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How Comparison Robs Us of Joy

How Comparison Robs Us of Joy

I’m always excited every Monday to release a new episode of my podcast. Not to be the annoying person talking about the Enneagram, but as a 4 wing 3, I love producing content and putting it out there.

That rush of sharing new content was one of my favorite parts of working in journalism. With social media evolving, it’s made it even easier to instantly share your work with thousands of people across multiple platforms.

That’s great, until it isn’t.

Only a few hours after sharing an episode, too often I’ve found myself feeling dejected, disappointed, discouraged, self-conscious and jealous. 

Dejected, disappointed and discouraged because thousands of people aren’t downloading my podcast like they seemingly are for others that I listen to.

Self-conscious and jealous because I feel like my work isn’t as good as other peoples’.

Everything we do on the internet has a number attached to it, and it’s easy to think of it as a real-life measure of whether or not your content is “good enough.” Sometimes it makes us wonder if weare good enough.

The trap of comparison is real. My thoughts often go like this:

“I have thousands of friends on Facebook. Why did only five people interact with that?”

“Do people not care about this podcast? Do people not care about this article? Should I keep doing this podcast if only a couple hundred are listening each week?”

“What makes that podcast so popular? What are they doing that I’m not?”

“Is the content I’m producing just not good?”

“Am I wasting my time?” 

Have you ever been cut from a team or a play or a choir, or any other activity or group when you were in school? It can feel like that.

Author Hannah Brencher posted something on Instagram that cut me like a dagger.

“If you cannot celebrate the one then why should you crave the thousands? The millions? One person reading your blog is a big deal. One client is something to cheer about. One person invested in what you’re creating is worthy of celebration and a victory lap.”

Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful for every listener or reader I’ve ever had. Some people have reached out individually to share their thoughts on the podcast or a blog post and those truly mean more than any number.

But it’s human to want as many people as possible to consume your content. That’s not always a bad thing, especially if you’re spreading something positive. But that can’t be where we place the value in our work.

Creativity is a gift from God, and when expressed properly it is a joyous occasion that allows us to partner with God to share with the world the skills God has blessed us with.

We learn in Genesis that God created the world, and after everything He created, He said it was “good.” God was joyful when he created the world, and that same creativity lives in us. 

That same joy also lives in us.

I am robbing myself of that joy. My guess is that at some point or another, you’ve also robbed yourself of the joy of creativity.

There is so much content published every single day. Podcasting has become the new blogging, and I jokingly quipped the other day that in two or three years, everyone is going to have their own podcast much like we all have our own cell phones.

According to Podcast Insights, as of December 2019, there were over 800,000 shows available totaling over 30 million episodes. To highlight the growth, the report says, Apple confirmed there were over 550,000 podcasts in June 2018. 

That is so many podcasts, and that’s just one form of content that saturates the internet daily.

In 2020 we have a new version of “Keeping Up With the Joneses.” We compete with our followers for attention. We attach our identity to the work we produce and our self-worth to the response that work returns.

To take it a step further, some people are going into debt to keep up with this digital arms race — buying things they don’t need to appear more successful or wealthier on the Internet. There’s tons of research out there linking social media, particularly Instagram, to the rise in anxiety and depression, particularly in younger generations.

It’s become such an epidemic that Instagram has begun removing the number of likes a post shows in certain countries, citing the importance of the well-being of its users. Other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have also contemplated removing likes. Don’t be surprised if that comes to the United States soon.

It says something about us that it took a company who benefits off our need for attention to step back and say, “wait a minute. This isn’t good,” for us to realize it.

What would your life look like if there was no number attached to your creativity? What if you created just because you enjoyed it and didn’t care about the analytics of what you created?

What if you created purely for the joy of it and shared it with people simply because you wanted them to enjoy your creation, rather than for the praise you might get?

That’s my goal for 2020, and I want that for you, too. 

The app I use to produce my podcasts tells me how many people listen to each episode and what platform they listen on. Because I know how hard this will be for me, I’m giving myself grace and at first setting a modest goal to go all of February without once checking my podcast numbers. On top of that, I’m turning off all notifications for Instagram. 

I’ll continue to use Instagram as normal because I have to for work, and I also want to share when new episodes are out. But I’m turning off all notifications for likes, comments, shares, etc.

This is going to be so incredibly difficult for me because I’m so ingrained to obsess over the interaction I get on my posts, and it’s difficult to even be this vulnerable about it.

But I’m robbing myself of the joy of creativity, and it’s ruining me, and it’s time to end it.

What would this look like for you? What’s robbing your joy? What can you change to take that joy back?

We are not the sum of what others tell us we are. Our value is not determined by the number of likes our Instagram post gets or the number of people who listen to our podcast or read our blog or watch our YouTube video.

We are God’s creation, and He has already told us who we are. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece, created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

It’s time to take back the joy we’ve been robbing ourselves of.

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