The Cost of Comparison

Our idols are people, too, and struggle with self-doubt even as they choose to overcome it and pursue a goal.   Miss Rodeo Texas , photo courtesy of  U.S. Army  and the annual Western heritage parade and cattle drive.

Our idols are people, too, and struggle with self-doubt even as they choose to overcome it and pursue a goal.

Miss Rodeo Texas, photo courtesy of U.S. Army and the annual Western heritage parade and cattle drive.

Rodeo queen pageants are a game of comparison. Not just from the judges, as they score how well you ride, how well you speak, how much you know, and how put-together you look on a given day. It’s a game of comparison between yourself and others. The best way to improve is to watch the young ladies above you; the women you aspire to be. Yet, as you see your role models compete and represent, or your competitors shine in an area that you’re not as comfortable in, it’s all too easy to get down on yourself.

You start to play the comparison game of you against others. As you do you challenge yourself, and question your ability. The trouble with this thinking, aside from the fact that it can be self-destructive, is that it's an unfair comparison. You know yourself better than anyone else. You know your strengths, your weaknesses, your effort, your ability, and your goals---you don't know those of the person who you compare yourself to. See the potential problem? When you compare yourself to others, you judge everything you feel about yourself to what you see of others. You judge your insides against others’ outsides. As you do so, you overlook the insecurities and self-doubt beneath the surface of others’ polished veneer.

As we play the comparison game, we all feel like we’re the odd one out. Like we’re the only ones who don’t have it figured out, not realizing that we’re all just humans doing the best we can. We all struggle with the feeling of not belonging, or not being good enough. It's called Imposter Syndrome.   

Imposter Syndrome appears as this ugly monster that rears its head to cause self-doubt and insecurities that distract us from achieving our dreams. Rather than let it get the best of you, acknowledge that it's there and then find ways to combat, just like you do other obstacles that stand in the way of you and your goal. 

Leadership coach and professional women's mentor, Kelley Forseth shares her advice on how to feel more comfortable in your own skin so you can get out of your own way.


Acknowledge your work. As a rodeo queen you’re a leader. That doesn’t just accidentally happen. You’ve put in the work. You’ve studied, you’ve practiced, you’ve ridden your horse, and you've practiced your speech. And, just because you don’t win on a given day, doesn’t mean you won’t ever win. It just means today wasn't the day.

Know yourself. Whether you’re shy, outgoing, direct, or timid, your leadership style will work for others. You may be able to relate to a shy little girl better than someone who’s more outgoing. No style is bad; it's just different!

Understand the role. When you’re a rodeo queen or a CEO there’s expectations of behavior. Think about what the role you're aiming for entails, and then what your board expects of you, what the community expects of you, and what you expect of yourself in that position. You don’t need to be a different person, but you do need to accept the expectations of that role if you’ve chosen to pursue it (and you have if you’ve tried out).

Be authentic. When you’re yourself, and are approachable, you’ll feel less like you don’t belong. You’ll also find that more people want to follow you. When people see that you’re real, that you don’t always know the answer, and that you’re human, they’ll feel they can relate to you. And, when you’re relatable, you’ll have more impact. You’ll be a leader; you’ll fulfill the expectations of the role. Go, you!

Find your support. You wouldn’t have the opportunity to compete if someone didn’t believe in you. So in those times that you don't believe in you, turn to your support system. Surround yourself with these people, and call on them for a pick-me-up when you feel beat down. When you need a reminder of why you’re special, ask them: What five words would you use to describe me? You'll often be pleasantly surprised at the good things they say.

Talk to others. We’ve all been in a position where we feel like we’re the only one in the world that has a certain experience. When you have the courage to share your story, you realize there are others who share your experience, and may even continue to hold onto it---whatever it is.

Stop comparing your inside with other people’s outside.
— Kelley Forseth, Clarity Consulting

          You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, share with everyone. Talk to people you trust and who you feel comfortable being vulnerable with, and if people share with you, be a good listener and a good friend. Meaning, keep it private.

Free yourself from guilt, shame, and powerlessness. It’s empowering to realize that you can’t do anything about external factors: your family, your background, or the situation, but you can control your own reaction to those factors. You can demonstrate the behavior you want: what it means to be a rodeo queen, a CEO, and a leader. 

Love yourself; love others. There’s always something of ourselves that we don’t like. That’s a part of being human. We’re not all good or bad, and black or white; there’s plenty of grey in all of us. As you realize this, you free yourself to love and accept yourself and what’s made you who you are, including your embarrassing family or background. Even when you don’t like something of yourself, or condone the actions of those you love, that doesn't mean you have to hate or reject yourself or them. 

Remember your why. As difficulty sets in, you may be filled with doubt and want to give up. In these moments, remember why you’ve chosen to take on this challenge. Think about a time that you’ve accomplished something difficult, like mastering that pesky flying lead change. Or, reciting your speech flawlessly after hours of practice. Don’t forget what you’re capable of achieving when you set your mind to it. And, then, set your mind back to the task at hand.

Photo courtesy of Kelley Forseth.

Photo courtesy of Kelley Forseth.

Kelley Forseth, Portland, Oregon, is a senior consultant and president of Clarity Consulting. She’s a leadership coach and change management professional who helps leaders and business executives develop in their personal and professional lives. She’s designed and facilitated professional interventions for small, family businesses to Fortune 100 companies. She’s served as chief talent officer for a multi-million dollar company, has coached front-line managers and CEOs, has developed management curriculum for several dozen organizations, and has led large-scale change initiatives.

Kelley is an avid advocate of women’s leadership, with a love for the Western lifestyle. She grew up watching rodeos and attending fairs in her backyard as her family’s Oklahoma farm neighbored the local grounds.