Of all the personal traits I possess that I dislike, there is none more self-destructive than my habit of comparing myself to others. I imagine it’s an inspiring trait for some, where you see someone who’s achieved a goal you desire and their success acts as a motivator for you. But when this habit of comparison is mixed with a low self-esteem like mine, the mixture is volatile. This ugly habit applies itself to every aspect of my life, and it bothers the hell out of me.
I’ve been making webcomics for fifteen years, and it’s been my full time job for thirteen of those years. That alone should fill me with pride and lift my self-esteem permanently out of the gutter. There are days when I’m flying high on this… until I go and compare myself to the successes of other webcomickers. I see creators who have been in the game for a shorter time than me making crazy money on their Patreons and Kickstarters, getting deals with publishers, becoming famous, and winning industry awards. Comparison + low self-esteem = I must not be as talented as I thought I was, since everyone appears to be more successful than me.
I own a home. I own a goddamn home. The fact that I’m a webcomicker and I own a home should be enough to make me ride high on my accomplishments… until I go and compare myself to others. I see friends of mine with bigger houses who live in fancier towns, and this old-fashioned shame begins to weigh heavily on my shoulders. Is my little house the best I can provide for my wife and son? I begin to assume my friends didn’t need as much help from their families on their deposits as we did. Comparison + low self-esteem = I must not be as good a provider as everyone else because I don’t make as much money for my family.
Over the past two years I have transformed my body from dumpy and out-of-shape to fit and moderately muscular. The discipline required to go to the gym every weekday and change my diet is something I should be immensely proud of. I’ve documented the whole journey on Instagram with the #BuffDadLegacy hashtag! There’s physical proof that I have a lot to be proud of! Until… yeah, I go comparing myself to others. The bulk and fitness of others at the gym, at the conventions where strapping specimens are strutting around in next-to-nothing, all start to eat away at my confidence as I struggle to lift the same weights I’ve been stuck on for the past few months. Comparison + low self-esteem = I’m never going to achieve my goals because my body and discipline must be inferior.
These are all stupid thoughts. I know that. I know that so very much. I have to remind myself that I’m being an idiot when I compare myself to others like this. I’ve accomplished so much and I am so very lucky to have what I have, thanks to those of you who are reading this right now. But this is a bad mixture in my brain’s chemistry set, and while it’s not as serious as some mental difficulties that others have to deal with, it’s still aggravating and can ruin my day at a moment’s notice.
If you do this to yourself, as I do, the best advice I can give you is to try your best to quit comparing. It’s much easier said than done. But I take comfort in the words of Mary Schmich’s famous and insightful “Wear Sunscreen” essay:
“Sometimes you’re ahead. Sometimes you’re behind. The race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself.”