The Comparison Trap (is 100% a thing)

How do you write about an event that felt like a life changing, earth shattering experience? There’s so many emotions flooding out, so much to think and say - but also wanting to do it justice and find clarity. That was me at the end of May this year. I was completely taken off-guard when I had a moment that just “clicked”. This wasn’t a moment that came by often - in fact I never knew it was possible and I actually haven’t seen anyone else near by experience the same.

I released myself from The Comparison Trap.

Yep. The Comparison Trap is a real thing. And so much shit comes with it - really nothing great at all (although I’m grateful to say this blog has come out of it). Upon physically being released from The Trap A LOT of shit came up that was overwhelming and freeing so I thought I would share my experience of being on both sides of The Trap.

How I got there and what it was like (and the shit stuff that happens in there)

So as it turns out I was in “The Trap” for a really longtime. Not just like a 6 month slump or a brief stint. YEARS. At varying levels over the time but straight up - years. Probably a good reason of why was due to a creative friendship that turned into competition, but also I’d say because of social media, where I have spent the best part of the last 5 years consuming millions of other creatives journeys.

At some of the deepest points of being in the trap - which probably was since last year, I started noticing myself muting or unfollowing creative mates because everyone else’s success simply became too much.

Now. Let’s re-write that sentence now to what I was actually dealing with - I started noticing myself muting or unfollowing creative mates because I wasn’t focusing on myself, I was constantly looking at what everyone else was doing and not taking stock of my talents, progress and achievements. It was a very frustrating and confusing time as I literally saw myself in a state of near resentment for my friends achievements, yet forcing myself to push through and be the better person and congratulate them and support them. I can swallow that pill far easier now, but that hasn’t always been the case...

Where I think we get stuck

When I started to think about how and why I could’ve been in The Trap for so long, two main things came up. The first was ego. The Comparison Trap is a known thing. I’d definitely see it as a taboo subject and I realised it was as simple for me as not wanting to admit or own that, that could be happening to me.

It took until this year to start actually coming to accept that I could, just maybe be comparing myself. I can honestly say I’ve lost count of that amount of times I’d say I wasn’t comparing myself because "I knew my talents” when in actual fact, I just didn’t want to feel admit in the slightest to the world that I was just focusing on everyone else around me and deal with the shame and embarrassment and fear of judgement (from only myself) that came with it.

The difference between "acknowledging" and "accepting and releasing” (and "the moment")

The next was the biggest thing and what I would actually call a full body experience. It was a release. I had been speaking with a friend earlier in the year and our conversation ended with us giving each other feedback. My feedback unsurprisingly tied into a neat little comparison bow.

After years of hiding the fact. I finally started to admit mmm I guess I am comparing myself and their journey (but I don’t know how to stop - We will get to this point soon). That is “Acknowledging". What I learnt a few months later is that there’s actually a big difference between “Acknowledging” and “Accepting and Releasing”…

So the big moment. The big moment was actually before I went to work one day, and it was actually just a flick of a switch. I didn’t flick the switch myself - but now that I think of it, it’s like the light had been turned on after years and I’d been sitting in darkness. I remember stopping whatever I was doing, it caught me completely off guard and I experienced a huge shift in energy, lightness and the release of years of weight on my shoulders - So yes. It was hugely overwhelming, I messaged a friend and said "I don’t know what just happened but I’m out of the comparison trap and it’s really overwhelming. I can’t talk about it right now because I need to go to work soon and if I talk about it I’ll be crying”.

This moment was a huge turning point for me and something I’d never experienced before. It was clarity and acceptance. It was realising that there was a difference between acknowledging where I was and not wanting to be there, accepting this and in turn being able to release myself of this weight. I kept seeing myself literally walking out of The Trap, almost as if I’d be holding myself in there.

Forgiveness, being kind to yourself

What came after the moment was tears and smiling (as I’d mentioned before YEARS) as well as trying having all these memories, thoughts and just everything running through my mind trying to process what the fuck had just happened.

The biggest thing I can put it down it is forgiveness. As I’d said before, with ego came embarrassment and shame. That fear of judgement from the outside - was actually me judging myself and holding so much shame around being stuck in The Trap for so long and not using all those years, time and energy to focus on Number 1. Somehow, with the release came that clarity to be able to understand this and I could just be at peace. I wasn’t angry that I’d lost all this time, I wasn’t calling myself an idiot for being there, I even caught myself thinking I don’t want to use the term “I’ve been in it for I don’t want to know how long” - because now, it didn’t matter. Literally else nothing that day(, week fortnight) mattered, which was one of the greatest gifts.

Being ok with the process

Obviously the thought of “losing” time to focus on myself had crossed my mind - I’ve just realised I’d spent the last few years dedicating half (of more) of my thoughts to other people. If I hadn’t had such a huge mindset shift and stepped into this light, I’d probably be pissed but I realised that this whole journey had to happen the way it did. If I hadn’t been in it for so long, maybe it might not have the some magnitude as it did?

What it came down to was forgiveness in and for myself and to simply be at peace that this was all meant to happen the way it did and it led me to being THIS grateful for it. I was in it, now I’m not.

That’s their journey, this is mine.

It’s so funny to think how caught up we can get with the idea of success and what that can look like. We get caught up and forget why we started or where we started and how amazed our younger self would be at where we are right now. We get caught up on these screens looking at what everyone’s doing and showing off when really, we are all the same, working towards our idea of success and dealing with our struggles and admiring people that we see and simply forgetting that those people too, are dealing with shit.

Everyone loves a full circle journey - After a huge release, forgiving myself and being at peace with the journey and process, I finally was at this point basically gifted with the idea that all of this happened for me. Yes, I put myself through the ringer. And yes, others haven’t dealt with comparison or maybe they have and for not as long and YES - That is THEIR journey, and this is MINE and for the first time in years I’m finally aware and totally ok with this!

Are you in it?

Although sharing my story may help you feel less alone if you are dealing with comparison - I want to be able to offer some assistance in trying to get yourself out or at least make the journey a bit easier. As you can see I’ve been quite honest with what I was experiencing, I was and am not bullet proof and I didn’t actually know how to get myself out.

We can eventually release ourselves, but the process and balance of control is very tricky to navigate. What I can share that may help to releasing yourself is that I started to take baby steps. Accepting that I was comparing myself. I believe that was an integral part in this process. I also know now, not to feel ashamed about it. Because everyone deals with it at some point. When you catch yourself in that space - take a step back and look at what you’ve accomplished, because at that time when someone else is celebrating something you are working towards it can be very easy to forget. And talk to people, the conversation will more than likely end in “Me too?!” or your support network holding space for you and reminding you of how far you’ve come.

Most importantly, be gentle with yourself in the process.

Not giving a fuck about anyone else but myself (AKA Cloud 9)

Where am I now? I’m happy, my mind is less filled with other people, my jaw is less clenched, I’m actually on my phone less and in the most loving way possible - I give FAR less fucks, the least I’ve ever given, about everyone else, and I’ve started banking them up for myself. I actually can’t physically remember how I felt before the huge shift, however the day it happened I was literally on Cloud 9, for a considerable amount of time, and even now I can appreciate the fact that I may not be floating still, but I feel the lightest, clearest and happiest I’ve felt in years. Finally.

*This was my big grin a week after the mindset shift

There’s a number of people I have had conversations with over the years about self doubt and being too critical on myself, or whatever the shit I was thinking at the time. There was also a number of people I have spoken to since the release and were the most supportive friends I could ask for. Thank you for your kindness and support and most of all celebrating this with me. You could see me in this before I ever saw it myself, thank you for always gunning for me and constantly reminding me of what I was not focusing on.

Real TalkAlex Saba