Fashion Business Owner Musings: Don’t Fall into the Comparison Trap

You open your computer, coffee in hand, all pumped and excited to start the day. You’re happily skimming through social media feeds, getting caught up on the necessary and not-so-necessary stuff that went down while you were snoozing.

And then, out of nowhere, you’re overcome with a feeling of envy, exasperation, and bummed-out-ness.

Why? Because you just saw on Instagram that another brand, one you think is pretty in-line with where your brand is, has hit another milestone. They scored a new wholesale account, launched an incredible new website, got that celebrity placement, or landed in your favorite piece of press. Or worse, all of those things. In the same week.

You know it’s great for them, and you want to shake it off, but you can’t make this stupid voice in your head shut up. The one that keeps asking why this isn’t happening for you. You don’t understand what you’re doing wrong.

This feeling sucks.

We all experience this. Regardless of how collaborative we are, regardless of how we act, this experience never feels good.

When we see our contemporaries moving at what seems like light-speed, there is a part of each one of us that starts comparing ourselves and our businesses to them and their businesses.

We wonder why we can’t seem to find the same successes. We wonder if we ever will.

It’s no good. We are making ourselves feel inadequate. Inadequate. 

And then, we feel bad about feeling this way.

So now we’re all rolled up in feelings of inadequacy, envy, and guilt. What a freaking mess.

I’m not sure if we, as business owners, ever fully get past this. We pour ourselves into our businesses and want so badly to make them work, to make them thrive, that it’s hard to just turn this natural reaction off. Even years into running my business, I still have to tackle these feelings sometimes. I don’t think it will ever fully go away.

But I do think that as we grow, we get better at dealing with these feelings. I’ve learned a few things about this topic:

It’s OK to feel envious.

It’s not fun. But it doesn’t make us horrible people. So, let’s just cross the “guilt” feeling off the list. It’s not necessary.

Next, when we find ourselves comparing where we are to where someone else is, and that leads us to feeling envious of where they are, and really damn curious about why we’re not there yet, we need to take a look at how they got there.

Start by acknowledging what you’re feeling and take the time to stop and ask yourself “Why?”

When you have the answer “I want to be in that magazine,” or “I’ve been courting and pitching that store for months,” you’re able to see things clearly.

You now have an action step for yourself.

You want to be in that magazine? What are you going to do about it? Start reading past issues, follow the contributing editor on Twitter and Instagram, start sharing and engaging with them on social (not pitching!), spend an afternoon brainstorming possible story angles to pitch, etc.  Now you have a damn plan.

Or maybe your plan involves reviewing your buyer pitch. Why isn’t the buyer responding to me after all these months? What could I do differently to get their attention?

The point is you can turn these feelings of envy and this constant comparison into positive action. 

If we’re honest with ourselves, there’s a good chance that there’s room to learn something. There’s also a good chance that we’re actually well on our way to finding the success we want. It’s just harder to recognize it in ourselves because, with others, we only see the end result. We don’t see the time and effort it took to get there.

Lots of love and encouragement,

Nicole Giordano

Nicole is the founder of StartUp FASHION, an online resource and community supporting for independent designers around the world with building their businesses. A deep love for the craft of fashion paired with an adamant belief that success is defined by the individual, led her to found StartUp FASHION, where she helps independent designers and makers screw the traditional fashion business rules, create their own paths, and build businesses they truly love. More than anything else, she’s in the business of encouragement and works every day to remind makers and designers that they have something special to offer the world and that they can, in fact, do this thing!

  1. Mehdi

    Gosh, love your articles so much. Finally someone that say it like it is. For the longest time I felt like I was at odd for feeling like business was a B#@! and feel up and down. One day hopeful, the next hopeless. Nobody says how hard it is. Everyone pretends like being a business owner is a breeze.

    THANK YOU!! Those feelings as real and it feels good to know that we’re not the only one dwelling with them.

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Addie

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks so much for sharing all this great information for fashion designers just starting out. I started my line at the beginning of 2014 and things have been going really well. I’m looking for a fashion inventory management software/program that will help me manage my raw material, production and inventory. Do you have any recommendations? Thank so much!


    • Ludmila

      Hi Addie,

      I am not Nicole and your post is from 2015 but I have just discovered that site and I dare to suggest you

  3. Valente

    Chalk it up to our “sometimes fickle egos”, but you are definitely on point. I can look at some piece in a store and ruin my whole day cuz it “looks better than mine”.

Comments are closed.