Competition and Comparison - Doubt, Envy And Shame

The online business world brings up new and different challenges to our self-concept, self-esteem, emotional resilience, and courage.

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In the last few years I've gone from being a complete social media virgin to spending a few hours a day in 'virtual' relationships.

It's been a massive boost to my business knowledge and to my own enjoyment of being in contact with some funny, generous, and supportive people. I've even met some of them in person now too.

There has also been a downside to finding out about 'online business' and - at the risk of being controversial - it needs to be said and out in the open, so here goes!

The pyramid of success

I've become well acquainted with some of the 'pyramids' of business success, and of the leader positioned at the top (with their 'team' close behind them) whose wisdom trickles down to the minions below.

I've also identified many who've been eagerly looking up to the pinnacle - with their mouths wide open ready to gulp down whatever juicy morsels they can get.

Several then regurgitate what they've swallowed, as if it were their own unique and original 'insight/system/method' - maybe with a couple of slight adjustments to make it appear to be their own.

Well, they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

Another side to this pyramid - the backside view – is the heavy negative energy of the envy which is hidden behind the smiling adoration and sycophantic adulation of the leader.

Envy which stems from comparison, and from competition too. Envy that someone else is seemingly so well-known, well-connected, well-liked - and appears to have the holy grail of a 'community of raving fans'.

The leader has  aquired many followers and social media 'likes' - and we assume that these 'prospects' then 'convert' into customers, who bring in the much extolled and desired '6 & 7 figure business income' which we are overtly encouraged to envy.

This is the bait which is cleverly marketed to us.

Perhaps the intention is that if we feel bad enough for not having this '6-7 figure' level of success ourselves, then our shame will motivate us into buying into their 'unique' offering. A programme or course which promises to also bring us the same level of success which they proudly enjoy and flaunt.

Success by short-cut.

What an alluring dream!

You can be just like me... living in the sun... working only a few hours a week... having the 'laptop lifestyle'... yes little old you! I did it - and so can you!

But what if you can't?

A quick route to negative self-concept is to unfavourably compare ourselves to others. To see them as winners and yourself as a non-winner... or even worse as a loser.

To feel envious and to compare yourself to someone onto whom you've projected the 'better than me' label, will dim your own light against the perceived dazzling sparkle of theirs. This will only catapult you into your own darkness of shame.

We might as well try to compare a merchant bank with a piggy bank. They share some of the same functions (and even the name 'bank')... but not enough to make a comparison relevant or significant.

You need to be clear whether someone's business model/method/ideology on offer really fits with you and your own business aspirations.

Let's also remind ourselves that turnover doesn't equal profit - and that quick profits don't guarantee a long-term solid financial future.

We should always look behind the hype and ask rational questions.

Remember too, that many of those 'big names' just happened to get on board the social media boat 10 years before the rest of us. They had a huge head start!

Some of them were already wealthy before starting an online based business.

Or they may have a rich partner or parents – and can pay whatever it takes to use the popular psychological marketing and sales techniques (in particular Neuro-Linguistic Programming) to build a business from the desperation of those lower down the pyramid.

I wonder how they would fare if starting from scratch and building their 'list' from the jaded potential fan-base and data-base of today's online 'leads and prospects'.

Now I'm not suggesting that we become cynical, bitter, or defeatist... it's just that we all need to step back and see the bigger picture.

By now many of us have become wise to the copious attempts to 'befriend' us and try to create a 'relationship' with us... and to 'nurture' us into being a client or customer. 

We can now see more clearly into their real cold and calculating reasons for 'reaching out to us' (another online-business cliche phrase!)... we are being seduced into a business transaction.

In their eyes we are either Leads, Prospects or Conversions – assuming we fit their 'ideal client/customer' avatar!

We are also bombarded with their requests for our time...with the tease of a 'sneaky peak' into what could be ours ... and the urgency and 'scarcity' of their special one-off time-limited offers.

Grab it while you can – and if you don't there must be something 'wrong' with you and your limiting beliefs, mindset or 'money story'!

Thinly disguised manipulation

Robert Cialdini could never have imagined how his words of 'Influence' (in his book of the name) would shape online commerce 30 years later!

We are tired of being manipulated by the super-stars who offer the 'solution to our problems'... at a 'high end ticket price'!

Those that get super-rich seem to do so by poking at our fear and pain, and then persuading us that our only hope is to buy their help to get the sort of life they have. 

How ironic.They get rich by making the most of our desire to get rich.

Don't get me wrong... the right mentor – who's doing it for the right reasons - can help to catapult you to where you want to be.

But only if they've already 'been there and done it' for themselves - and they really can make their own success system work for you and your business in today's market.

The tough job is in finding the right one who has genuinely succeeded themselves, and wants you to succeed too - and isn't just after your money, or wanting to recruit you into their 'cult club' community.

I've heard all too often that those who didn't succeed - despite buying the expensive products and services - have then suffered the further shame and punishment of being told it because they didn't fully 'implement' their new learning. What a cop out!

This can further evoke shame and feelings of inadequacy... and the 'if only I too could have the right mindset like they have.'

Now we even have Mindset Envy!

Such a shame

Shame is known as the 'master emotion' for its power to make us feel bad at our core, worthless and useless.

To invoke shame in someone is a weapon of oppression – and it is shameful in itself.

There's a lot of shame around in business 'failure'. Shame that 'even though I bought that thousand+ dollar/pound programme I'm still non the wiser and still flailing around trying to make my business a success'.

Trying so hard and spending so long each week working in and on your business and not 'making it big' can be a compelling reason to throw the towel in.

The frustration can be overwhelming and lead to business paralysis.

Being consumed by self-doubt, shame and frustration will drive many to give up their business and seek refuge, and the illusion of safety, in PAYE employment. Where they'll no doubt also feel some envy and shame – it's all a matter of degree and context.

Are you just deluded?

Maybe you've had moments when you've wondered whether you've been deluding yourself that you really do have a potentially profitable business model after all – one that provides 'purpose and profits, meaning and money'.

You have your niche (target market) – and you've identified their big pain and problems and have skilfully crafted your solution to that/those problems.

You've found out where your potential customers hang out and you've paid lots of money to try and reach them there...but you still have no sales.

Then you're told it's because of your website and sales copy – so you find the expert to fix this for you. Then it's that you aren't a business celebrity yet... and yes, you've guessed it - out come the PR, branding, marketing and 'visibility' gurus.

In our desperation to make a living (and yes, this involves generously giving away lots of our 'valuable content' for free) we can become vulnerable to the next dazzling offer of the 'real solution'.

Maybe it will work – maybe it won't. There's never a guarantee of a 'return on investment' – and I've found out how expensive that can be! I have been there! I have been seduced into paying £250 and hour and even £400 an hour for 'business advice and mentoring' which was only basic – and which I later found for free elsewhere!

We live and learn – and we are all vulnerable to being hoodwinked by the psychopathology of the ruthless marketeers.

We are told to 'just keep going and not give up'.

Maybe it's just me becoming a tad cynical here... what do you mean you'd figured that much out already!

Your business is also a place of reciprocal long as you don't allow the gremlins of competition, comparison, envy or shame to squash you into submission.

What a blast being in business can be!

What a wonderful way to find out what you're capable of!

What a chance to prove to yourself that you don't need to compete with anyone else, you don't have to compare your piggy bank with their merchant bank... and that you have nothing to envy about anyone else after all.

Phew...having got that off my chest it's now time to get back to business!

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & THERAPEUTIC MENTOR - Helping you to overcome a troubled childhood and difficult or toxic parents – to heal and re-parent your inner child and make peace with the past. You will find here a page of FREE RESOURCES HERE to get you started. - Helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours, and to stop the past from interfering with the present and future in their home and working lives - Ten online self-help workshops (only £27 each) – helping you to help yourself with Psycho-Emotional-Education.

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Maxine Harley

MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Psychotherapist (MSc), Author, Columnist & Blogger. Please see and, S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life Company Ltd.

I help women to FEEL better - so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! As a MIND HEALER I specialise in helping women to recover from a troubled childhood and toxic parents, to heal and transcend their emotional wounds, re-parent their inner child, and make peace with their past. This enables and empowers them to become better parents, partners, professionals - and all round happier calmer people :-) As a MENTOR I offer different levels of therapeutic self development - including MINDING YOUR BUSINESS, MINDING THE GAP, and MIND MASTERY...please discover more at