035: What About Me? Avoiding the Comparison Trap [Podcast]

Let’s be honest for a moment. At times, we all want what other people have. We long for the fame and fortune we seem to be missing out on. We are envious. This envy often leads to guilt and shame. But is it always such a bad thing?

It’s easy to see someone else’s success and compare yourself to what you think you see. Their finished product looks great, they must have it together. “Why don’t I feel that confident or competent?” you wonder. 

Or maybe you see someone doing the same thing you’re doing but experiencing far greater success. Why is that? What makes their work better than yours? On the surface, this kind of comparison feels detrimental. But perhaps, there’s a way redeem this “trap” and use it for good.

Here’s the truth:

Envy isn’t always bad. Complacency is. Envy is an indication of something you want, but don’t yet have. [Tweet that]

The hidden benefit of comparison is that you can use it to push forward. In this episode of The Portfolio Life, my co-host Andy Traub and I talk about how we both have struggled with comparison, what we’ve done about it, and how you can turn your comparison into motivation.

Listen to the podcast

To listen to the show, click the player below. (If you’re reading this via email, click here).

You can also listen at iTunes or on Stitcher.

Join us as we explore this tension between envy and motivation and why the two can go hand in hand. Admiring someone else’s success gives you something to strive for. In other words, envy, with the right motivation, can help you succeed.

Many of us feel like we’re competing with our friends or peers. But wanting to be better than everyone else is an empty pursuit. The real question is do we want to be better than we were yesterday?

Show highlights

In this episode we discuss:

  • Some questions you can ask yourself when you’re feeling jealous (so you don’t get stuck in that “What about me?” trap)
  • The difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and why understanding this will change everything for you
  • How to use your envy to become a more productive person
  • Practical tips for intentional self-improvement, even when you’re feeling jealousy or unworthy

Your job as a creative is to be a little bit better today than you were yesterday. (Tweet that)

Resources mentioned in the show

You can also sign up for an Audible membership (my preferred way to listen to audiobooks and how I am able to read several books each month) and get your first book for free (also an affiliate link).

I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you know someone who would benefit from it, feel free to download and share it. Since iTunes only cares about comparison, we’d appreciate it if you would leave a review on iTunes.

Note: My online course, Tribe Writers, opened for registration this week, along with a new bonus — my brand new course on blogging! This will be the last time this course is available until June 2015. Find out more by clicking here.

How do you deal with the comparison trap? Share in the comments.

23 thoughts on “035: What About Me? Avoiding the Comparison Trap [Podcast]

  1. Comparison and envy runs deeper than we think – even if we acknowledge it. I want the appearance of a wildly popular author, or just generally cool and super successful guy – and then to blush and show everyone how humble I truly am as I sip expensive coffee in some nature spot and map out my next adventure. Remind me again how much Van Gogh earned off of his art?

    1. Heh. Exactly, Kent. I will say that without his brother, Vincent never would have been able to paint at all. There’s something to be said about having people who believe in you before everyone does.

  2. Thank you for addressing this topic, Jeff. As an identical twin, I I can certainly relate to getting ensnared in the comparison trap. I grew up wrestling with a daily temptation to compare myself either favorably or unfavorably with my identical twin brother.

    The hidden benefit for us, like you mention in this post, was that it pushed us both to success in various areas. We were 4.0 Co-Valedictorians of our High School Class and Senior Class VP and President (though we argued over who would run for President and who would run for VP!) and captains of different sporting teams, etc.

    The comparison certainly pushed us to succeed. Inside, though, I was also misreble from all the constant competing and inward drive to be the best. It wasn’t until our freshmen year in college that we began to see how we were called to be on different paths but continue to push each other to succeed in different areas. I’ve written some about this on my blog. Here are a few links: https://revivingthesoul.com/2013/06/21/what-30-somethings-need-to-hear-just-be-yourself/


    Thanks for all you’re doing, Jeff! This is great stuff!

    1. Wow, twins! I can’t even imagine. Thanks for sharing this, Craig. Your experiences speak to my own. The envy can drive you to success, but it can also drive you crazy. I’m grateful to know you.

  3. Hi Jeff! This must be the best podcast ever and I really needed to hear
    this today, especially the part about the fixed and growth mindset. My default mindset is “fixed” probably due to the way I was raised, but I have to constantly challenge myself to have the “growth” mindset, so I won’t give up when I fail the first time (or the second time.) I have recently launched my online shop, where I sell my original artwork and art prints, and I can definitely use this shift of mindset. Thank you, and have a wonderful weekend!

  4. I tend to look beyond the face value and ask myself if I would really want what another person has, and the answer usually is “no”. We have striven for the goals we set, early in our lives, and are currently happy.
    Except I do wish I could sell a lot of books without traveling…

      1. I think I’ve finally found Internet that works in my obscure writing location. Disqus even lets me in, these days. The sky’s the limit!

  5. I think if we’re honest we all fall victim to it. When I was studying painting in Idaho with Scott L. Christensen, I envied his lifestyle of painting everyday. Reminding ourselves that we have more than some doesn’t really cure it much. I like turning envy into motivation. If we want to achieve the success of others, we need to get inspired and then get to work. It’s the work part where many fall short!

  6. I feel we’re whole and complete as is, Jeff. If we envy, we’re wanting something we already have 😉 Yet, seeing someone’s success and knowing it’s possible for you can be SUCH an inspiring factor! I dig your message here. This past week I did 3 podcasts on authority sites and I spoke at NYU. More people in high places are hearing my story, about the dude who went from broke pier guard, to successful, prospering, professional blogging machine who lives in paradises like Fiji and Bali for months. Some people are jealous of me and that’s OK, as long as they don’t B and moan about it and do something about it lol!

    Doing something, meaning, taking my actionable steps – or steps that resonate with them – to mold the life they most want. Being envious for a bit can help you to simply realize that hey, all those peeps who seem to have it together, well, they came from a similar or even worse space than you, and that this life is possible for you, too. That’s what I love about what I do these days. I want to free my audience and I want to free my new readers, those folks who are finding me day after day.

    The real secret lies in taking negative, jealous energies and converting them into positive, inspired energies. This is where genius develops. This is where you move from being jealous of something, to feeling whole and complete, because once you cultivate that feeling, that’s where brilliance lies. We all scratch the surface of our potential and a select few begin digging deeper by elevating their consciousness and by expanding their awareness, by vibing so high that they do seemingly miraculous things. Tony Robbins is one such guy, as his success, and his morning ritual to raise his energy, are quite stunning. It really is all about comparing, if you want to, as a catalyst to raise your energy for the good of all. Or, at least, that’s what I’ve intended to do as I blog from paradise lol 😉

    Jeff, smart post and message! Thanks for sharing 🙂


    1. Ooh, I like this, Ryan: “The real secret lies in taking negative, jealous energies and converting them into positive, inspired energies.” That. Just that. It was what I was trying to say. Thank you.

  7. A thought re “envy”: “Envy lives in a world with unnecessarily low ceilings…..The crampedness of envy leaves us relationally handicapped.” (my friend, Dr. Karen LaMasters). Translation: Envy bespeaks how big our God is. We either have an infinite worldview–or we don’t.

  8. I hate that it happens. Part of me gets so mad at myself for being overtaken by it. But caring isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that I need to learn how to repsond by asking the right questions instead of lamenting or sulking in the corner. Thanks for validating that wanting to be better or do more isn’t a bad thing.

  9. Thanks so much for this great podcast. I have listened to it a couple of times now and I glean something new out of it each time.

    I was so thankful that I heard about another blogger with similar subscriber numbers to my own. So I am not the only one! I have been blogging for about 4 years now and have 230 subscribers. I am becoming quite cynical about the ‘get 10000 new subscribers if you just do this one thing’ snake oil salesman posts. So BIG thanks for sharing this!

    Also thanks for publishing my guest post on images. It also was a huge boost to writing confidence. It has really encouraged me to keep on going. I am thinking of submitting another one to you around the topic of Loaded Terms.

    Jeff, thanks for all you do for us fledgling writers. I do hope you and Ashley have a lovely Christmas. It is summertime here in New Zealand and the BBQ needs cleaning so I best go and prepare it for the big day tomorrow.

  10. This is a fantastic podcast – I want to save it and listen to it once a month. I love how you take something negative and turn it into something healthy and creative. I have written down the questions to ask myself when I feel envy and plan to answer them next time I feel jealous – instead of stewing in pointless insecurity. Thank you!

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