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The GenTwenty Podcast: Coping With Comparison

In this episode of The GenTwenty Podcast, Nicole and Marina discuss the pitfalls of comparison, why we compare ourselves to others, and most importantly, how to break the habit. 

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This transcript has been gently edited for clarity.

Nicole Booz: Welcome back to the GenTwenty Podcast. I’m Nicole…

Marina Crouse: And I’m Marina! Today, we’re talking about comparison. Comparison is a tricky thing. We all do it and it always hurts us, right?

So we know the quote comparison is the thief of joy. But we don’t always remember to check ourselves when we fall into the habit. So we want to talk about like why we compare, how can we catch ourselves, and what can we do instead of comparing ourselves to others. I think the first place we do this the most is online right? In social media we have these highlight reels of our lives and successes and forward motions.

Nicole Booz: Absolutely a scam. Yeah yeah, it’s really easy, because think about what you share on Instagram and online. It’s generally the very curated, highlighted things, but I think there’s starting to be more of this movement where people are sharing the harder side of things.

Marina Crouse: That’s a scam right? That’s is not real life.

Nicole Booz: Which I think is really interesting, but even that in some ways I think can still lead to comparison because you’re like “well at least my day is going better.” 

Marina Crouse: Interesting. Yeah.

Nicole Booz: It’s like whenever I see a kid like throwing a tantrum or something I’m just like well now I’m just not even phased by it anymore. But also it’s like that might be your kid right?  In the next second it’s gonna be my kid…

Marina Crouse: Like, we’re all doing the best we can do.

Nicole Booz: I think when people share their successes, it can make you feel really bad about yourself.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, absolutely. I still catch myself …because I live so much of my life online right? We run our businesses online. We’re always on social media trying to compare in a learning mission of “Okay, what are they doing? Can I try that? Will that work?” which is okay but when it’s like “Oh well they did it and it didn’t work for me, what’s wrong with me?” That’s not okay and so I have to catch myself and remind myself that someone else’s success is not my failure.

We can all be doing what we want to be doing, how we want to do it. You know, in another episode we talked a lot about failing faster and embracing the idea of failure, and I think when we start to do that, the comparison game will diminish.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, it’s like you have to stop looking at other people as if they are some barometer of success or a measure of where you should be.

Marina Crouse: Yeah! I remember when tiktok—we love tiktok. You know I love tiktok—came out and there was a person I follow who got really really quote unquote successful really fast and now has a very big money business, and I remember feeling really bad about myself and then my mom told me, “you don’t run a tiktok business. So why are you upset that you’re not doing that?”  I was like “oh yeah, yeah and I don’t want to run a tiktok business. Okay, okay thanks Mom for the perspective.” 

Nicole Booz: Thanks Mom, keeping me humble, keeping me humble.

Marina Crouse: Why are you going to compare yourself to someone who’s doing something so different from you and feel bad about yourself for not doing what they’re doing when you don’t want to do that.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, exactly. There’s room for all of us to succeed in our own paths and down our own lanes. We might be on the same road but we’re not going to the same destination.

Marina Crouse: Yeah. We spoke with Tess Brigham, a therapist who works with millennials, and we were kind of talking about the comparison game there and she mentioned that when she was in her twenties social media wasn’t wasn’t a thing and so there was a different level of comparison but and a smaller pool.

Think about who you’re comparing yourself to right now if you’re spending a lot of your life online. It’s a global pool of people that’s overwhelming and  the circumstances are so vast and different that you’ll never “catch up” to that. We tend to start comparing as kind of like fact finding for lack of better term, and then use the data wrong. It doesn’t serve you. I think we can only compare our present to our past. “how am I feeling? have I grown?  is what I’m doing serving me? where have I come from?” I think that’s the only type of comparing we should do. What do you think?

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Nicole Booz: Yeah, I definitely think so and I think it’s really interesting as you were talking about Tess’s episode because I can’t imagine not having social media in my twenties. But I also can’t imagine having social media in elementary school.

Marina Crouse: Oh yeah, and even the way we had social media in our early twenties versus now… I got my Instagram when I was a junior in college. I was exactly twenty and Instagram was for posting crappy pictures of yourself and your food for like 5 years and then it wasn’t until I guess 5 years ago, since I’ve had Instagram for 10 years…oh god that… Anyway, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that it started making a shift to the influencers. You know, you worry about your feed and stories and all these things now and you don’t get that space to just breathe if you’re comparing yourself all the time. I think social media takes that from us.

Nicole Booz:  It’s just interesting how attached we are to it and how attached that makes us to comparing ourselves even subconsciously, because like you were saying before there are so many more people you can follow…literally anyone…and you’re seeing a very highlighted, curated version of their lives. Of course I don’t want to see people’s screaming kids on social media, I have one of my own ,I don’t need it. But when people are sharing a little snapshot of their kid—I’m sorry I’m very knee deep in parenting at the moment, so it’s a lot of my examples, I don’t have time for much else at this current point in my life— But when people share like a moment of their kid doing something really wonderful…? like Milestones I guess so you see it a lot with like kids like “oh my four month old is rolling over.”

Marina Crouse: They learn to walk. They say funny things. Yeah.

Nicole Booz: And like meanwhile your four month old might be lying there like a dead fish, and you’re just like okay when is that gonna happen for me? It’s just really easy to compare I think and it can feel really personal when it’s really not.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, and this this dead fish example of yours has reminded me about growth patterns and growth charts. If you’re looking at your kid thinking “He should be rolling over now, what’s wrong with him?”  There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s just not there yet. That’s hurting him.

So if you’re looking at yourself and saying “I’m  not making 6 figures yet. What’s wrong with me?” that’s hurting you. You’re on your own plane and you’re on your own path. So your timeline is going to be different. It’s like there’s alternate timelines and you’re allowed to go the pace you’re going and if you compare to so much you forget that. 

I was thinking the example I was going to say is that Nicole messaged me on Instagram the other day a video of a woman sharing her morning routine and it’s all these things she does before checking her phone…she makes her bed and she works out and she has coffee and breakfast and I don’t know writes a novel and sonnets and Nicole commented  to me “this could be us” and I said, “yeah but it’s not.”

Nicole Booz: Yeah, you said you’d have to throw your phone away and I thought that was really funny.

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Marina Crouse: Because I’d literally have to throw my phone away! And it’s true but for a brief moment I thought “oh man I should probably do that” and that word should is just shame.. you’re just shaming yourself. Something that you don’t need to shame yourself for. So yeah, could I have a better relationship to my phone? Sure. Could I have a healthier habit in the morning with my phone? Yeah. Can I work on that? Yeah. Am I going to feel bad that I don’t do it? No.

Nicole Booz: Amen.

Marina Crouse: Because the the fifteen minutes I spend scrolling on tiktok in the morning while I drink my coffee and watching goofy dog videos are really precious moments and it makes me happy. and it’s not hurting me so it’s okay.

Nicole Booz: You will you remember them forever. Yeah, I think that, especially with all these new forms of media and stuff, they are really entertaining. I think I saw it was from “taking cara of babies” in my explore feed the other day where she was like when “you just want to teach parents about baby sleep but Instagram makes you want to do these stupid ass dances” and I was like yeah that’s like exactly the problem…we’re trying to connect with people in this way that’s been given to us but it’s really just causing all these problems and distractions because comparison is really just a distraction.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, it’s a measure. It’s a fake measure of progress. So I’m working on a novel, this is like season 3 of me working on a novel…it’s the same novel…. and I follow a lot of writers on social media between instagram, tiktok and Twitter  (I’m now back on Twitter). They’re pitching themselves. They’re getting published. They’re all these things and I catch myself feeling really sad that I am not there yet.

I have to remind myself, “Yeah, because you have to do the writing, you have to do the work. You’re not there yet because you’re not there yet. That’s okay, you will get there” and it’s so easy to see what someone else is doing and feel bad about yourself. When really you should be, I think this is maybe a quote from an Amy Poehler’s book or it’s like 1 that I’ve adapted after reading that book, but you should be thinking “good for you, not for me.”

Nicole Booz: Um, yeah I Love that quote and I love telling people “I love that for you”

Marina Crouse: Yeah! “I love that for you,” or “We love to see this”. There’s a reason that our personalities are different and our paths to progress are different and the the sooner we embrace that the sooner we get to where we want to be.

Nicole Booz: Exactly and there was something that you were saying that was making me think of something… oh I was gonna say that there are so many successful people that we’ve never heard of because they don’t want us to know about them. Which I thought as you were talking about like being on Twitter and all these platforms. There are people who define their success as how many people know about them, how many people click their links, How many people read their content, blah blah blah blah blah. But in my husband’s job, he told me “this one thing I work on has made this company a billion dollars” and I’m like whoa, okay.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, these “metrics” don’t mean anything. And no one would know because he’s just staying in his lane and doing his work. That makes me think of this phrase  I learned somewhere in the last six months but I’m obsessed with it: other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.

It’s very transferable to a lot of situations but when it comes to the people who are successful and you don’t know about them it’s because they don’t care if you know, right? They’re measuring their success on their own  timeline and I love that because I would love to care less about what people thought. I’m working on it which is why I say to myself “Oh what she thinks of me is none of my business, I’m not going to worry about it.”

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Nicole Booz: Yeah, especially because even if we think about the way that we think about comparison, it’s always in terms of ourselves. We don’t we don’t compare other people to us generally speaking. It’s usually you’re comparing yourself to someone else and it’s like we are all very self-centric. Which is fine, but people are not thinking about you as much as you think that they are, and if they are it’s a passing thought.

I don’t really talk about other people that often for good or for bad. I mean not that I shouldn’t talk about myself all the time but  I’m not thinking, “Wow she shouldn’t be doing this” or “Wow that’s not really going well for her, is it?” I would just be like “Wow. Why isn’t my business making a million dollars?” I don’t care about the people who aren’t making that yet. You’re comparing yourself to a person who has what you achieve to have right right?

Marina Crouse: Or what you perceive you want because we see people doing things. It’s like “oh I could do that.” Okay yeah, you probably could, but do you want to? 

Nicole Booz: Yeah, that’s a really solid question to ask.

Marina Crouse: Basically the moral of this episode is you don’t need to compare yourself to anyone. You’re doing great and you’re allowed to do whatever you’re doing on your own timeline and path. It’s your journey and so do it for yourself.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, live your journey. Live your life. Live, laugh, love.

Marina Crouse: Hahaha, Live, laugh, love. Okay, all right Miss 2002.

Nicole Booz:  Just try over the next 24 hours after you’re listening to this episode to catch yourself whenever you feel yourself comparing yourself to someone, or what you’ve accomplished to anything else. I think that you’ll find that you do it a lot more often than you think that you do.

Marina Crouse: Yeah I took a break from Instagram for a week because I was really burnt-out and it was honestly such a great week because I wasn’t thinking about anybody else. Which sounds selfish, but really it just means that I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone else for a whole week and I got a ton of writing done. I felt really good about myself. It was a great thing. I’m working on taking more breaks.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, and all good things happened. No bad things happened except that I had to send Marina screenshots of all my Instagram posts that week so she wouldn’t miss my life.

Marina Crouse: That’s true. And we may or may not have missed something on our calendar but that’s a different story for another day. 

Nicole Booz: Um, yeah, that… we’re never going to tell that story probably. But anyway this has been another episode of the GenTwenty podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. We would love if you leave a rating and a review or send us an email or leave us a comment on instagram. We’d love to hear from you and we’ll see you again soon! bye.

Marina Crouse: Bye!

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.