Whether it’s in the speaking or in the writing, I have often encouraged people not to compare themselves with others. Regularly using two favourite quotes to emphasise the importance if not doing so: ‘It is a mistake to compare the outside of other people’s lives with the inside of our own life,’ as someone once put it. And, more pithily, the words of Oscar Wilde: ‘Be yourself – because everyone else is taken.’
But in recent weeks, with its focus on launching and publicising two new books, I have found myself doing just that. Comparing myself with others who promote their books so successfully (and of course, themselves, which always brings a degree of discomfort in this whole process – this isn’t about me, it’s about the books). Comparing myself with those receiving plaudits and rave reviews. Comparing myself with those whose books are sold in bookshops, a still necessary outlet amidst the emphasis on online presence. All those who say theirs is a ‘bestseller’.
And then there’s me. E-mails sent to over 40 independent and Christian/Cathedral bookshops – only 4 replies. Press releases to a similar number of magazines and newspapers with just a handful of responses. Barely any retweeting from others… unlike everyone else. It’s hard work and it’s all been rather demoralising at times. Perhaps Eric Morecambe was right about me too… (click here to read what I mean by that).
I had fallen in to the trap of comparing myself with others. A trap with no practical purpose or relevance. I am who I am and can only do as much as I can. The rest is up to other people and up to God.
And then, amidst what it is of course purely me feeling sorry for myself, come the encouragements: that ‘handful of responses’ were no less than six publications wanting review copies. The encouraging initial interest and personal sales to friends and acquaintances. Contact with an organisation who can help with distribution to bookshops. People telling me they are still using my previous book, Life with St Benedict. A lovely first review for Looking to Move On and a wonderful one for Finding Stability in Times of Change – both capturing what I had always hoped readers would gain from the words they have read.
My own words, both spoken and written, echo in my mind: if we continue to try to be like someone else then we will always have a sense of failure and inadequacy. My mind turned to being thankful, recognising the positive things and the warm feelings of being humbled through affirmation.