Comparing Ourselves

Oct 16, 2013Esteem, Grace, Guilt, Shame


Sally and I always look forward to the Juice Plus+ Leadership Conferences. We will fly to Orlando today and check into the Gaylord Palms Hotel late this afternoon. Our favorite part will be seeing all of our friends and team members, and then hearing the stories from the new National Marketing Directors. I’m already excited and exhausted just thinking about the next 72 hours.

It will take me all three days just to get a sense of where I’m going in that massive place. Feeling lost and overwhelmed is not uncommon for most of us—wandering around in that maze of wall-to-wall people, restaurants, lush gardens, waterfalls, meeting rooms and the non-stop-can’t-miss main stage presentations.

I have felt lost and overwhelmed at more than one of these important conferences. They were not happy times, because I had allowed myself to fall into the all-too-common trap of comparing myself to others.

There I sat, by myself, in the coffee shop of the Marriott Hotel at the Memphis Fall Conference in 1999.  Sally was still teaching third grade and was not able to miss her classes on Thursday and Friday. I was probably feeling lonely, and convinced that my business was nowhere near where I thought it should have been by that weekend in October, especially when compared to other people’s businesses.

It was a well-designed private pity party to be sure, but it felt like reality at the time. Besides, I could see dozens of my NMD colleagues across the lobby laughing and enjoying each other, sharing their war stories and amazing feats of Fast Tracking fifteen new Frontline Sales Coordinators since the last conference. Sarcasm always surfaces at my pity parties.

Yes, even National Marketing Directors experience debilitating funks—days of discouragement where we feel unworthy, resentful and maybe this business isn’t for me. We are experiencing crippling shame about not measuring up. That day was my day.

Going to a Leadership Conference does not cause this downward emotional spiral. So please, don’t cancel your flight. We are hardwired to compare ourselves to others long before we start building a Juice Plus+ team. But because our wonderful business culture encourages all of us to pursue big dreams and the heroic ascent to the top, it’s easy for us to get snagged by self-doubt when we fall short of our expectations or we watch others effortlessly pass us along the way.

I’m better today at dealing with my discouragements than I was fourteen years ago. But I can still get snagged. I can still start comparing myself to someone else’s ability and accomplishments. I can still start wondering if I have done enough. The inner chatter goes something like, “David, you should be better at that by now.” Or,  “That shouldn’t bother you any more.” But it does.

Shame is different from true guilt. Guilt says I messed up. Shame says I am messed up. Shame is what I was feeling at the Marriott in 1999. Shame is what we’re experiencing when we compare ourselves to other people’s lives or families or children or income or Juice Plus+ teams. Shame is that deep, personal sense of not-enoughness—even though we can shrug it off with a nervous smile or a self-deprecating remark posing as humility.

Shame keeps pressuring us—that we Should Have Already MasteredEverything.

I do not have an antidote to the destructive effects of shame—at least, not in this article. But I can say with confidence that dealing with our sense of never being enough is a huge component in our personal and professional development.  Not only huge, but also essential.

I also believe that the other side of shame looks like radical and tender self-acceptance and a personal, deep knowing that we are worthy and that we areenough—not some day, but right now. It will take most of us our whole lives to finally and fully embrace that wonderful truth.

It’s counter to our best thinking, but there’s actually no better place than the crucible of our high-octane, performance-based business for us to unlearn the lethal habit of comparing ourselves to others, and then with humility to pass on to the people on our teams that they are in fact already enough.