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Don’t Fall Into This Trap That Could Destroy Your Blog

NewImageLast week I spent time with a young blogger who was completely stalled with her blog (for the purpose of this post I’ll call her Sally).

Sally’s blogging had started with a bang and had put together 3 great months of content and had started to build a readership but then it suddenly all came to a halt.

I arranged to catch up for coffee to see what had happened and see if there was a way to get her moving again and she told me a story that I’m sure many readers will find familiar.

Paralysed by Comparisons

The reason Sally started blogging was that she had been a reader of another reasonably well known blogger. She had been so inspired by this established blogger that she simply had to start her own blog – which she did.

The problem that brought Sally’s blog to a grinding halt started a few weeks after her blog began when Sally began to compare her fledgling blog with her hero’s blog.

It started innocently enough with her noticing that this others blogger’s design just seemed to flow much better than Sally’s. However in the coming days and weeks Sally started to compare other things too.

Her hero seemed to blog with more confidence, she got more comments, she had a larger Twitter following, she was more active on Pinterest, she was getting some great brands advertise on her blog, she was invited to cool events…

Once Sally started comparing she couldn’t stop. She told me that she would sit down to work on her blog and end up on her hero’s blog and social media accounts – for hours on end – comparing what they were doing.

On one hand Sally knew it wasn’t a fair comparison – she had only been blogging by this stage for a couple of months and her hero had been blogging for over 4 years… but logic was clouded out by jealousy and Sally found her blogging beginning to stall.

She started second guessing herself. She would work for days on blog posts – hoping to perfect them to the standard of her hero only to get to the point of publishing them and trashing them instead for fear of them not being up to scratch.

Days would go by between posts and then weeks. Sally’s blog began to stall… and then it died completely.

The Comparison Trap

Sally isn’t the only blogger to fall into the trap of comparing oneself with others – in fact I’ve heard this story (or variations of it) numerous times. If I’m honest, it’s something that at times I’ve struggled with too.

I remember in the early days of my own blogging comparing my style of writing with other bloggers that I admired who wrote in a much more academic, heavy style of writing. I tried to emulate this over and over again and never felt I hit the benchmark that they set.

The temptation was to give up – but luckily I found my more informal and conversational voice through experimentation and persistance.

Comparing Is Never Fair

As I chatted with Sally last week a theme emerged in our conversation – the comparisons were simply not fair.

Sally knew this on some levels but needed to hear it again.

Her hero had been blogging for years. Sally had been blogging for months.

Not only that – Sally was comparing herself to tiny snapshots of this other blogger.

She could see her hero’s Twitter follower numbers, how many comments she was getting, how many times she Pinned on Pinterest and the instagram photos of this blogger at glamorous events – but she didn’t really have the full picture of this other blogger.

She didn’t know how many hours that blogger worked, she didn’t know whether that other blogger had people working for her, she didn’t know if that other blogger was actually happy with her blog or life and she certainly didn’t see the instagrams of that other bloggers boring, dull or hard moments of life.

I’m not saying the other blogger is hiding anything or doing anything wrong – just that the comparisons Sally was making were of everything Sally knew about herself (and her insecurities) with tiny edited snapshots of the life and work another person.

Run You Own Race

Sally is a remarkable person. I’d love to tell you her real name and story because she’s overcome some amazing things in her life, has some unique perspectives to share and has an inspirational story to tell.

My encouragement to Sally (and to us all) is run her own race. Yes she’s running beside others that at times seem to be running faster or with more flare… but nobody else around her has her unique personality, set of experiences or skills.

Nobody else can blog like Sally – so the sooner she gets comfy in her own skin the better.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. David Taylor says:

    Hi Darren,
    Many thanks for the valuable information. I too believe that a new blog takes time to be established and gain a readership and comparisons like these are never good for any blog.

  2. It’s very easy to fall into this rut of comparing your blog with those that you look up to. As my blog is very new, I do this at the moment with a couple of blogs which I look up to.

    You’re absolutely right Darren – we are all unique and have unique blogs. When the day comes when I can stop comparing my blog to the blogs, and bloggers, I aspire to be like, it’ll be a good day.

  3. Rajesh Jhamb says:

    I don’t think so that we should compare our blog to other’s blog because we have to do better to become better. Just try to learn from these blogs and bloggers.
    We should inspire from these blogs and bloggers.

  4. Ron says:

    Run your own race! This really resonates with me as I used to measure my success and progression with what “that other person” on the internet did. This is a lonely dark rabbit hole that forces your attention to be in the doubting place whilst you’re missing the details of your very own journey.

  5. Jim says:

    I can certainly relate to that story. When I started out in the im world I was reading about the big money some “gurus” were making and felt miserable with my $20-$30 a day earnings.

    So I gave up for about an year. One day I decided I wasn’t going to be distracted by what other people were saying making and will do what used to work for me and just try to improve.

    And so I did, as a result I don’t care what gurus preach anymore because I have something that works for me.

  6. Mary Rack says:

    Thanks! I’m rather like Sally and this is just what I needed to hear.

  7. Oh, this speaks to me! I got SO caught up in trying to be a popular blogger and pandering to brands for sponsored posts that I completely lost sight of why I started blogging in the first place. I took a step back a few months ago and decided to redo things and get back to writing about what I love. It’s been hard, because I’ve been in that other routine for 1.5 years, but I’m just having to remind myself daily that it’s not about the numbers, and that I can’t compare myself to anyone else. It’s a terrible thing to do, no matter what you are doing in life.

  8. It’s a good thing to look at popular blogs for new ideas and what changes to bring on own blog. But, comparing your blog with somebody blog is same as comparing yourself with another individual… One doesn’t need to clone somebody blog, else it should learn and understand what things could be implemented on their blog, which can bring better results… Like Rome wasn’t build in a day, creating a successful blog requires time, consistency and originality…..

  9. Michelle says:

    Very easy to relate to this post. With so many different social media platforms, it is very easy to get caught up in a constant comparison battle with other bloggers. We quickly forget the long road that those other bloggers travelled to get where they are today. I have been 100% guilty of comparing my blog to others and it can be stressful. It can even get you into a downward spiral if you let it.
    I always remind myself that my blog is my experiences written in my own way. If I can help at least one person, I’ve made an impact.
    If you can master it, you’ll be stronger as an individual for it.

  10. Jason says:

    Darren, I needed this today. I am constantly looking at other blogs and wondering the same sort of things that “Sally” did. Truth be told, I still sort of do. However, I keep plugging away and reading stuff like this knowing that soon my I will be where I want to be with the blog. Thanks for this

  11. Alex says:

    Thanks for such inspiration.I too started comparing my blog with other famous bloggers. But now I realized that ‘I have to Run my Own Race’ . :-)

  12. Marie Danilyn Lagrosas says:

    Thanks for this post, I am slowly being enlightened why I feel like this lately….haven’t composed any post for my blog yet…it’s been almost two months now…..

  13. Laurie says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I’ve been struggling lately thinking about all the things I “should” do, but don’t have time for because of other commitments. I’ll get to it all eventually, but I have to take things at my own pace.

  14. Great minds think alike. I wrote something similar this week and got a lot of feedback. I think the comparison game can really bring you down. But there is so much room for a multitude of voices. One person might not really connect with Blogger A and then read Blogger B and get all jazzed about really similar content. We need everyone’s voices and experiences out there. Thanks for this post. It’s great!

    http://debistangeland.com/blog/5-reasons-not-to-throw-in-the-blogging-towel/

  15. Vegemitevix says:

    Thank you Darren for posting this. It’s funny, I’ve been in Sally’s shoes comparing myself to larger, more (apparently) successful bloggers, and in truth from time to time I still do. But what’s really interesting is that this past week I’ve been teaching blogging to NZ bloggers – all wonderful inspiring bloggers with unique stories and yet, I heard this refrain again and again: ‘ If only I was as good as XYZ.’ Comparisons can be crippling. Focusing too much on another blogger’s inspirational story can produce inertia in telling your own. It doesn’t seem to matter where we are up to on the blogging journey we all still seem to do it. Run your own race! I love that. Thanks again.

    • Darren Rowse says:

      great comment! Thanks!

    • Darla says:

      I was curious if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your website?
      Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
      Youve got an awful lot of text for only having 1 or two pictures.
      Maybe you could space it out better?

  16. Thanks a lot Darren, I think this is the post that I need to jerk me back to life. I started a blog some few months ago and was consistent in posting articles but suddenly I stopped posting because I think subconciously entered into the comparison trap without knowing. I also relate to the fact that my blog does not look professional enough. I am still in this trap.

  17. Stu says:

    Definitely a much needed reminder! We all have something unique and special to bring to the table. The fact is, if you are creating online content you ARE an influencer. To at least someone. Hopefully down the road it will be to many, many more people.

    Stay focused!

  18. Extremely finest thing that a new blogger should keep in mind.

  19. Larry says:

    I like Problogger a lot. I’ve learned a lot here over the past half a decade. But… I confess to making a comparison. I like my puny little blog better than yours because I don’t have that ridiculously annoying thing chasing people up and down the screen. Just sayin’ man.

    • Darren Rowse says:

      thanks for the comment Larry – sorry it annoys you. It’s been a test that we’ve run that has had some very positive results so far without any negative feedback – til today :-) Good to get that feedback!

    • You’re referring to the sticky slider? yea – they annoy me too

  20. Great advice for any blogger. Copying is inevitable when you start, and copying high quality always makes sense. But you must sing with your voice. Do you stop singing when you don’t sound like your favorite artist? Of course not! Your blog will never work if you try to sound like someone else. It’s too darned much work for starters, and it never rings as true as developing your own style. One rule: Would you read your blog? If not, keep writing until you would.

  21. GS says:

    We should get lesson from this story not only in Blogging, but in all fields of Work…

    Regards
    GS

  22. Pamela Slim says:

    Darn right, you tell Sally to brush away that comparison dust and get back to writing! There is always someone you find cuter, smarter, more witty and more prolific. But no one is just like Sally. We need her voice.

  23. I learned not to compare myself with my “hero blogger” because when I started my blog she bullied me relentlessly, as we were in the same niche and same geographical location. It was a good lesson not to compare with others and that all is not as it seems in the blogging world.

    Carolyn

  24. Naina says:

    I agree with you Darren. It happens with most of the new bloggers, they sit to write something interesting, and end up looking for a theme or something else like the hero’s website. They fail to maintain consistency as a blogger and eat up their own blog in jealousy.

    Nice insight by you, it must help many new bloggers. Thanks

  25. What a great post Darren! I definitely feel myself doing that too. It’s so hard to keep a balanced perspective when everything moves so slowly… I would love to hear more of Sally’s story and read her blog:) She sounds like she has a compelling tale to tell.

  26. Hassaan Khan says:

    Darren,

    I follow and respect many top bloggers of the industry, you are one of them. It’s actually a problem among new bloggers. We certainly at some point start comparing our blog, progress, output and performance with the big guys.

    Its just an understanding and satisfaction behavior we [new bloggers] should adopt to accept things and to be confident on the right direction we are following!

  27. Mi Muba says:

    New bloggers must see blogging icons but not for comparison. They should get inspiration from them and follow their suite but never plan to emulate them because we can break the centuries old established norms and trends but can never put aside the time factor. For comparison new bloggers should look at their contemporary bloggers.

  28. Gaurav Heera says:

    comparisons are always bad, not only for blogging but in every field especially if you are new to that field. one should not compare him/ herself with already established players because it’s discourage and irritate you for your future.

  29. The comparison trap can be very dangerous.

    We’re an online travel company – and we found ourselves comparing one of our sites to one of our competitors for quite a long time.

    The trouble with comparing and emulating our competitor, is that we were always a step behind them. We’d better ourselves to be “at their level” only to find that a few weeks/months later they’d up their game, leaving us behind again.

    Very frustrating. Very heart-breaking.

    So how did we get out of this trap?

    Simple: we stopped looking at our competitors, and started looking at our users.

    By applying the basic UX principles of User Centred Design – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User-centered_design – we started creating things our customers actually wanted, our customers showed their appreciation through traffic, bookings and actually telling us. We started feeling better about ourselves. We felt like innovators. We felt like leaders.

    And as often happens: this confidence, bred new confidence.

    Whilst we applied the UCD approach mostly to our website design and user experience, I’m quite confident that if bloggers focus on their audience first and foremost, they too can break out of the comparison trap.

    One of my favourite UCD resources for people new to the concept – http://visual.ly/user-centred-design

  30. I have fallen into this trap. Hard. In fact it crippled me completely. I’ve been limping along for about 12 months because of it. Well, because of it and also because the longevity of my blog had me asking, “what now?”

    Comparison is the thief of joy.

    In the last week I have found some sort of peace and decided to “close” my personal blog that has existed in some form or other for ten years. Instead I am going to focus my attentions on the blogging component of the new business my husband and I have just set up.

    It feels weird being back at the beginning, just a handful of posts sitting there, a whole new audience to grow. But I’m going to run my own race. We shall see how it goes.

  31. Asif says:

    I remember how desperate I was to get a similar column like design to show posts on homepage, just like on Problogger. I used to compare every other aspects as well, but I was lucky enough to find my own style and continue with it.

    Recently my wife has started blogging and she always comes to me showing a blog which is doing much better than her’s. I have to make her understand that the other blog has been there for years where her blog just few months old.
    I think I’ll let her read this article so that she can understand she is not alone with that kind of feeling.
    Nice article as always.

  32. Rachael says:

    I was thinking of this just this morning! It’s so hard to get out of that rut once you’re in it. I’ve done it – everyone has done it at some point whether they realise it or not. I find the best way to “try” remove yourself from that frame of mind it so get off the computer and whip out a notebook. Write down everything that you want to achieve with your blog, what you want it to look like, what you want it to say, how you want it to progress and then get back online and make it happen. It’s so easy when you’re in that frame of mind to hop around the web looking at other people’s sites and comparing that you lose sight of what you’re really all about!

  33. Thank you. I am not Sally … but I very well could be.
    I’ve only been blogging 2 months. I haven’t stalled yet, and I don’t want to. But I can certainly feel that the potential is there for me to do so. I read all the other wonderful, established blogs out there and some days I wonder why I bother. Then I’ll get a lovely comment or two which spurs me on to keep going.
    I’m loving it … this blogging lark … and I guess at this stage … that’s all that matters.
    This article has really been a big help.
    Thanks again … Jo @BabbleOnCity

  34. BrazilTech says:

    Great Post Darren!! I love all of them!! That is the right thing to do we have to run our own race!!

  35. Elena says:

    I’ve been online for almost 4 years, get over 1000 uniques to one of my sites and a few hundreds across other smaller sites but still don’t get comments or many real followers. Tried going and building relationships with bloggers by commenting on other blogs, some much less busy than my own, but didn’t build anything. I don’t really need anything from them, I don’t want to guest post, but I would feel better if I was connected to others even if they are just beginners.

    I eventually gave up, don’t comment and removed comment form from my site. Everything is great now but I completely depend on Google. Just don’t seem to figure out how exactly you build relationships with other bloggers.

  36. Brilliant!

    “Nobody else can blog like Sally – so the sooner she gets comfy in her own skin the better.”

    Hi Sally,
    Keep writing, you have your own story to tell. No one else can write your story.
    All the best,
    Pamela

  37. Thanks for writing this Darren. Early on I fell into the comparison trap and found myself comparing up (and being disheartened) and comparing down (and feeling like I was at least “better” than some – I know…how awful). I have realised that my blog will not be for everyone (not everyone cares what an oversharing minister’s wife says) and that’s ok. I love the journey that my blog is taking and it is my own journey which cannot be compared with anyone else’s.

  38. Doug says:

    Excellent reminder! Envy is tough to tackle. I’ve met a few colleagues that I looked up to only to find out that my situation was far better than theirs. It’s been a hard lesson to learn to not be defined by the success of others, but find the pearls of wisdom to keep you going!

  39. Great tip Darren – it’s easy to look the blogs you aspire to be like and get disheartened, but it’s important to remember that these sites didn’t just happen overnight. Years of work has gone into many successful blogs, if you could emulate it in just a few months then it would be much harder to stand out from the crowd.

  40. Debarpan says:

    I always tried to copy the writing style of pro-bloggers like you but yes kinda same thing happening to me.Now this post made me realize I should went back to my own wrting style.Thanks for opening eyes of newbie bloggers like me.

  41. Stephan says:

    Hi Darren.
    I think this is a good point of view and this article will help new bloggers a lot to avoid ” Trap”.
    I used to compare my blog with some famous bloggers and this is really make me feel like a loser.
    I think just keep follow your own way and do it by your soul and then you can harvest success in the near future.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Stephan Wu

  42. I think the most powerful point in this post can be found in the 2nd/3rd to last line: “… but nobody else around her has her unique personality, set of experiences or skills.”

    While it certainly doesn’t hurt to learn from others, eventually one has to really work hard to differentiate themselves. Effective branding goes hand in hand with constructing a platform. I don’t know if “Sally’s” blogging story has ended, but I sincerely hopes that she continues to follow her person, and gradually differentiate herself from, yes, even her hero. There are countless stories of mentors being surpassed, in just about every niche….if Sally works hard, pours her soul into providing the highest pinnacle of content to others, it’s possible that in 4 years–or maybe even more soon–she could surpass her blogging hero.

    I truly wish her the best!

  43. David says:

    Good advice for sure. It’s easy to get discouraged when you start looking around. Jealousy is rough.

  44. Daryl says:

    Too many people see a successful person and believe that success was built overnight.

    There are always exceptions, but 99% of success is built by hard work, late nights and early mornings, and sacrifice.

    The unfortunate truth is, we don’t learn much about people BEFORE they have become successful. We see a successful person (or project) and believe that it was always like that.

    Just like anything else, the road to success is traveled one step at a time.

  45. Shonda says:

    Great post! I have struggled with the comparison game myself. It’s not fair for me to compare my beginnings to someone’s ending! I have to go at my own pace, put in the work, and achieve the best results for me! ;)

  46. Mel says:

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: Comparison is the thief of joy

    I need to remind myself of that regularly. Thanks for this post.

  47. Trep Talks says:

    Oh the Comparison Trap! I fall into it and I have to talk myself out of it. Realize that everyone has a voice and there is a group of people that is going to resonate with your voice. So you don’t need to compare – you just need to find the people who will resonate with your voice.

  48. Donnie Law says:

    “Run your own Race!” I need to remind myself of that everyday. It’s easy to be paralyzed into inaction by comparing yourself to others. Good post today!

  49. Yeah , its better to take inspiration from experienced Blogger but don’t forget “Construction of wonders takes more time than ordinary structures”
    Its take time to reach at a good level and its right to Run your own Race.

  50. Neil says:

    Woah. This is one good point. I’ve created a couple of blogs and have always thought that comparison is the key to succeeding…now that you mention it, I think it may have been the cause of my failures. Seeing your sources of inspiration just come up with tons of content and you just going blank..it’s disheartening.