We've all heard it. The idiom "It's like comparing apples to oranges" is often used when two things are so different and should not (and cannot) be compared. And yet we do it all the time. Whether we are aware of it ourselves, participation in the comparison game is almost never progressive. It harbours unnecessary envy, stress and sadly depression. Thanks to our social media age, our comparison culture is at its peak. It is human nature to do so - we are curious to learn about other people's stories and we naturally start to think about what we've accomplished in our own lives and where we currently are. But the trap that most of us fall into are one of two extremes: 1) Envy and we start feeling like our lives are inferior compared to others VS 2) wanting to make others feel envious of you so that you can feel better about yourself. Either way, it is a vicious cycle and I know I personally go through this. The first was in February when I almost quit music. The second is now at this very moment but hold on - I know this time is different because I learned from the first experience and am now equipped with the proper tools to frame my mind set differently.
It doesn't matter if you're a musician, student, football player, lawyer, hair stylist etc we tend to compare ourselves to our counterparts within the same field. It is most logical because goals are common and how many of those we achieve determines our "success". In the pharmacy world these goals include a successful and growing business determined by sales, the number of extra certifications a pharmacist has under ones belt (eg. Additional Prescribing Rights, Certified Diabetes Educator), and becoming "clinical" (the pharmacists will understand this). Now after deciding to pursue my music passion, I admit I may have slightly succumbed to a whole different comparison game. Entertainment and social media today are unfortunately one. You cannot have one without the other given the realities of our new age of marketing and branding through social media. With the ability to share our craft with the world from the comfort of our home, it appears that being a musician and artist has never been easier. I beg to differ. In fact, it is a lot more difficult because we are engaging ourselves in one of the most unhealthy relationships that we can have with ourselves - ie. internal comparisons to justify our self worth. Social media does provide us with many opportunities and platforms to build our community, to allow us to connect with other musicians and industry personnel however it also amps up the social comparison phenomenon. Some may argue that comparing is informative and can be used as a drive but most often than not, it is discouraging with devastating results.
I always have to remind and coach myself that we are all destined on our own unique paths which means that timelines will be different and quite frankly IRRELEVANT. As such, comparing myself to other musicians "is like comparing apples to oranges" - irrelevant and cannot even be measured. Unfortunately society imposes "guidelines" to make it seem like certain things must be achieved by a specific time frame, or a minimum number of likes/subscribers or the big number game determines "success". I would like to share 5 tools and strategies that I am working through myself to troubleshoot my current discouragement mode so that I can continue to push through harder than ever to pursue the things that I believe so strongly in - music and affecting positivity!
1) Awareness & Confront
The first step is noticing that you are a participant. Then you ask yourself what triggered you to play the comparison game? Social media is unarguably a front runner but were there other situations? An acquaintance who continuously brags about their accomplishments or you encounter an activity that makes you feel discontented with your life? Whatever the trigger(s) may be, confront it and write it down! The motion of writing makes it real and tangible. Write down how each trigger negatively affects you and how it is actually counterproductive to what you are working towards. The next time this happens, resolve to catch yourself!
2) "Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover"
The glorious nature of someone's outward appearance is literally just that - an appearance. What is actually going on behind closed doors? The real struggles? Remember that we use social media to report on the positives. We carefully curate our "social media lives" to give others the appearance that things are great when in reality it isn't so. instead of feeling jealous, stressed or inferior just remember that you really don't know what is going on behind the scenes. Too often do I learn about my fellow musicians' struggles and I too, let my guard down and share about my own hardships in our respective pursuits in music. Very shocking but at the same time, somewhat comforting to know that I am not going through the hurdles alone.
3) Being Grateful
Cheesy? Too simple? Perhaps but definitely an overlooked habit to cultivate. We live in a society (especially in North America) where we always want more. What we currently have is never enough but we have got to put ourselves through a serious reality check because we are forgetting that we have more than what we deserve! It is the harsh truth. Being deeply and genuinely grateful on a daily basis for the people, things, and situations that are already present in our lives makes us less vulnerable to those negative feelings that the comparison trap has on us.
"Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." -- Oprah Winfrey
4) Comparison to affect positivity
For those of you who has been with me through the initial stages of my music pursuits knows the true intention and drive behind my decision to live the life of my dreams. The individuals who inspires me and whom I admire - whether they are friends, acquaintances or "idols" (just in case you are new to Natalia Chai Music, my idol and reason for my transition phase to music is the one and only Alicia Keys) I work at choosing to make comparisons healthy and motivational. What are these individuals doing that adds value into my life? How can we support each other? How are they affecting change and positivity? What can I learn from their experiences and pursuits? How can I apply their generosity and kindness into my own life to better myself, to grow and to continously learn so that I can live my life in the way that matters most and make the world a better place?
5) Comparing Self to Self
The process of comparing ourselves today to where we were yesterday, or to where we want to be tomorrow is called temporal comparison. This is something I have to get better at because we (including myself) actually don't give ourselves enough credit for what we've already accomplished to date. Focusing on self improvement rather than competition helps us structure realistic goals, devise strategies of how to get there and allows us take intelligent risks. Remember TIMELINES ARE IRRELEVANT. I use strategy #5 all the time to remind myself, given all that has happened and my personal circumstances that I've come a long way compared to myself in March 2017 when this all started for me and I am proud! I have proven to myself that I am capable and that this is what I am supposed to be doing. My passion for music fuels my power energy to continue on this pathway. Success is not guaranteed but at least I will know that regardless of the outcome, I have worked up the courage to become the "highest and most truest potential version of myself that I can be!" -- Oprah Winfrey
I truly hope these strategies helps whoever is reading this blog because just writing this for my loyal and consistent readers, I feel uplifted and ready to get back up! Change is literally on the horizon for me - although scary but I cannot wait to see how much more learning and growth that can take place and wish that you are all with me through thick and thin!
What are some ways that helps you from playing in the apples vs oranges trap?