Last weekend I went for a long walk with my dog and other half. Later the same afternoon I posted a few photos on Facebook and one of my friends commented that it looked like a perfect Autumn walk. In many ways it was – clear blue sky with barely a cloud, it was dry, the sun was warm enough to not need gloves but not too warm that we were sweating during our eleven mile circuit and the trees were a beautiful mix of colours.
My friend’s comment made me think about what the photo doesn’t show and about how we see ourselves and others. My photo of my picture perfect day actually hid a slightly murky truth. It had rained for all of the day before which meant most of our route was waterlogged at best and thick mud up to our ankles at worst, both of which made the walk hard going. Autumn leaves were beautiful but even where it wasn’t muddy fallen leaves made it slippery underfoot and we discovered about half way round that one of our pair of boots were no longer waterproof (thankfully not mine!). Shortly after I took the photo we realized that despite following the directions we had done an unexpected circuit and were effectively lost with only written instructions to guide us. None of which could be seen in my picture.
As business owners, and particularly as women, we are very quick to compare ourselves to others. Whether on appearance, confidence or success it can be very easy to look at ourselves, our career or our business alongside others and find ourselves lacking. The reality, however, is similar to my walk. The picture I showed on Facebook didn’t show the full picture – just a snapshot. It didn’t show the struggles we had made to get there or the rest of the journey we took which was heavily waterlogged in places and, thanks to our wrong turn, slightly different and longer than planned.
When we look at someone or their business we only ever really see a snapshot. We don’t see the journey that they have taken to reach that success or level of confidence. We don’t see the mistakes that they have made, the “mud” that they have had to wade through to get there or the wrong turns they may have taken along the way.
Equally what we see could be fake. Whilst I didn’t intend to deceive with the photo I added to Facebook it would have been easy to pretend that the walk had all been easy and picture perfect. I’m not saying that someone is deliberately misleading you but maybe they don’t have it as perfect as they portray either. For some new businesses it’s a survival instinct to “fake it till you make it” and it is rare for someone to admit their business isn’t doing well, particularly publically. So next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, just pause for a minute and ask yourself if you are being fair to yourself or to them. Your journey isn’t their journey, your challenges aren’t their challenges and maybe, just maybe they are looking at you and thinking that they don’t compare.