How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Harnessing Comparison to Empower You:
Don't let the haters (in your own head) get ya down!
Have you ever noticed that shift when you’re scrolling through Instagram? One minute, you're feeling inspired and eager to create something awesome, and then the next, you’re feeling anxious, irritated, and even discouraged about your own work? Personally, I’ve noticed experienced this offline as well, when I’m browsing bookstore shelves! There are so many incredible authors and illustrators out there, it can be daunting to work towards your own goals without succumbing to a general anxiety about the amazing work others have done! How on earth do you compare with that?!
The truth is: you don’t. And luckily, you’re not meant to. You’re meant to be YOU!
There’s a fine line between admiration and angst – and the connecting path between them is comparison.
It’s perfectly normal to compare yourself to others, but when you’re in a creative field (like writing, illustration, or similar), these feelings can take you from empowered to bummed out really quick.
How do we do it? How do we stay open to useful, inspiring influences around us, but not fall victim to the comparison that leaves us feeling powerless, sad, or like we’re not good enough. Let’s look at some concrete steps.
- First, you need to ask yourself: Am I comparing my work to the work of this other person? Or am I comparing myself with them? This will help you sort out how best to move next!
- If you’re comparing your work to someone else, this is handy info! This means there is something about that work that inspires you. Try to dig a little deeper: in the case of an illustrator, for example, is it their use of color? Their shapes and forms? Is it the moodiness or theme or subjects they draw? All of this can be good information for you to have, and you can move from comparison to inspiration. Try to assign yourself some practice sessions based around those particular skills. This doesn’t mean you need to copy them! Instead, try to allow yourself to bring your own unique voice into the mix.
Use the comparison to inspire you to create: that’s where you’ll find your own power again.
Now, what do we do if we find ourselves comparing against an actual person? Are you envious of their position in the industry? Their influence? Their readership or audience? Or are you looking at the aesthetic of what you think their life must be like, based on their tweets or social media feed?
In this case, there are a few steps to take:
- First, remember that social media is a highlight reel of carefully curated stuff. Sure, it’s nice to look at – but you’re also not seeing the full picture. Behind that author with a massive audience is a whole boatload of work, burnout, impending deadlines, and lots of other elements to their life you don’t see. That’s not to say their position or career isn’t admirable or one to be inspired by; it just means to keep it all in perspective
- The trick to finding your own power in this case is also about the details: try listing out the things that inspire you about this person – but here’s the kicker –pair every quality you admire about them with a great quality that you have.
For example, say I’m greatly inspired by Fantastic Author Lady. A quality I love about her is that she is super generous with her praise of other authors. I could pair that with a quality in myself — in this case, I try to be generous as well, so that’s an easy one! But I could also say “I am brave and try new things.” In the end, I’d have a list of five qualities about Fantastic Author Lady, and five things about myself that I might have been overlooking.
This isn’t about setting up a comparison between you and another creator; it’s about recognizing that while others have great qualities, you do too!
This can help you shift away from feeling bummed out, and more into a space of actually using that feeling in a productive way. In my experience, there's no real way to avoid comparing yourself to others at times: it feels natural and normal. But instead of letting this derail you, you can work to use that comparison as information. Then, you're back in the driver's seat!
You see? It is actually great to be motivated by other people at times, you just want to stop admiration from becoming comparison in a harmful way. The existence of amazing people doing amazing things is proof there is space for it. Don’t strive to be like them: strive to be as much you as you possibly can! That’s what they did – and it will never fail you!
Take home message: there is such a place in this world for your creative voice. In order to find that space, you need to use your voice. Own it! Take up space. And make comparison your friend, not your enemy.
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