of writing my blog posts as well as the energy and capacity and time. I was starting to stress over the cost of the consultants rather than original feeling of how great an investment it was. And so I finally ‘came to” (with the help of my husband who was feeling the lack of joy in me too).

I just needed to slow back down so I could enjoy my summer, trust my body and listen to those wonderful impulses to keep living my LIFE, and go at that much more reasonable “jogging” pace rather than the sprint.

I woke up this morning energized and excited about the next blog post wahooo!
Thx so much for sharing your example Sarah!

Carolyn Selheim-Miller | Boxes and Jars

This is great advice! But, I think it’s also worth noting that while comparison can be a good reality check, that reality goes both ways. It’s great to know when you’re setting unreachable goals, but I think that it should also be used to set higher goals. I and I think a lot of other people find it really easy to get caught up in the “well I could never do that, she has x, y, and z going for her that I don’t have.” When, in reality, we should be seeing what other people are accomplishing as the unarguable proof of possibility.

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