Comparing

Nov 222011
 

You have a friend with more followers than you on Twitter. Another blogger gets more comments than you on her blog. Your friend who wrote a cookbook got nominated for an award.

You read the bios of food bloggers and food writers online, and feel envy about how much media attention they get, or whom they write for, or how clever they are. Or you spend hours on Facebook and Twitter, admiring how some writers craft a witty sentence, and seeing how many “Likes” and comments and RTs they get.

Then you try to comment but you find you don’t have anything brilliant to say. And then you get mad because you’re supposed to spend time in social media, building followers and having conversations and leaving comments, but you’re spending too much time on it and not getting any writing done.

And what does this get you?

Exactly.

Just in case you’re wondering, I compare too. I compare myself to other speakers, other teachers, other coaches, other writers. I read beautiful writing and I realize I am never going to be that talented. I doubt myself.

Comparing is evil. But it’s normal too. I try not to let it crush me. When it does I can’t write anything because I am too busy beating myself up.

Fortunately, the moment passes. I tell myself there is always someone doing better than me, but I am doing better than lots of other people. It’s still a comparison and it’s silly, but it calms me. Then I redirect myself to what matters: crafting the best possible book, blog or article I can, remembering that I love what I do, and that I am fortunate to even get to do it.

These thoughts came up when I read a provocative blog post from My Mezzaluna, sent to me by Arva from I Live in a Frying Pan. I’ll leave you with passage from the blogger, Edwina Cottino, who wrote this in the comments:

“After falling apart for a while and questioning myself and all my abilities the one thing that brings sanity is to stay true to yourself and keep in mind why you are doing this in the first place. Many want to find fame and fortune through blogging and photography, and many do. Most don’t. My feeling is if you follow your passion it will pay off in some shape or form eventually. Perhaps only to give you pleasure. Just as digital photography has suddenly turned millions into photographers, so blogging has given many of us the opportunity to be published, even if our work is only seen by those who follow us.

To stay happy and content with ourselves we absolutely must never compare ourselves to others. We all have something different and unique and for me, being the square peg in the round hole, fits. The moment I begin trying to fit in with what everybody else is doing I start to stress. Thank you to all of you for confirming to me that doing something that has value is more important than being famous.”

Amen sister. We all go through this questioning from time to time. Just yesterday I just sent an email to a food blogger, a former client, who hasn’t posted for months, and asked what’s going on. “It’s complicated,” was the answer. It always is.

(Photo by IdeaGo on Freedigitalphotos.net)

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  147 Responses to “Comparing”

  1. Thank you for this, Dianne. Comparing is such a natural thing – an instinct, maybe? It’s such a bad habit to fall prey to, and it leaves us feeling worthless, unproductive, and stagnant. I constantly remind myself to let it go and just do what I love to do, regardless of what everyone else is doing.

    • Exactly. It’s so easy to get caught up in it. Thanks Mary Jennifer. It always amazes me that overachiever types — like you, so accomplished — fall prey to this too. Kind of comforting, actually.

  2. Great words of wisdom, Dianne!

  3. I know I am guilty of this. It can be hard not to compare when there is always some out there who seems to have it more together than you. However, if you get so caught up in the comparisons with others, you’ll never truly reach your full potential either. Wonderful post and a great reminder.

    • Yes, we all are guilty of it, Shaina! Who knows if any of us will ever reach our full potential. We have so many barriers to get past, mostly in our own minds.

  4. I think it is human nature to hold up our accomplishments against those of others to see how we stack up. There will always be someone better, more popular, or attaining the things you want before you. I used to fall into that trap when I first got serious about blogging, but I decided after one particularly ugly bout of the ‘I’m not good enough’s’ that I was doing nothing but setting myself up for failure. So what if I was not as followed as this blogger, as commented upon as that blogger? I am doing something I really love and as long as I am posting authentic work with integrity I will find my niche.

    I firmly believe that if you love what you do success, in some form, will follow. The trick is to stick with it because good things don’t happen right away.

  5. Ah, I love this post. Thanks, Dianne!
    I was interviewing a friend for my blog a few years and asked for a favorite quote. Hers was dynamite:

    Comparison is the killer of joy.

    That’s stayed with me and whenever I start to compare (which happens more than I’d like and more often than I want to admit, even here among friends), I try to remember her words.

  6. I.love.this.
    I think all bloggers – especially new bloggers – get caught up in the comparison trap. I believe that what it comes down to (in blogging and in life) is that we must love, love, love what we do. If you are so passionately crazy about your hobby/career/current occupation, it is hard to quench the passion with something else – even though it is natural to have jealous/envious feelings at times. I would write my blog if 1 person read it or if 1 billion people read it. I tried to remind myself of that every time those feelings pop up.

    • Thanks, Jessica. You have a good attitude. And it’s not just new writers — I’ve been comparing for as long as I can remember. It’s something I always have to work on.

  7. Oh, this is so true for me! I often get discouraged and then have to remind myself — I’m doing this because I love it, because I want to, not because I want 100 comments on each of my posts. I’m sticking to it, and having fun being creative in the kitchen, with the camera, and with writing. These are things that make me feel good when I nourish them — giving up isn’t necessary.

  8. […] 2. Ever compared yourself to someone over… anything? You must must read this post! […]

  9. I struggle with this on a regular basis. Of course, part of it is really digging deep to define what “success” will mean, for you. I see my blogging friends getting cookbook deals, and the truth is I won’t get one because I’m not even writing proposals. I have a demanding full-time (non blogging) career, a demanding full-time family, and a blog that, given these constraints, has achieved a lot of recognition and through which I’ve been able to learn things, express myself, develop a community and even help people. That’s pretty successful, when I think about it, even if I’m not writing a regular column for the Food Network (not that I have time to, anyway)

    • Ha ha. A sense of humor will get you past many unhealthy thoughts. Good of you to bring that up. You sound pretty darned successful to me, Kate.

  10. This condition is not particular to bloggers, but all writers everywhere. I am taking an online personal essay writing class and this post echoes everything that my classmates have shared about the process of reading one another’s work: envy, self-doubt, insecurity. I think it builds, in part, because we all work in isolation–which makes communities like this (and writing groups, blogging buddies, classes and mentors) so invaluable.

    • Hah. Yes. What you said reminds me of what happened at a conference I went to earlier this year. The audience wrote a recipe headnote, and after the first person stood up to read hers, no one else could find the courage. She was so good she zapped the confidence out of everyone else.

      I’m not sure about the isolation part. It probably doesn’t help, but I was insecure long before I ever worked for myself!

  11. Ah yes, it all comes down to our egos, doesn’t it? They are constantly wanting to be fed, petted, loved… it’s a terrible trap that I fall prey to frequently. First thing is just being aware of it, naming it, and letting it pass. Second, I remind myself that I blog to serve others. That usually helps. As a last resort, I have stopped following some people if the voice in my head blocks out any joy I get from reading their posts/updates. This is always about me, never about them, but I did find that I was following certain people because I felt like I “should” and I wasn’t enjoying it. So that helped me, too. Thanks for your honesty!

    • Yes. Does that mean we should always say to ourselves, “You are awesome?” Actually I gave that exercise to a client recently, because she said so many self-sabotaging things to herself. I made her make a list of 10 good things to say about herself, print them out, and say them every day. She is now further along in her work!

      That is an interesting coping strategy, to stop following people whose posts drive you crazy to read. I don’t know if I could do it. I’m afraid of missing something good.

      And hey, it’s always about us. That part is completely normal.

      • I think it depends on what your internal dialogue is at present. The old SNL skit about Stuart Smalley (I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me!) is actually really helpful for many people, if their inner critic never lets up. People make fun of that simply because it can seem like you’re an egotist. But most of us are really beating ourselves up on an ongoing basis, and being kind to oneself is the first step towards being effective in the world. So I think your homework was spot-on for your client. As to whether I’m missing anything good… of course I am. But I’m always missing a million things anyway, because we can’t possibly keep up. So it helped me to say, “Do I feel better after reading this?” If the answer is yes, then it stays in my Feedly. If the answer is no, then I let it go.

        But enough about me. What do you think about me?

        • Ha ha. This is all very sensible and practical, Stephanie. I am going to have to consider this from now on, when reading blogs. As for kindness, yes, we are good at being kind to others, but not so good at it for ourselves.

  12. This was AMAZING to read. And you’re so right. And dead on. Spot on. DEAD RINGER. Wait that doesn’t work…..

    anyway, bravo!

  13. It is always, for me, the chance to see where other minds are going. I can only go where I know to go – so reading what other people write shows me news doors (or windows) that I might be able to go through myself. I think if we look at what others do as a tool to help us free ourselves from ourselves, we can learn so much. When I see a beautiful picture on someone’s blog it inspires me even more to look at things I am seeing and try to bring their beauty or quirkiness into my picture. And it is fun when you consider what others do as a free ticket for your own imagination! Try it, you’ll like it!

  14. Great post! Thanks for the great insight!

  15. Thank you for this post, Dianne. (I always read your blog and value the lessons you share here, but I don’t usually comment.) I also often compare myself to others in blogging and offline, or “in real life”. I started blogging because I wanted to do it, not for fame or fortune but I still managed to fall prey to those insecurities of “that person has more followers than me”, “that person has more comments than me” (especially perplexing when the number of comments is astronomical on a post for something incredibly simple like, say, tomato soup or something and I could have posted something similar and get less than half the number of comments), and on and on and on born out of continual comparisons of myself to others. Of course, I know I could have all these things, too, that I was comparing myself to.

    But more often than not, when comparing ourselves to other people and what we think they have that we don’t, it’s based on a comparison of lack; we perceive that other person as having more while we think we have less, to all apparent appearances. It’s something that is not easily overcome but it can be. (And remember, while one is comparing himself to others – someone else is doing exactly the same comparing herself to oneself.)

    For me, the easiest way to do that, and to ground myself, is to remember and remind myself why I started blogging in the first place: because I wanted to do it and now because I love doing it. When I started out, I wasn’t thinking about the number of comments I could get, blog traffic, or how many followers I had. Of course I wanted that, but that wasn’t the reason why I started blogging. All that came and fell into place later – and it’s still growing. There are still days when I may get bothered by so-and-so having more followers than me or someone else having more comments than me – actually, nowadays I wonder how so many people can leave that many comments on a given blog post and am content to be just confused by it all – but it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to or would have before. It’s all numbers. One of my favourite quotes, and I think it is fitting, is something that Remus Lupin said in the last Harry Potter movie: “It is the quality of one’s convictions that determines success, not the number of followers.”

    • Well, thank you so much for being brave enough to comment, Zoe. I hope you will do so again.

      Your comment has similar convictions to what the blogger I quoted said, to try to just enjoy it and not compare so much. It’s very good that it doesn’t bother you as much as it used to. We can all drive ourselves crazy by looking at numbers.

      I love the quote from the Harry Potter movie.

  16. What a calming effect this post had on me, thank you! I’ve been in sort of a slump the past few weeks without being able to pinpoint why. This is it! I’ve been comparing myself to other bloggers, their number of followers and how often others are able to produce great posts on their blogs. I’ve been comparing myself to established bloggers whom have all been doing this for years, while I just really started a few months ago. Thank you again for the words of wisdom. Oh and I love your book – recently bought a copy of it and am working my way thru the exercises.

    • Aha! You have diagnosed your own condition, Camilla Fay. That is the first step. Don’t worry, we all go through it. You just have to learn to manage the green-eyed monster.

      Thanks for the kind words about my book. I don’t think I addressed this whole comparison issue in there, so I’m glad to bring it up on my blog.

  17. Thank you so much for this! I have been really thinking with this today, so this is incredibly timely for me!! While I know I can only be me, it is so hard to not compare!!

    • What a coincidence, Jane. Listen, we are all guilty of comparing. It’s probably never going to go away. All that’s left is to manage it so we don’t drive ourselves crazy.

  18. I’m so glad you wrote this. Many times I’ve thought of abandoning my blog because I have the rotten luck of not having enough natural light to take photos in, leaving me no choice but to use cheap artificial lighting that wipes out all the lovely details of my food – muddying it – dulling it..giving my food almost a ‘cartoon like’ look. Seeing all the other food blogs with gorgeous, detailed, filtered sunlit, photos – which I do appreciate and love to look at, occasionally brings out the Green Monster in me. sometimes one on steroids, who occasionally morphs into a pathetic and whiny ‘Why Me Monster’, as in – “Whyyyyy am I stuck without sunlight when it’s free of charge and everyone else has it!?!”.

    Since photography is very key to successful food blogging – it left me with a choice, either move to a new place NOW, or continue on with my intense love for cooking, baking, and blogging until I can eventually relocate when everything is in place to do so. With an immeasurable amount of support from friends and loved ones, an assemblage of great readers, and a passion that trumps the sadness of ‘no sunshine’, I chose to motor on because I cherish it too much to let something like that stop me. I’ll continue to do the best I can with what I have, and simply enjoy the work of others without constantly wishing I had their brightly lit kitchens!

    Thank you so much for this article, much needed!

  19. The subject of your post was so compelling, I not only hung on every word, I searched for more! (You should have seen me looking for a page 3) I am appreciative of you handling this subject and would love to hear more coping strategies.
    I was surprised to see so many feel the same insecurity, I thought I was alone. Sometimes I feel like I’m back in high school and not a cool kid. It’s so painful I’ve come close to giving up blogging because I’m pretty sure I’m just talking to myself.
    But this helped, thank you Dianne and fellow bloggers

    • I hope you saw the whole thing. The “continue” link was messed up and I just fixed it.

      Oh yes, you’re not alone. Maybe not everyone admits it, but it’s there. As I always say, we writers are sensitive folks. Speaking of high school and cool kids, did you see this post?

      Re coping strategies, the best thing is not to be so hard on yourself. As I suggested to my client, every time you hear yourself think something negative, replace it with a positive thought. Since she had printed out that list of 10 awesome things about herself, she had lots to choose from.

  20. great post! i learned the hard way about the comparison trap in terms of the acting industry – it led me down a dark spiral of eating disorders and years of struggling. but the lesson was invaluable, and has come in handy not only with blogging, but every day life. comparing ourselves to others – even past versions of ourselves – is NOT productive.

    • Wow. Past versions of ourselves. You mean when I look in the mirror and I remember how much younger I looked? Yeah, definitely not productive. When I look at earlier writing samples, most of the time I’m pleasantly surprised. Shows where my values are, eh? Thanks Lynn.

  21. So many bloggers seem to quiet their jealousy by reminding themselves of why they began to blog in the first instance. I wonder why that never works for me. If anything works to snap me out of it, it’s to ‘come clean’ about it to my husband. Then he has a laugh at my expense, and the absurdity of it all, and I snap out of it.
    For me, these days, the hardest part of blogging is that I have to do it. My agent and editor tell me so, and I know they’re right. And that fact makes the jealousy smart more.
    Food blogging is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Who knew?

    Thank you for talking about this, Dianne. It helps. This time, it wasn’t my husband who helped. It was you. :)

    Nicole

    • Aw thanks Nicole. I hope you will get past “having” to blog and you will actually enjoy it. Your readers certainly appreciate your posts. I can tell that you put a lot of time into them.

  22. What a timely post for me. I’m relatively new to food photography but have been blogging for a few years as a portrait photographer. The same issues exist in that industry (as in wedding photography) but I’d have to say I’ve never felt the pressure to be more active in social media as I do now. While the food blogging scene is exciting to be a part of, it can be extremely draining too. Most everything you mentioned resonates with me, and I can certainly relate to some of the readers who’ve commented here.

    I used to be bothered quite a bit when I didn’t get comments on my blog, and I even emailed a fellow blogger to ask how she manages to consistently get 50-100+ comments per post. She said she regularly leaves comments on other sites and submits to food sites such as TS and FG. She seems to have developed a great online relationship with many other bloggers and that’s wonderful. I tried those same “methods” for a while and sure, my site traffic went up when a photo of mine was published and perhaps I got a few more comments than usual, but my readership never really grew. At this point I have about 4-5 faithful blog readers and truthfully I’m ok with that. I’ve realized that I blog because I love to share my photography (not necessarily my writing because I’m terrible at it!) and I view blogging as a platform to share and build my portfolio; I’m not looking to become popular or get a book deal, though acknowledgement and recognition of my work is definitely a bonus. Ironically, I’ve started a Facebook page as well as become more active on Twitter but this is probably because I came out of my funk and stopped feeling sorry for myself. Not to say it’s an on-going battle because yes, I still compare (hard not to). I’ve just managed not to let it crush me either :)

    • That’s good. I don’t know if comparing is about having a pity party. At least I’d like to think not. It’s more about insecurity. Regardless, it sure can drive you crazy. I’m glad you’ve come to terms with what you want out of your blog. If you just want to share photos, there’s always Flickr. You can do a lot on Facebook as well.

      • I agree, it’s about insecurity… I certainly have that, too. Thinking on it more, I guess I haven’t given myself a chance, being newer to food blogging. Guess I just need to have patience. I’ve tried Flickr and do post on Facebook but like the feeling of putting related photos into a single post. Sometimes I write, most often I don’t — that freedom is the beauty of having your own blog.

  23. Sure, it’s a bit discouraging to see that other people have more comments, more followers, more subscribers etc. But I can’t compare myself to them, because I’m not trying to be *like* them. I’m trying to do the best that I can at being *me*. I’m doing what I want, and if other people like it or not, that’s up to them.

    • Such a rational answer, Nathan. I do try to take that approach most of the time. Just not all the time.

      You are the first man to comment — maybe you’ll be the only one! I am sorry to stereotype, but I knew that the answers from guys would be different. The last time I wrote a post like this, most of the male bloggers wrote some kind of “why all the fuss?” kind of response. Fascinating!

      • What’s different about my answer?

        I wonder if the abundance of female commenters just reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of food bloggers are female. It can’t be that men don’t suffer from insecurity or inferiority complexes. Maybe we just hide it more?

        • Your answer is similar to others, but with less emotion. Maybe that’s the difference. Also most of my commenters are female, and I’m sure you are right that most food bloggers are female. So thanks again for being one of the few guys to comment!

  24. Dianne I am speechless. Thank you for the mention and having such positive things to say about my post. What is comforting is that someone as accomplished as you, feels the same way as all the rest of us. Thanks for your bravery and honesty.

    • Hah. Nice to meet you, Edwina. I loved your post. And it caused me to write this, which has hit a chord in people, so thank YOU.

  25. Beautiful, unforgettable post!

    • Thank you Leticia, for saying so. It surprises me that a gorgeous accomplished person like yourself might relate to this post, but I suppose not. We all have these thoughts to one degree or another.

  26. Thank you for this. Brilliant and comforting words. It has been nagging me too – comparing and feeling inferior and yet, still read and browse in awe at all the great foodies out there. Its so reassuring to know that great writers like you sometimes feel the same way. The post and the comments are all so lifting and inspiring!

  27. A sincere & positive approach to reminding all to stay true to ourselves. Over the last few years, I’ve adapted the idea to look at others and all that they have to offer as ‘knowledge donors’. We don’t have to change ourselves but with every person that we meet in life, there is something that you can take away. Maybe you’ll do something with that information when the time is right or pass it along to another in need.
    So the next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, just say ‘Thank You. I’ve learned something new today.’

  28. Dianne, seems every time I leave a comment on one of your posts, it invariably begins “A brilliant post, Dianne” and this one won’t be any different. And this post is so timely. I very often compare myself to others and find myself always coming up short in one way or another. But when I step back and think about it, I always end up feeling a little better. One thing I always tell people (it is always easier to give advice then convince ourselves) is that it is always important to understand our own goals. And the way we work. I will never have as many blog followers as those bloggers who only have their blog: they have all their time to produce content for the blog, promote the blog, etc while I, for example, have many activities that clamor for and divide my attention and time; I am constantly producing content for many different publications as well as the workshop. So my time is split between Life’s a Feast, Plate to Page, Huffington Post as well as writing pieces for submissions and presentations. I also must network for and promote each of my separate activities. And the next thought is for goal: as much as I would love millions of hits daily on my blog, this is not my goal. I want to be a writer and be published, and when I take a step back and count each time I have been noticed by, read by or contacted by a professional – writer, editor, publisher – my less-than-massive stats seems that much less important. I know my priorities when it comes to my own goals. And lastly, quality. I try very hard to be as objective as possible when it comes to my writing and others’ writing and I hope that I am honest with myself – not only negative but positive as well – about the work I produce. We need to be our own toughest critic but at the same time we should be able to pat ourselves on the back as well. Ha! I am indeed a square peg and will never fit in that round hole, but I am perfectly happy that way! Brilliant post, Dianne.

    • Jamie, I was really struck by what you said, particularly the bit about how you’d love millions of hits daily on your blog, even though it’s not your goal. I struggle with something similar (although I’m not nearly as accomplished as you are – I clicked through to your blog — lots of accolades!), since I have written a cookbook, and it has done well (knock wood). That was my goal all along, and I’m thrilled. I’m writing another cookbook, and am quite focused on that since it’s deliverable in a few months. So why would I still love millions of hits on my blog? It was never the goal.

      Nicole

      • Thanks, Nicole, but I have to laugh! For all of my accolades and achievements you have something I want (and am jealous of?) – a published book! Ha! See how this all works? The grass is always greener…..and all that! And we all still want to have it all and be the best at everything!

        • Funny, Jamie. And by “funny” I mean, “it sucks.” ;)
          And, of course, I completely discount the published book thing, since I just lucked into it. I hit a nerve at the right time, and it got noticed. It’s not really that I got noticed. My idea got noticed.
          Meanwhile, I think it’s more about that than about anything else – striking the right, previously silent, chord. The advice that most seem to give — to just keep at it, to work harder than anyone else — rings hollow for me. And I think it leads to broken hearts. I’m convinced that it’s more a mix of conniving and serendipity than anything else.
          But of course, even then, the grass is always greener, and we’re back where we started. :)
          Nicole

    • Hah. Thank you. There is lots to digest in this comment. One thing I am thinking, from reading the comments, that there is no reason we can’t be successful and insecure simultaneously. We don’t have to say we’re just doing it for love, and comments and stats don’t matter, because they do. I don’t believe anyone who says they don’t. The important thing is not to drag ourselves down about them, but just keep going, trying different things. And you are doing so well with that.

      • I so agree with you, Dianne! As everyone here has said, we are all insecure, it is only a matter of knowing how to use that insecurity as an inspiration, as motivation – an instigator – to work harder, hone our skills and push harder towards our goals. This, I find, is often difficult when all we want to do is go to bed (with a plate of brownies) and bury our head under the blankets…. but it is the only way we can achieve our goals.

  29. What a timely post! As we come closer to the New Year, I always take time to regroup, evaluate, and adjust goals and expectations. Yes, I am guilty of comparing….but without some sort of reference point how does one know what is achievable? How does one set realistic goals without comparing? I have asked for the last ten months how to set traffic goals, how to gauge what is a successful social media campaign, and how to refine and improve. Most bloggers are mum on the subjects…..it is a competive world. My philosophy is be true to my objectives…but be open to possibilities not even yet considered by looking to bloggers much more successful than myself. I am a work in progress.

    • I love that. I suppose we are all a work in progress. It is one thing to do research and another to put yourself down when you see how others are doing. Re setting traffic goals, I think most bloggers do not set them. We are too busy just enjoying ourselves. Yet there are ways to do it. Maybe that is an upcoming blog post.

  30. It feels like kismet that I read this post today – thank you!

    • Oh my, Leah. This jealousy thing does affect everyone. While some commenters are surprised that I feel this way, I am surprised that some of the commenters also feel this way!

  31. Oh Diane, first, let me say how wonderful it was to see you at IFBC in Santa Monica and to steal away some time with you and Liz in the evening. This post could have been written directly to me. I struggle with this almost on a daily basis. Not necessarily on my blog (just give me time, it is still new), but with my business. It is all so subjective, one person loves the flavor of a product, another one thinks it is “alright”. One thinks it is too “sweet”, another thinks it is perfect. The sale for a company hinges on the buyer’s palate, I never know what the response will be! When I receive a rejection from a large company that I would love to have stocking my products, I am devastated. I know this is not personal, but my emotions go into hyperdrive. Is it my packaging, is it my branding, is it my social media, is it my flavor sections, why is so-and-so successful, why can’t I just get my lucky break already, I drive myself MAD. I am chasing this “illusion” of financial security and success–even though I know that is not real. The security lies within me. believing lies within me, I am already succesful, it is all here already, why can’t I keep this thought front and center??? Thank you for this post and the reminder. I wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving with you and yours :)

    • Thank you Wendy. I enjoyed hanging with you at IFBC, and your jams are fabulous. People were so excited when you handed some out in New Orleans earlier this year. You just have to tell yourself, every day, that you are making progress. Inch by inch.

  32. Your posts have a knack of coming into my inbox at a time when I need them the most. Self doubts ravage me from time to time but talking to sane people like my hubby and my mother, get me back on track. There was a point when I was so addicted to blog surfing and updating my own blog that I couldn’t rest at all. My back gave away and I felt angry all the time. All because I was constantly comparing.
    But after almost 2 years of blogging on my side, two things have happened –
    1. Because of constant comparisons my photography has improved and i try to learn a bit about food styling etc through the other better blogs
    2. I am addiction free. I update when I want. When I go away on breaks, I do not ask any guest bloggers to fill my space fearing I might have nobody visiting me after a month’s break. I can happily say, that I could leaving blogging and all it’s glory the day I feel I have had enough and walk away from it.
    But just until then, I am enjoying the ride.

    • Brava, Anita. You have tethered the beast, and learned how to evaluate other blogs for your own advantage, rather than feel diminished by them.

  33. Great post that has clearly struck a cord with many of us! I have absolutely succumbed to this, but I always try to turn it into a learning experience to improve myself (which is harder at some times than others). If I am envious of another blogger’s success, then I try to look at the various things they have done to become successful and see if I can implement any of those tactics. More often, however, I am envious of my favorite writers’ style – the ease with which they are seemingly able to craft perfectly intelligent, witty, edgy sentences, articles, books. When I get too far in that hole (am I talented enough to be a “real” writer?) I try to do something to better myself rather than wallow. I often mourn the fact that I am not edgy or quirky enough, so I read a book about writing called Spunk and Bite. I’ve looked into writing classes, and took a food photography class over the summer. Every little bit helps.

    In response to what Edwina wrote and some of the comments, it’s all well and good to say that we write and/or blog because we love it (of course that must be true, otherwise why do it?) but along with that comes a natural desire for readers. We write in part because we feel compelled to put words on paper (or, er, screen) but the other aspect is wanting people to read it. When that happens it’s immensely validating and satisfying on a number of levels. And in this day and age that does mean employing a number of tactics through social media and otherwise to get people to your blog. I remember when I first started and realized that it’s not like in Julie and Julia when people suddenly found her. You have to put yourself out there. But I have found this to be an incredibly fulfilling aspect of blogging in a way I never expected – it turns out that this is how communities and friendships are formed. I could go on, but that’s probably enough blabbing for now! Thanks again Diane for such a thought provoking piece.

    • You are the one who is thought provoking here, Katherine. Good points about how to improve yourself by comparing. Anita also mentioned that comparing can have an upside if done correctly.

      I will have to look into that book. Actually now that I looked it up, I will have to order it and read it! Thank you.

      Yes, we do need readers, for all the reasons you mention. If it was enough just to write, we could keep journals. And I agree, it has been delightful to reach out to people this way and to form friendships and associations built on the blog. That has been the best part, actually.

  34. What a very refreshing piece. You would be one of the writers I look up to Dianne and I always sigh heavily wishing to be as good or as successful as you some day. I think Twitter and FB can suck the life out of a writer on one hand and can provide the much needed encouragement (for an emerging author anyway) on the other. I have found, this year, that a fifty minute ‘work hour’ and a ten minute ‘social break’ works for my daily grind….My favourite part of seeing a new post on your site is the popping in and out over the next few days to read all the comments. They are always great and get such mixed responses!

    • Thank you, Mona. I love it when people tell me they come back to read more comments. They are the best part of the blog.

      While I am flattered that you look up to me, you can see that I am as flawed as the next person! Maybe not every one admits it, but many have done so here, which I appreciate.

  35. Dianne, I guess your post (as usual, great) hit a nerve!! I am so glad you brought it up, since obviously I’m not the only one who struggles with this daily. My dad used to say ‘comparison is odious’ (he was big on vocabulary building). I still say that to myself, and sometimes it helps. My current strategy is to take some deep breaths and really, really step back. Waaaaay back. My life has never fit into a pattern, so why should it now? I think of times when I was younger when I envied people for certain things, and then later, their lives didn’t turn out so great. I realized how fruitless (and how human) that envy and comparison is. So I just try to get on with it and talk to myself as if I’m watching a character in a movie–who is that? Not me, really. It’s a form of insanity, but it seems normal because we all do it and it taps into our insecurities, which we all have. So, one foot in front of the other, trying to enjoy the process. I want to be excited about where it might lead, but stay a little detached from results and expectations. Even though I vowed to quit blogging after a bad experience, I bounced back. I am comforted by your words, thank you! And happy Thanksgiving–it is another opportunity to count our blessings and not look at what others have on their plates :)
    p.s. in a recent meditation I pondered this issue–my answer (for me): jealousy is simply non-acceptance, or wanting myself (or a situation) to be other than what is. Better to embrace it.

    • Embrace jealousy? Wow. How do you do that, Sally? I would like to know. I’m with your dad that it is odious. Love that.

      I used to meditate as well. One of the messages I got from Buddhism is the idea that suffering is optional. That would be a good reminder for this post.

      • Hmm, I didn’t articulate that very well. I agree that suffering IS optional.What I’m trying to say is that jealousy is a form of non-acceptance of self or a situation. So embrace self and accept the situation=less suffering. Jealousy can help us examine what we THINK we’d like to have happen–but sometimes, when we get right down to it, we don’t even truly want what our minds are busy envying. Does that make sense? In any case, it’s a bear!! A great discussion and I love hearing other’s experiences and coping mechanisms. Thanks.

  36. Such a wonderful reminder that we do what we do because it is who we are. There will always be those who write, photograph, bake, publish and are published more often than me…but they will never be me and I never will be them. Each of our voices is unique. In this holiday season, I am grateful to you and those who continue to inspire me to always learn, never to feel that I am less, and always ALWAYS to be my authentic self.

    • Kate, this is a mantra we should all repeat. We can only be our own unique selves, and we should celebrate that. And let’s be grateful for it too, while we’re at it. Thank you.

      PS I enjoyed reading about your recent trip to France. Loved the exhilaration in your writing.

  37. This is so timely – and very important to newer bloggers – who may be having these comparison doubts for the first time! It’s good to acknowledge these feelings and good to know – they also pass. And especially important – because a lot of us will be re-evaluating our goals for the New Year – and giving it a good think as to what we want from blogging. And in the USA – it is Thanksgiving weekend. One of the things I am grateful for is the extraordinary generosity of bloggers. I hope bloggers remember that – you are appreciated and I greatly appreciate this posting.

    • Thank you, Claudia. Comparison doubts are not just for new writers, as I have admitted. But you’re right, they pass. Thank goodness!

  38. What a good post, thank you so much for sharing. I was just struggling with this the other night. Thankfully I have a wise and understanding husband who reminds me time and time again to not compare myself and that he loves and appreciates my blog just as it is. :) Also, I NEVER want to be someone who is not happy for other people’s success. If I am focusing on my own feelings of inadequacy, how can I truly be happy for someone else? It also helps to remember that success does not exist in a finite amount. Just because someone else has succeeded, it doesn’t mean I can’t as well. I try to be grateful that at least they showed me some of the possibilities. :)

    • Yes, this is the theory of abundance, that there is lots of room for you to succeed as well. Very good to focus on that.

  39. Dianne, you picked a perfect time to bring up this subject –just as we are about to be inundated with all of the media’s “best” lists and roundups for the year. Talk about comparison! Thanks for reminding all of us who are in this crazy, competitive (but also wonderfully rewarding) line of work to keep things in perspective and believe in our own worth.

    • Oh man, I forgot that those are coming up, Domenica. Very stressful for all you accomplished cookbook writers who have a book out this year.

      Your worth is well established. I’m sure you know that. But as you say, you have to provide your own self-worth or it is meaningless to get outside acclaim. I still have trouble taking compliments, don’t know about you.

      I suppose our field is no less competitive than any other, so we all need to get a handle on how to behave in this new online world!

  40. Dianne – This piece is lovely. Your honest and thoughtful writing and willingness to share is a gift to all of us. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Thank you Janet. Your comment created an immediate taste memory of your chocolates, and now I am salivating. I wish you a prosperous holiday season!

  41. Good article. Could I have written that? 50 some comments. Have I ever had that many comments? Me, compare? NEVER! ;) Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Very funny, Elizabeth! It’s always my goal to generate a conversation. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. Just remember that half the comments are my own.

  42. Thank you for this post – it’s a typical Dianne -Post I think, nothing compares to you :). I like your way of thinking about important blogger- themes (I loved blogging your values on IFBC). Your words are healing and helping. Sometimes I’m so concerned not to get as much comments as I expected. Then I ask myself: Do I have a voice, something to say? Sometimes it’s ridiculous because there are more important things in the world than getting comments on your french onion soup.
    But then I remember the words of my beloved husband the time I started my own business as a psychologist few years ago. He said: it’s not important to have a business card at first, go out, do your work, be passionate and do it your own way, the special Sandy-way.
    I try to keep it closer to my thoughts, go into the kitchen and keep baking and cooking. Happy thanksgiving to you Dianne, take care of you. I would like to read more posts like that and books like Will write for food. With best greetings from germany, Sandy

    • Aha, so this is the reason it was an “international” food blogger conference, Sandy — you came all the way from Germany. I hope it was worthwhile.

      Your special Sandy-way is the only way you can be. It can only come from you, so it must be nourished and protected.

      While there are more important things than getting comments, we all want them. I remember when I first started my blog, I was so impatient and stressed when no one commented. I actually called people up and asked them to do so! My husband kept telling me to calm down.

      Many commenters here have mentioned their husbands and parents as the voice of sanity. Here’s to them!

  43. Thanks Dianne. Straight to the point, not simplistic or lesson giving, and HONEST. That’s what I’m looking for when reading on the Net. I particularly appreciated that this post of yours arrived in my mails today because its subject has been on my mind lately. It’s too often tempting for me, and I know I’m not alone at all on that track, to doubt myself. But each time, I try to think that even if there were just one person who appreciated my post, (and even if that person were me, who appreciated writing it :) ), well, that’s one person to whom I gave a little extra something, isn’t it?

    Having less of this or that is not BEING less this or that.

    Thanks again, Dianne. I love coming here. You make a difference.

    • Thank you Flo. I guess there’s not enough of saying what’s really on the minds of many. I don’t want to get too bogged down in it and have a pity party, but it is great to know that so many people feel the same way.

  44. Oh, Diane, Diane, how perfectly time and beautifully brilliantly expressed. How’d you know? I’d be sheepish but then I read your perspective and let out a big ol’ healing “Sigh..”, deep breath, smile. Thank you. And since it is TG time, I am thankful for your work, your words, your presence in the world as writer and as mentor/sage/colleague on this sweet road which your post reminds me I am so lucky to be traveling, as me, being me, doing me. May this weekend be a feast for you in all ways!

    • Thank you, Nancy. I just figure we all have this kind of insecurity to one extent or another, even famous people like you, hanging with Kim Severson. Yes I saw that tweet.

      Being yourself is working for you. I wouldn’t change a thing.

  45. Excellent post, Dianne

    Good to know what competition is doing and good to stay true to yourself and your passions. Write from your heart is what I like to do. So if life gets busy, return to your writing passion or blogging when you really have something to share with others. Quality not quantity is my belief.
    Recently I have been involved in a part-time position that pays money, I am so grateful to be able to use my blogging skills and social media experience for a very special non-profit for children. My time is not always given to my food blog now, but I try to give a quality post when I am able to. Hopefully my followers at my blog and at Twitter will appreciate a good post when they see it from me.

    Thank you, Dianne, for inspiring me to follow my passions and learn from you how to engage others in blogging. Your comment numbers are amazing and I am not jealous, just inspired :)

    The Souper

    • Very sweet of you to comment. It is valuable to have this other work to divert you from thoughts about quality and comments. It sounds like you keep the green-eyed monster in check most of the time!

  46. I am sorry to disagree on the “To stay happy and content with ourselves we absolutely must never compare ourselves to others.”
    We can’t avoid comparing, we do not lie in a cave anymore. The world is a big network and not comparing to other would mean live as an hermit. Our brain always compares, black isn’t such if you didn’t have white to compare it too.
    Comparing isn’t evil, is the way to see where you stand, what makes you different and the best way to realize what you absolutely do not stands in others (so you do better/different).

    The absolute evil isn’t “Comparing” but “Copy-Catting”. If we let down our creative call to copy somebody’s else, what good do we do to ourselves? It dilutes the market (so to speak) and it doesn’t make us stand out from the crowd.

    To conclude, knowing what the market offers and realizing our position in it (i.e. comparing) is definitely much better than picking the best seller and just reproducing them.
    Won’t you agree? :)

    • Okay, I see your point. Comparing is normal. But coming to negative conclusions about yourself, based on comparing, is evil. Comparing itself is not evil. Point taken.

      Re copy catting, sometimes it’s a way to get started, but it is not sustainable.

  47. Edwina Cottino’s comments should be incorporated into our nervous systems as a reminder that we’re human and fragile and that we all want to succeed in our blogging and writing, but that remaining true to who we are is a sacred gift. No one can take that away from us, and really, it’s the best thing we have.

  48. Thank you so much for posting this Dianne. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life, always feeling like I need to be doing better. Something I find that really helps me when I feel myself getting too overwhelmed by the amazing talent of fellow bloggers, is to take a little peak at some of their earlier posts. Go for ones like Aran from cannelle et vanille or Helene from Tartlette who’s awe inspiring images and words mesmerize many of us. They too were once amateurs like the rest of us, finding their feet and learning all they could to get better. It’s a great reality check and confidence boost.

    • You are absolutely right, that even the big stars of food blogging had to start somewhere. If it makes you feel better to look at their earliest posts, more power to you!

  49. Thank you Dianne.
    Once again you have unerringly put your finger on a point that is clearly very relevant to so many of us. We each approach blogging from a different perspective and for different reasons, yet many of us succumb to the urge to compare ourselves with others, to our own detriment. It’s fine to see what else is out there in the blogging world, but it does no-one any good to become so desperate for success that we try to ape others. When trying to work out why someone else is more successful and how we can adapt ourselves to follow suit we run the risk of losing our own individual voice and compromising our original motivations for blogging. Success will mean different things to each of us and we just need to hang on to the reasons we began this journey in the first place or risk becoming pale copies of others.
    Chasing the numbers and increasing the follows they get might make other bloggers happy. I’m happy when I know I just crafted a good piece of writing and I know that my readers – however many there are – have appreciated it.

    • Yes agreed that success means different things, whether a form of self-expression and sharing, a gateway to fame, or a chance to write.

  50. Oh Dianne, this was so timely. Yes, we all compare, even though we know we should not and must stop ourselves. It’s human nature, but its destructive. I’ve been through a bout of this disease recently. We all go through it. We grow, yet find it hard to be satisfied with our progress. It never seems to be fast enough. Comparing will really get you down (as we all know). It can make you wonder if what you do, what you write, really has any value. Yet we can look at others and realize, they did it; why not me? We must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start a new day with a fresh attitude. We are all unique and must remind ourselves of that uniqueness.

    It has helped me (a little) to look back to just January and remind myself how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown. Where will I be in another year? Thanks for another great post.

    • You’re welcome Sally. You’ve made a lot of progress since starting your blog. But you have to believe it – it doesn’t matter what other people say. I bet most of the time, you do.

  51. Dianne, did someone tell you to write this? This is just where I’m at. I just got a book which seems to preempt everything I could ever possibly say about my subject (I blog about traditional Jewish food and the book is Gil Mark’s wonderful Encyclopedia of Jewish food) but I’m different than him, I have a different style, different approach and I’ll have to believe that the world is big enough to contain us both. thanks for the wonderful post

    • Hah. No, nobody told me. We’re all at this stage, sometimes. Thank God it isn’t all the time, or we’d never get anywhere.

  52. I, too, am so guilty of this on a multitude of levels. And it frustrates me to no end! And it’s not just with work, it’s also with mothering, homemaking, exercise, you name it! Thanks so much for saying it in such a nice way!

  53. This is soo true. I wish I could stay out of the comparison thing as it frustrates me to no end whatsoever. I love what I do and that should be all that matters. Thanks for writing this!

    • You’re welcome. I suppose it would be good if we could just research and observe, rather than compare. I can always aspire!

  54. The old saying, “Things are rarely as they seem.” comes to mind here. I have to ask myself what is the truth about a situation that is giving me the “comparison” blues.

    Take comments, for example. Many of the comments may be replies from the author (nothing wrong with that, by the way). On popular blogs, most comments are by other bloggers which could be an indication of how much time the author spends on social media or visiting other blogs (and that may not be how you choose to spend your time). Or perhaps it’s a blog that seems to be a good place to leave one’s calling card. I’ve done that in the past but not necessarily because I loved the blog.

    This exercise brings me back to reality and inspires me to remember my own priorities regarding blogging.

    And to you, Diane, your replies are a model of graciousness and thoughtful affirmation. I come here to learn from you as much as I enjoy reading your posts.

    • You are sweet. I’m just pointing out what we all do, but rarely talk about. Re comments, it’s hard for me to say because I write for bloggers and food writers, so I’m thrilled if they comment.

  55. Thank you for bringing up another thing that sets me back. I get so excited about a “brilliant” idea I’ve thought of but don’t follow through. When I see that someone has written or done something along that subject I chastise myself for not getting it out soon enough. Eventually I emerge from my den of disappointment to sit back, lick my wounds and remind myself that there are many approaches to write about a subject matter and that there is STILL room for my voice to be heard. I just NEED TO PUT IT OUT THERE! So that is going to be my mantra- written in BOLD letters- GET IT OUT THERE !

    Thanks for creating a community where I can read about others experiencing the same questions, frustrations.

    • Oh boy. I can relate to this one. But the thing is, everything seems to be a take on something that has already been done. If not, how would US magazines come up with yet another turkey cover for the November issue, or how could a cookbook justify yet another recipe for a chocolate chip cookie?

      There’s always a new way to approach it. That’s the challenge.

  56. Thanks for your candor, Dianne. I too get sucked into comparing myself to others I hear and read about. I try to remind myself something I heard at Greenbriar, which is to just focus on putting out good content and not get caught up in the rest of it.

  57. I finally had a chance to sit down and read this…it’s a wonderfully thoughtful reflection on Edwina’s post, and thank you for the mention. I’m so impressed with the level of honesty and self-reflection that your readers who’ve left you comments have engaged in. It’s just one of those things that anyone starting out with a food blog…or even long-time bloggers…should read and think about, because it’s so easy to let excessive comparing and competition snatch the fun out of something you’re so passionate about.

    I hope blogging continues to be one of those things that I do just because I love it so, and if other things come along because of it, so be it. Your post and Edwina’s are ones I’ll come back to down the line, to remind myself of just that.

    • Lovely to hear from you, and thanks again for sending the post from Edwina on to me. The comments here are awesome, I agree. It takes a lot to admit, in print, that we’re not perfect. Now we just have to get back to writing what we love, and keeping focused on that.

  58. As always, thoughtful and insightful. Dianne, you never fail to deliver a quality product!

    • Oh thanks Jane. I wrote this one rather quickly because I had such an emotional response to Edwina’s post. That happens so rarely. You probably know exactly what I mean.

  59. Love this! And thank you for the post. I’m unfortunately close to a couple of “local to me” bloggers who thrive on one-ups-manship, bragging, in your face name dropping …. I think you get the picture. Does seem to get under my skin at times.

    • Yuck. None of that is conducive to having a good professional association with those folks. I hope you can ignore them often.

  60. My insecurity stems from low resolution pictures and sometimes I think I have no business having a blog, since I don’t have the fancy or high tech doodads, or even much of the “good life”. I have to wait for broad daylight to take pictures and I have to do it outside where our garden doesn’t always provide a good backdrop. allI know about editing pictures is by using microsoft picture editor – you know brightness and contrast and crop – that’s it! I’m just glad I have pageviews! I write for the people who click, I get embarrassed when I see my pageview go up which means people visited and I haven’t posted anything new. I enjoy writing though and I hope somebody gets something useful out of my long posts. I do wonder about comments, I don’t get many, but one friend said its because I wrote “be kind when you comment”. I wonder if it meant they can’t be, hahaha.

    • I don’t think it’s because of that. To get comments you need to decide you’re going to have a certain kind of blog, one that involves your readers or causes them to respond. Certainly not all food blogs fall into this category. Common themes are “look what I made” or “look what I ate” which don’t necessarily elicit comments.

  61. Dianne,
    Thank you for this wonderful “counseling” session. Oftentimes, the best way to be pulled out of a struggle is to realize you are not alone in it. I join in with my fellow commenters to thank you for being so real. And I am now going to tape the Edwina’s quote to my forehead.
    Grateful to you,
    Ginny

    • Ha. Thanks Ginny. We all need these reminders from time to time — pretty much everyone, whether they’re willing to admit it or not.

  62. […] making comparisons. it’s deadly. gets me every time. […]

  63. Thank you so much for writing this. I think the comparison trap is one of the reasons I sometimes wonder whether I should stop blogging. It is so easy to forget the original reasons you started and get caught up on what you haven’t accomplished and who seems to be doing better than you are. And even more irksome, there sometimes seems to be no good reason for their popularity vis a vis your own. It’s one of those things that no matter how big you are (and I certainly am not) there seem to be no shortage of ways to convince yourself you fall short.

    Honestly, it’s no different than what most of us experience in other aspects of our life. Except, that while you might guess your neighbor makes more than you or colleague is climbing the latter more quickly, you don’t have as many data points publicly as you do with blogging. With blogging it’s far too easy to see those hard #’s you point to above.

    • Yes, it is easy to get frustrated and wonder why you’re doing it. You just have to stop wondering why someone else is more popular/successful than you and concentrate on your own work. Or figure out how to get ahead: one blogger who hired me a while ago was advertising on Facebook and was up to 12,000 followers on her fan page!

  64. This is a wonderful post! I’ve been food blogging for almost a year and I find myself comparing myself to other blogs and websites all the time. The best I can do is take inspiration from other sites, and maybe make some contacts along the way, instead of just being envious of their talents.

    • That’s the spirit! Definitely the best you can do. You can also compare in the sense of seeing what they are doing and whether there’s anything they can adapt for your own blog.

  65. This is so great, thank you for these wonderful words. Learning to not compare ourselves to one another is a life long lesson and I need to be reminded of it a lot.

  66. […] was commenting on Dianne Jacob’s blog, Will Write for Food, specifically on her post about comparing, an issue I often dealt with in my early, early days of food blogging and still do now and […]

  67. Hi, Dianne,
    Just signed up for email updates of your blog because I can see from this post that yours is an honest voice of wisdom and I would do well to learn from you. Maybe I haven’t been blogging long enough to hit a dry patch, but, as a life-long writer, I have found that the way to get over writer’s block is just to keep writing. Stream-of-conciousness putting down of whatever comes to mind keeps the words flowing and then the ideas pop up like magic and I can take that one nugget, trash the rest and keep going!

    Looking forward to reading more of your valuable nuggets! Thank you.

    Stacy

    • Thanks for signing up, Stacy. I’m glad to read that you keep writing, no matter what. No writer’s block for you!

  68. […] on the floor, with our hands. I had met Arva on email two years ago, when she alerted me to a popular post on comparing, so it was a delight to meet her in […]

  69. […] want to soak up their brilliance. I also know I will be a little envious. That’s okay. Reading them gives me ideas for my own […]

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