Imposter Syndrome & The Curse of Comparisonitis [Episode 042]

Imposter Syndrome and the curse of comparisonitis! This is for you if you ever catch yourself doom-scrolling and feeling so much worse by the end of it, because everybody else seems to have their act together and be happy and successful... and when compare yourself, you find yourself lacking and secretly beat yourself up, maybe even holding back on going for your dreams.

We're going to talk about how to fix this, both with an 'in the moment' self-mentoring question, for when comparisonitis strikes, and with a preventative technique that could transform your life forever, in just a couple of minutes a day.

What You'll Discover Today

  • What is comparisonitis and where does it come from?
  • Three things that trigger it - aside from social media
  • My uncommon definition of Imposter Syndrome, and why this explains how it triggers comparisonitis
  • The secret assumption we're making when we compare ourselves with others, and how this makes us feel worse
  • How the 3 pillars of Imposter Syndrome contribute towards comparisonitis
  • The self-mentoring question that can press pause on this, and how to set yourself free from it, once and for all

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Note: this is an AI-generated transcript, so please forgive typos.

Welcome to Episode 42 of the Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast with me, your host, Clare Josa. And today, we are talking about imposter syndrome and the curse of comparisonitis. This is for you if you ever catch yourself doom scrolling and feeling so much worse by the end of it because everybody else seems to have their act together and be happy and successful. And when you compare yourself, you find yourself lacking and secretly end up beating yourself up, maybe even holding back on going for your dreams. We're going to talk about how to fix this once and for all in today's episode. So the curse of comparisonitis, I totally get this. I understand if this is something that you've been experiencing and it doesn't just come from social media. So here's what we're covering in today's episode. What on earth is comparisonitis and where does it come from? Three things that trigger it, aside from social media, so you know when to look out for it. My uncommon definition of imposter syndrome and why this explains how imposter syndrome triggers comparisonitis. The secret assumption we're making when we compare ourselves to others and how this makes us feel even worse.

You can let go of that assumption and feel much better very quickly. How the three pillars of imposter syndrome contribute towards comparisonitis, and the self mentoring question I'm going to give you this one that compressed pause on it, plus how to set yourself free from it once and for all. I've been running an international research study into imposter syndrome for the last six years now, and one of the things we check for is something called comparisonitis. Comparisonitis is when we get stuck in the habit of looking at other people's lives, comparing them to us and finding ourselves lacking. And as I was prepping for the episode today, I was thinking, what is the root of to compare? And it actually comes from Latin meaning to be equal to each other. So what we're effectively doing when we compare ourselves is saying, am I equal to this person? Am I better? Am I worse? We're comparing ourselves to them. I found in the research study that 69% of the general population do this daily or regularly, many people, many times a day. If you're running your own business in the entrepreneurial world, though, this figure skyrockets to 82%.

Four out of five people running a business where the business is about them or their creativity rather than some random widget that's nothing to do with their heart and soul. Four out of five, 82% do this every single day. Beating themselves up, judging themselves, comparing themselves to others. And the most common way we do this is by doom scrolling on social media. Yes, we go through everybody's posts, by the time we get to the end of watching three or 400 of them, we're like, Oh, everybody else has got their act together. Everybody else's life is brilliant. I'm not as good as them. And if you're running imposter syndrome or you're struggling with low confidence and self esteem, this can really hit you hard. Here's the thing about social media, though. We've got the thing. It's like, okay, it's just other people's highlight reels. It's very rare for people to post the 6am bags under eyes saying, I didn't sleep last night and I had a row with my kids and I'm feeling really miserable and frankly can't be bothered to turn up for the world today. I'm not adulting today. That's very rarely the thing people share unless they really want sympathy or support.

Almost everything we see on social media is the highlight reel. Here's the thing, though. Social media isn't just other people's highlight reels. It's the algorithms curated version of the best bits of the best bits. It's not real. So please stop comparing yourself with that. And in this episode, I'm going to show you how. And it's not just social media. There are three other things that can trigger comparisonitis. For example, company newsletters where a team is being praised or a person is being praised and you see that and you think, I'm not in the newsletter again. I'm no good. They're better than me. We compare ourselves with that. Or it might be something up on a notice board at work. A colleague being praised for their idea in a meeting, triggering our inner, nobody's praised me for my idea in about 3,000 years, so therefore, I'm not good enough. Someone getting promoted is another really common trigger, especially if that's a role we would have secretly aspired to. I'm curious, have a think for a moment. If you identify with the feeling of comparisonitis, what triggers it for you? When does it come up for you?

Because when you know when it might be coming, you can play with the techniques I'm going to share with you today to mean that it doesn't matter for you anymore. And comparisonitis is often tied in quite closely with jealousy, which is an emotion that none of us like. It never feels great, that green eyed monster, as we call it in English. We see somebody else achieving something and we feel jealous, we feel bad. We wish we could be doing that. When that happens, it's often actually a sign from your unconscious mind that it's time for you to be aiming a little higher. The reason you're feeling that emotion is there's a mismatch between what you see yourself as doing and achieving and what you know your true potential is. And the more you clear out imposter syndrome, the easier it is for you to take those actions, to be all of who you really are, to show up and make the difference you're really here to make. And then you don't need to feel jealous of other people at all. Despite what we might think about the world of internet trolls, our harshest critic is still the one inside us.

And that comes back to my uncommon definition of imposter syndrome. When I'm working with clients, whether it's creating a workshop, a keynote, or they're doing one of my courses, or I'm training them to become certified first aiders and master coaches, I often talk to them about imposter syndrome being the secret fear of others judging us the way we judge ourselves. And this explains how comparisonitis happens. Judging, yeah, this compare, the root of it, to be equal to each other. When we're comparing ourselves to others, to other people or to their achievements, but the commentary that's running inside is judging ourselves for who we are, it's much easier. Instead of just looking at their achievements saying, oh yeah, I could do that. We start that internal dialogue about who we are as a person. I am not good enough, identity level statements. So this is why comparisonitis hurts. The more we judge ourselves, the more likely we are to be comparing ourselves to others and judging ourselves that way too. When you clear out the stuff that was keeping you stuck in imposter syndrome, so you can feel grounded, confident, happy in your own skin, then comparing yourself with others no longer hurts.

And in fact, it can even become a source for inspiration for where you could take your journey next and what you could achieve. And there's a secret assumption we're making when we compare ourselves to others that makes us feel even worse. We assume that what they've achieved was probably quite easy for them because they're somehow brilliant. We think they're like the swan gracefully gliding over the surface of the lake compared to us sitting there as the duck with our feet flapping away in chaos just below the surface. We think they've got their act together and they're truly happy and confident, and we know inside that we haven't. And because of the shame and the stigma and the taboo around imposter syndrome, meaning that so few people talk about this openly, we then think that we're the only one feeling this way, that we're somehow broken and we need to be fixed. And we completely forget that according to my research study, currently 62% of people feel exactly the way you're feeling daily or regularly in any given year. So the three pillars of imposter syndrome from my research study also contribute towards comparisonitis. Their culture, environment, and habits.

In the next episode, number 43, I'm going to be talking in a lot more detail about how to tell whether your organisation's culture is a hotbed for imposter syndrome. Make sure you subscribe to Ditching Imposter Syndrome wherever you love to get your podcasts so that you can listen to that one if that's a topic that interests you. But in brief here today, there are things in a company culture that can make comparisonitis and judging yourself much worse. In essence, the more competitive the culture, the more someone is going to judge themselves, compare themselves to others and judge themselves as lacking. Some organisations actually have a system of ranking and firing. You are regularly ranked against your peers and the people who are in the bottom X percent lose their job. That's a pretty horrendous way to work if you're running imposter syndrome, because you're being trained to constantly compare yourself to others. And it really adds to the fear that goes with this, because you're comparing yourself to others and actually, you're risking losing your livelihood if you don't meet the grade. And so it really pushes people with imposter syndrome to push on through the fear that leads to anxiety, to depression, mental, physical, emotional health issues, and burnout.

There's a direct causal link from our research between imposter syndrome and burnout, and it definitely impacts performance, productivity, people and teams, and company profits. Another thing that can make a huge difference is if the company culture is all about waiting until the big achievement before you praise. If you've got to wait till you've achieved the ultimate end goal on a project before you're going to get that shout out, then it's really tough if you're stuck in the middle working hard but not feeling like you're making progress. We all know that's how a lot of projects run is it's an enormous amount of hard work and then everything comes together at the end. So you're sitting there thinking, I'm stuck in the middle of this thing and I'm exhausted and I'm burning out and I'm worried we're not good enough and we're going to fail. By the way, so and so has just been praised for their amazing success. We're never going to achieve that. And it's very easy to then give up inside. So this is actually one of the factors going with what's now called quiet quitting. It's people just saying enough, basta, my favourite Italian word, enough.

Enough. I can't do this game anymore. I'm going to step back and do what psychologists call satisficing: doing what I'm required to do rather than allowing myself to feel inspired to go the extra mile. So it really impacts performance and team dynamics. Then the second pillar is the environment pillar. This is the practical embodiment of the culture. So one example of this where people often end up comparing themselves is in project management systems where you've got dashboards. It can be really easy to look at somebody else's performance and see, my goodness, they're always up to speed with their to do list, they never get behind, all their projects are green, completely discounting the fact that they might be working on a completely different type of project to you with very different challenges. The fact that their stats are different to yours doesn't mean that you're bad or failing or not as good as they are. And I'm sure you can think of examples in the culture and the environment in your own organisation or places you've worked in the past that increase the likelihood of comparisonitis. And then the third pillar is our personal habits.

With imposter syndrome, comparisonitis goes through the roof because you're constantly judging yourself, comparing yourself to others and finding yourself lacking. It's one of the symptoms of imposter syndrome. So you're constantly having to pull your socks up and take the deep breath and keep going despite how you're feeling. It's exhausting. It leads to stress, chronic stress, burnout, and remember what I said earlier about how our harshest critic is the one inside our head. So what can you do? There's a whole section on this in my book, Ditching Imposter Syndrome. If you've got the print book, it's on page 208. There's an exercise called turning jealousy around. And if you've got the audiobook, you want to look for the chapter that's called The Curse of Comparisonitis. The chapter name is the same if you've got the audiobook. And I want to share with you some of the questions that come from that exercise. If you've got the book, go and do it in detail yourself. It will make a really big difference. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to do it properly, and it can really create some wonderful insights and breakthroughs for you. But right now, I just want to give you some of those questions.

So the first thing to do is if you notice yourself starting that mind story drama of I'm not good enough comparing yourself to others, is this really true? Is this really true, or is it just my inner drama gene talking? Is this really true? We talk in my Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp, which is a hybrid training and coaching program, and also in my Soultuitive Academy membership about the difference between projection and perception, is how when we're running these mind story dramas and fears inside our heads, they become a filter, like an overlay that changes the information we process from the outside world, causing us to distort things, looking for things that support our fears and our beliefs. Projection is where we put that filter or overlay between us and the world. Perception is where we look at the information that's there for us with our senses without allowing it to be distorted. Is this really true? Is one of the first steps to shifting from projection of our fears into actually perceiving what's really true. Then it's really important to remind yourself that 62% of people are feeling imposter syndrome and experiencing it daily or regularly.

Those people you're looking at thinking, oh, my goodness, they've got their act together. About two thirds of them are feeling the same way that you do. They might well be comparing themselves to others right now as you listen. So that self mentoring question, is this really true? Thinking about projection versus perception can be really useful in the moment. As I say, if you've got the Ditching Imposter Syndrome book, page 208, search for the exercise turning jealousy around, or the chapter, The Curse of Comparisonitis, if you've got the audiobook. If you want to clear this out medium term, and it actually doesn't take very long at all, one of the most potent strategies I've ever created for this is the power of micro-wins. This is something I teach in detail in my Ditching Imposter Syndrome Transformation Toolkit and my Imposter Syndrome Bootcamp. That's the hybrid training and coaching program. And it's about celebrating our tiny successes each and every day. You can do this at a newbie level, a next level, a ninja level, and even a sensei level. So you can use this technique at different levels, at different layers, to create massive change in your life with almost zero effort.

And students report back when they've done this process for a few weeks, they find their level of comparisonitis absolutely plummets. And when it does come back, they just refer back to their micro-wins journal to realise that actually, here's how to get back my perspective. As I say, it's something I teach in the Transformation Toolkit and in the Bootcamp, and it's also something we do every Friday morning in our Soultuitive Academy with a 10 minute co-working session on Zoom to write down and celebrate our micro wins. If you'd love to join us in the academy, by the way, there's a link to that in the show notes. Doors open again fairly soon, so make sure you get yourself a place on the waiting list. That wraps up what I wanted to share on this topic today. I really hope you found that useful. Please click the link in the show notes to join in the discussion on this over on LinkedIn or Instagram. I'd love to hear your views. Remember, the next time you feel comparisonitis coming up, ask yourself, Is this really true or is it just my inner drama gene talking?

Remember the projection versus perception, and then you've got the longer term solution with the micro wins. If you'd love to find out how to do those, resources are there for you in the show notes. I'll be back next week when we're going to be talking about is your organisation a hotbed for imposter syndrome? That'll be Episode 43. In the meantime, I hope you have an amazing week.

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About the author

Clare Josa

Clare is considered a global authority in the fields of Imposter Syndrome, burnout and toxic resilience, and has been an international keynote speaker for over 20 years.

The author of 8 books, a reformed engineer and the former Head of Market Research for one of the world's most disruptive brands, she blends research-backed practical inspiration with demystified ancient wisdom, to help you create breakthroughs in ways that are fast, fun and forever.

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