Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Activists – It’s a Group Effort

By Paula Fitzsimmons

This past week I was again reminded of just how harmful comparing myself to others can be, and how it often leads to feelings of inadequacy. I had been pleased with recent accomplishments, when on one of these particular days I chose to spend a few free moments browsing Facebook.

Peppered in with the regular stories of planetary abuses were welcome news pieces: Shell had halted its plans to drill in the Arctic; Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement (EAGLE) activists were instrumental in busting yet another wildlife trafficker; various wildlife centers had rehabilitated and released animals to their wild homes . . .to name a few.  Among these were posts from friends and others touting their own – or their organizations’ – successes.

Activists are my heroes. And I’m over-the-moon ecstatic when meaningful change occurs for animals and the environment. But that familiar feeling of “Why am I not doing more” started insinuating itself into my psyche. I started to feel inadequate. Just like that.

It’s not the Joneses I was comparing myself to, either, but other activists . . .a community with which I share a kinship.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’m alone in these feelings. While I can’t get into people’s minds, I suspect other activists and those who work in the animal and environmental protections fields may have similar experiences. Even if fleeting. Even if they don’t want to admit it. We’re still people, imperfections and all.

(Please note, Vegan Cuts is a sponsor/affiliate link.)

While doing research for an article I wrote last year for Crew, called “Want to Be More Productive? Stop Comparing Yourself to Others” I discovered that a certain level of comparison is normal . . . and indeed part of our genetic makeup. It’s when those comparisons go haywire – when it has morphed from a healthy yardstick used to measure positive growth, into a tool in which to feel bad about ourselves – that trouble brews.

A few things to keep in mind when that comparison monster rears its head . . .

This is not a contest

We’re all in the fight for animals and the environment together – not to see which organization can create the wittiest campaign, or which activist can collect the most Facebook likes. Creating good for animals requires that we take our selves out of the equation – and instead do what’s in the best interest of the cause.

It’s just noise

True, I don’t know who you are or what you’ve accomplished, but it could very well be that you’re just being too hard on yourself. Learn to identify those feelings and thoughts of inadequacy for what they are: Awful, headache-inducing noise.

If you truly feel you’re not measuring up to your own standards (not someone else’s ideal) do something about it. My “Feel Powerless? There’s an Antidote for That” article has ideas for effecting positive change . . . in case you need a kickstart.

It’s not always as it seems

Comparing ourselves with the Joneses is nothing new, but social media has exacerbated this. We’re now incessantly bombarded with reminders of how well everyone else is doing – whether those accomplishments are real or happen to be self-promoted.

We judge the totality of a person or organization based on the little tidbits they choose to show the rest of us. Kay Wills Wyma, author of I’m Happy for You (Sort Of…Not Really): Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison

calls this syndrome the Glimpse. (I’d like you to know . . .the link to this book is an affiliate link – if you purchase this book via this link, I earn a commission. I have read this book and highly recommend it – even if you choose to buy it elsewhere, borrow a copy from a friend, or pick it up at the library. : )

So comparing your small nonprofit to one with major resources is futile; as is wondering why it seems you don’t measure up to the activist next to you. You don’t have the whole story. Be proud of the good you do accomplish.

Do good for the right reasons

Be a do-gooder because you’re passionate – and because it’s the right thing to do – not for the praise. Think of yourself as one of the many unsung heroes who dedicate themselves to a cause, but don’t get publicity (there are many).

We are facing unprecedented issues in this lifetime: Mass extinctions, industry abuses, pet overpopulation, deforestation . . . and the list goes on. We don’t have a single minute to waste – neither individually nor collectively – on misperceptions or pettiness. Focus on what you do best, and feel good about what you do contribute to a cause – as well as about what others contribute. Our unity will help create victories for animals and this planet – it really is a group effort.

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