In a controversial interview for Variety, Kim Kardashian recently presented her best advice to women in business, “Get your f—- ass up and work. It seems like nobody wants to work these days.” While we may have no clue who the “nobody” is that she’s referring to, we do know one thing: Comparing one’s success to Kim Kardashian’s success would be unfair. After all, she has had access to capital and resources that many entrepreneurs– especially women entrepreneurs– can only dream of.
The entrepreneurs to which one may compare themselves, however, are not always the Kardashians of entrepreneurship. It may simply be someone who has managed to generate more profit or seems to have seamlessly launched a venture. Social comparison, which refers to an individual’s tendency to evaluate oneself (i.e., performance, abilities, social standing) based on information about others, is often exacerbated through the use of social networking sites. Research finds that worldwide, people use these sites for 2 hours or more a day. This online consumption, which typically consists of the mere highlights of people’s lives, can increase the likelihood of engaging in social comparison.
Whether trying to keep up with the Joneses (or Kardashians), social comparison can leave people feeling discouraged, depressed and trigger impostor syndrome. In fact, comments such as those made by Kim Kardashian can impostorize individuals– that is, comments can make people question their competence and ability to succeed as entrepreneurs when they find themselves working hard yet still falling short of performance standards.
So, what can entrepreneurs do to avoid being depleted by social comparison and instead, be invigorated by it? Apply the 3 Cs.
Rather than identifying ways in which the target of comparison may be better than you, consider approaching the target with curiosity. What can you learn from the entrepreneur? How may the entrepreneur be helpful in taking your business to the next level? Viewing other entrepreneurs as teachers and mentors rather than rivals to be envied can help diminish ill feelings and redirect your energy and focus towards your business.
Identify what you can versus cannot control. Some entrepreneurs may be more successful not because they are smarter or work harder, but because they may not face the same challenges as you.
For example, gender and racial biases in investors’ funding decisions are well established. In a research experiment that my colleague Jason D’Mello and I conducted on funding decisions, we found that investors were more willing to fund a business launched by a white entrepreneur than a Black entrepreneur– even when the venture was the same and differed only in the race of the entrepreneur. Other research has found similar differences in funding male versus female entrepreneurs.
In the words of Kim Kardashian, you may very well “get your f—- ass up and work,” but if you’re still falling short of your goals, consider that there may be factors at play that are beyond your control.
Be kind to yourself and take a moment to recognize your efforts. Entrepreneurship can be isolating and may provide more opportunities for criticism than encouragement. If you find yourself comparing your level of success to someone else’s and the comparison is leaving you debilitated rather than invigorated, take a step back and remind yourself that you’re doing your best. Most of us see only people’s success– rarely the obstacles that they have had to overcome or the privilege to which they have been entitled.
You and your business have value. Engaging in social comparison can undermine it. In the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, “If you’re comparing yourself to others, you’re going to find yourself short on something, especially if they have a background different from your own. But you’re there for a reason – you’re there to do something that’s unique to you.”