I often wax lyrical about how much I love what I do and just how fantastic my clients are.  I sincerely mean every word.  But I’m not sure I’ve shared with you yet the absolute Number 1, Top of the List reason why I’m self-employed. 

It’s simple and won’t be a surprise to anyone to hear that it’s the FLEXIBILITY.  I am able to choose the hours that I work.  I don't have to pay for childcare.  If my children are sick I am able to stay home with them and not worry about the amount of leave I have left at work.  I do the school run without the stress of having to rush out of meetings early.  I can attend all manner of school activities and put my hand up to help out when I can.

My first gold star from a teacher in ... too many years to count!

My first gold star from a teacher in ... too many years to count!

All of the wonderful things I’ve just listed above can also occasionally be a bit … ummm … of a chore.  There are days I wish I could walk out the door at 7am with a cheerful goodbye and then return home again at 6pm.  Surely not seeing the kids all day would mean that the quality time I would have with them at the end of the day would be AMAZING … wouldn’t it?!

I imagine we would all fall into each other’s arms at the doorway, overjoyed to be seeing one another.  We’d have a perfectly cooked and well-balanced family dinner around the table where we would enthusiastically discuss our days.  Dinner would be followed by bath time where everyone would behave, and then perhaps after nice relaxing board game the sweet things would kiss me goodnight and skip down the hall before immediately falling asleep.  That IS what would happen … right?!

But I digress.  The flexibility my job has means I’ve had a very busy couple of weeks with Miss 5 at school.  Every day last week her class attended a Swim Safe programme off-site requiring parental help.  I loved being able to help wrangle two dozen five years olds, making sure no-one got run over, left behind, were dressed appropriately AND returned to school with everything in their bags with which they arrived (it was bloody EXHAUSTING!).

A few days later it was Miss 5's first ever cross country race.  Whilst watching the kids navigate the course it was so interesting to witness the differences not only between the older and the younger children, but also between the sexes.  The older kids took it very seriously and some were disappointed by their places, whereas for most of the younger ones, it was just something fun to do and most enjoyed the attention and cameras more than anything.  It got me thinking though, at what age does our competitiveness kick in?  When is it that we start to compare ourselves to others?  It was evident that most of the younger competitor’s self-esteem had yet to be touched by either.

We rise by lifting others

The questions I had around competition and comparison arose once more during the week after being approached by someone wishing to connect as they have recently started up their own independent VA/PA business.  For a split second my instinct was concern.  “More competition” the wee devil on my shoulder whispered gleefully.  Luckily the sweet angel on my other side spoke up quickly before the self-doubt kicked in. “Collaboration.  A new friend.  How exciting!”.  And would you believe that very same day a social media post popped up on my news feed that read “We rise by lifting others”.  How’s that for great timing!  Thanks Meraki Workspace.

Did you know that comparing yourself to others is learned?  It probably starts during childhood thanks to a very innocent and off-hand comment from a parent.  Some educators play a role in it and by the time you’ve reached adulthood the media (and social media) has taken over bombarding us with how to look, how to live and how to think.  It’s human nature to buy into it all, but be warned it is far reaching and the negative effects will be detrimental to your self-esteem.

If comparing is a choice and can be unlearned, what can we do to stop the bad habit?

  1. Stop focussing on others, concentrate on your own journey.

  2. Detox from social media and trashy woman’s magazines.

  3. Be your own cheerleader and remind yourself of all that’s great and good about you.

  4. Instead of knocking others down, be supportive and kind. It’s easy to criticize others to make ourselves feel better.

  5. Be grateful for what you do have, rather than what you don’t.

So next time you start thinking that you might not be good enough, successful enough or brave enough – take a moment instead to think about what makes you special, what are your super-skills, how do you tackle a task differently from others.  Stop overlooking or dismissing all the great things you are and do.  Otherwise you may find yourself missing out on some great opportunities, experiences and friendships.