Today’s topic, comparison and why it isn’t worth your time, is a little different but very important.
It applies to marketing and practice management in a big way. Marketing is all about “more,” is it not?
How to get more patients, so we have more money, more success, and more respect for what we do.
To do feel “legitimate.” Successful. Like we’re #winning.
Inherent in marketing there is an element of need; of never being satisfied. Marketing itself is of course not “bad.” It’s necessary. But it’s all about our perspective. Because sometimes marketing can play into a sense of comparison, competition and dissatisfaction.
This is a topic that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time now, because it’s relevant to what we talk about here on Modern Acupuncture on a regular basis: how to get more.
As acupuncturists and business owners, we often compare ourselves to other acupuncturists. I think it’s pretty normal; I know I do. What exactly are we usually comparing?
- Patient numbers per week
- Number of patient rooms running at once
- Visible signs of “success” such as large or well-designed office spaces
- Number of associates or employees someone else has hired
- Ability to go on vacation
- Assumed income based on those visible signs of success
I’m a big comparer. I’m competitive. I like to know exactly how other people are doing, so I can see how I measure up. Or at least, I used to. I’m finally getting to a point where I’m realizing that comparing myself to others and trying to match or outdo them, doesn’t bring me long-term happiness. Instead, it makes me feel bad, and there’s no need for that. (Sound the alarm! Michelle’s becoming a grown-up!)
When I was in private practice in Rochester, I constantly compared my patient numbers to the numbers of one of my neighboring acupuncturists. She was an acupuncture classmate of mine, and a good friend. But I was crazy jealous of her patient numbers, and constantly used her as my litmus test to determine if I was “crushing it.”
I pushed myself to try to get the same numbers. The truth is, her numbers felt impossible for me to attain (60 patients a week! Woo mama, I was not there) and in the end, the comparison only made me feel inadequate, less than, and ashamed of my not being able to quite match her success.
What a terrible way to feel about my business: that it wasn’t good enough. My practice was smaller, but no less important. I had hustled my butt off to get where I was, and it was important to both me and my patients. When we compare ourselves to others and are hard on ourselves about falling short, we undermine all of our hard work and accomplishments.
Comparison doesn’t just occur between business owners or acupuncturists, of course. It can occur in all areas of our lives. We compare our careers to those of others; our homes; our cars; how much money we assume people are making; how thin or fit we are; what kinds of vacations we take; everything. We live in a materialistic society of “more is better” and it can be easy to feel like you’re falling short of the “ideal.”
Even in writing this blog, which I do because I love it, I still compare myself to other bloggers. I’m jealous of their apparent “success:” their social media followings, their graphic design, their reader engagement, etc.
The day I discovered AcuProsper, for example, I was green with envy over Katie’s beautiful website and felt immediately that what I do here on Modern Acupuncture wasn’t enough. Modern Acupuncture suddenly felt pale in comparison, a joke compared to AcuProsper’s pulled-together graphic design, clean format, and clear message.
It felt like all the work I’d put into Modern Acupuncture over the last two years meant nothing.
THIS is what comparison does to us. It belittles our efforts and the hard work that we put in over time. It steals our joy in what we’ve created by reducing our goals and successes to flat, two-dimensional images of what they really are.
So what can you do about this thief of joy, especially if it’s such a natural habit that we easily slip into?
How to Crush Negative Feelings That Arise from Comparison:
- Realize that you are enough, right now, exactly as you are.
- Reach out to those you are jealous of/compare yourself to. Make them human.
- Reflect on your own accomplishments and appreciate the time, work, creativity, and passion it has taken you to get here.
- Practice gratitude for all that you already have and all that you already are.
Ready? If you like exercises and self-reflection, follow along with the worksheet. (Yay, grown-up homework!)
1. Realize that you are enough, right now, exactly as you are.
The big message of this article is that You Are Enough, Right Now, As You Are. End of story. You are enough.
We as acupuncturists tend to tie our self-worth to our career. Being an acupuncturist is “who we are.” We really live it! But even though “acupuncturist” may help define you, you are even more than this.
I attended a graduation for doctors of chiropractic a few weekends ago, and the faculty speaker struck me with her words:
“Know that you are enough. Even if you are stripped of your ability to practice chiropractic, you are still yourself. You will always be, and always have, yourself. You may be a chiropractor, and it may define you, but it is not all that defines you. You will always have yourself, and that is enough.”
How crazy powerful is that? That is one of the challenges I present to you today: Allow yourself to meditate on and accept the fact that even if you were stripped of your ability to practice acupuncture, even if through some catastrophe you lost your practice, you are still enough.
Does that put things in perspective a bit? It doesn’t matter how many patients or how much money anyone else has. It doesn’t matter. You are good, you are valuable, and your provide something meaningful to the world simply by being yourself.
2. Reach out to those you are jealous of/compare yourself to. Make them human.
Remember how I was jealous of Katie, the founder of AcuProsper? Once I realized that the green monster of comparison and jealousy was making me feel crummy about Modern Acupuncture, I shut it down.
One of my favorite ways of doing this is to reach out to the person I’m jealous of, and get to know them a bit. To realize that they, too, are human. It’s a humbling and enlightening experience. They, too, have struggles and are are imperfect.
I sent Katie a Facebook message telling her I admired everything she was doing, and after she responded, I realized she’s just a hard working person who loves what she does, and she deserves her success.
After learning her background, I realized that comparing my website to hers (and my apparent success or lack thereof) was kind of like comparing apples and oranges. Two totally different creatures. And the shame and jealousy evaporated.
Often, you really don’t know anything about the circumstances other people are operating under. When we compare ourselves to others, we naturally assume that we’re starting from the same place or are on a level playing field. But this is pure fantasy in most cases. We have no way of knowing what another person’s circumstances are like. (In Katie’s case, she’s been teaching Practice Management for four years, so of course her message is crystal clear and her worksheets are flawless!)
So I recommend reaching out to them. Once you realize that they make mistakes and have struggles, you can stop viewing yourself in the harsh light of comparison. You could send a friendly email, invite them to coffee, suggest that you review difficult cases together, or whatever feels comfortable to you.
3. Reflect on your own accomplishments and appreciate the time, work, creativity, and passion it has taken you to get here.
When we’re busy comparing ourselves to others, we forget how much effort it took us to get where we are. This is an incredible disservice to ourselves! You may not have as many patients as your neighboring acupuncturist, but that doesn’t mean that what you do is less valuable. Just ask your patients; they will tell you how much they appreciate the work you do.
To squish jealousy and comparison, spend some time writing down all the steps you had to take to A) become an acupuncturist and B) create a business. (This is where the worksheet is super helpful.) You had to study for three years, pass national board exams, get licensed, get a DBA or LLC, find an office space to rent, (possibly) find someone to share your space with you, recruit patients, and much, much more. That’s a lot of effort, time, and dedication!
Next, write down or reflect on all the individual things that you did today to keep your business running – all the thousand little elements that have to get done to make things run smoothly. You probably got to the office early, turned on the lights and heat lamps, put linens on the tables, reviewed patient charts, wrote herbal formulas, returned phone calls, accepted payments, rescheduled patients, answered questions, and more. Again, so many things!
I feel like business owners are naturally hard on themselves. We undervalue the immense, consistent effort we put in everyday that keeps our businesses running. It’s hard work!
So give yourself a pat on the back for:
A) All the big things that had to happen for you to become an acupuncturist and to open a business.
B) All the thousand little things you do every day to keep your business running.
Having fewer patients than someone else does not reduce these accomplishments!
Plus, what about all the other roles you play throughout your day? What other big and small things do you commit yourself to? Being a parent, a spouse, a friend, a leader… the list goes on. All of those things take time and effort, and they matter as well.
4. Practice gratitude for all that you already have and all that you already are.
Gratitude helps us cast off self-doubt and comparison because when we are grateful for what we have, we don’t covet the lifestyle or things of others. Gratitude reveals that your life is full and you are enough.
Take some time to think about all the things you’re grateful for in your practice. What is working well? What’s your favorite part of being an acupuncturist? Why do you do what you do?
Think about it. What makes you happy to wake up in the morning and go to work? That alone is something profoundly worth being grateful for. Think of how few people are happy to go to work in the morning. But you get to have a job that barely feels like a job!
What are you grateful for about yourself? How have you changed and grown since you opened your practice? What do you do particularly well?
Don’t forget to meditate on what I like to call reciprocal gratitude. Let yourself be lifted up by the gratitude that others have for you. Start with your patients and the gratitude they regularly show you for helping them. Even if you didn’t eliminate all of their pain today, you showed up. You listened. You spoke with kindness. You make them feel safe. I have no doubt that they are grateful for that.
Use gratitude to banish feelings of needing to “be” or “do” more. You know what I’m gonna say… you’re enough right now.
Comparison is the thief of joy. But only if we give it permission.
So don’t do it. You get to choose your thoughts, and by extension, how you feel.
Remember, you can choose to compare, or not. Be gentle with yourself. Be open to the idea that life is a journey, and where you are now is simply one step in the process.
Did you try the worksheet?
Give it a spin! It’s purpose is to remind you that your accomplishments are meaningful, what you offer the world is valuable, and that you as an individual are enough, right now, as you are.
What about you?
Do you struggle with comparison from time to time?
What is helpful for you? How do you move past it?
Share in the comments below!
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