I struggle. There, I said it
And I compare myself to others far too often.
Is that the same with you?
For most of my writing career, I’ve often made the story about others, not me. Be it a keynote talk, book, or post like this one, I like to share observations and insights from leaders and organizations, not necessarily stories from my 25-year career.
Recently on LinkedIn, I posted a short 2 ½ minute video of me shot from the confines of my home office. It was rather raw and private.
Yet, in a matter of just a few days, it was viewed over 12,000 times.
I realized two things.
First, maybe I need to share more about my faults, inhibitions, and personal chronicles in a public way.
And second, a lot of kind people thought I was having a breakdown. (For the record, I’m not. I’m fine.)
The video—shared below for you to watch—focused on two key points:
- I struggle, but that’s part of being human
- I need to belong by halting the comparison war
Perhaps Brené Brown stated it best:
“What we don’t need in the midst of struggle is shame for being human.”
Put differently, to struggle is human.
There is no point bottling up your issues. Lying about it does nothing. All of us struggle. It’s the very thing that makes us human. In my case, I was looking back on the past four years and saw a litany of bumps and bruises that I was overlooking.
Aside from the obvious point of a global pandemic and the climate change events of raging wildfires and atmospheric rivers in my adopted province of British Columbia during 2021, raising three teenagers is exceptionally draining.
Be it their multitude of activities, moods, homework, oppositional defiant disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, hormones, friend issues, or even the eldest attending university for the first time—5,000 kilometres away—it’s not as though parenting is a constant picnic at the park.
Somewhat obviously, parenting gets in the way of my work. There are certain things I can’t write, take on, accept as business opportunities, travel to, and so on — because I’m a parent of three teenagers. It takes up a lot of time.
I’m not complaining about being a parent, but I struggle to say no knowing that I have to say no if I want to be a good parent.
I left the corporate world in late 2018. From 22 years of having a regular bi-weekly paycheck to sorting out how to become a Paul Jarvis-inspired “Company of One,” the reality of working for yourself—often alone—was another huge change and adjustment.
In hindsight, it’s quite the mental toll.
There have been three deaths of people close to our family in the last six months, all of which were of the shocking not-supposed-to-happen variety.
My latest book—released during the pandemic—has not sold as well as I had predicted or hoped. The online learning program that accompanies the book has been unsuccessful.
There are more struggles, too. I need not bore you with them all. But my recent epiphany was that we all struggle. And that’s completely normal. It is simply a part of being human. I need to get better at that realization going forward. Maybe you do as well.
The Comparison War
The second point in the video is my tendency to compare myself to other people. I do it far too often. Be it other authors, keynote speakers, consultants, leadership strategists or thinkers, I realized the comparison war hasn’t been doing much mental health good.
There is nothing wrong with learning from others, but if you’re in a constant battle of comparison—and that battle is solely in your mind—you wind up in a lose-lose situation.
What I need to do better is to belong. First with myself, and then to others.
It sounds odd even as I type the words but belonging to yourself is an important step. Be comfortable in your own skin. Be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be comfortable knowing that there are and always will be struggles.
When we belong to ourselves first, we become at ease with ourselves. When we’re at ease with who we are, we’re less likely to worry about what we’re not. And when we’re at peace with both who and what we are, we have discovered self-belongingness.
My epiphany is that I must drop the comparison war and define my self-belongingness. There are no other Dan Pontefract’s, and I have an obligation to stop thinking I should be like someone else. Maybe you do as well.
Putting It All Together
What I’m hoping to do in being so public with my admissions is to help you feel the same.
You will struggle, and that’s perfectly fine. You are human. It’s part of the package.
And you belong. Set your terms, don’t fixate on comparing yourself to others, and please, be at ease with yourself.
It is part of the path towards reclaiming your human agency.