How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
A few years ago, my best friend had a roommate who was an incredible artist. This artist always seemed to be working on something amazing and her Instagram, Facebook, and blog were always full of beautiful images of her work, her adventures, and her gorgeous self. She was beautiful, talented, stylish, and she had quite a following, and her work sold.
I was barely selling a thing at the time and she was constantly making prints and packaging paintings to send all over the country to her eager buyers.
And I felt like a loser in comparison. I felt like she was a better artist, more interesting, more creative, prettier, and just all around BETTER than me. She was everything I thought I should be, and it hurt.
Why wasn’t my work selling? Why didn’t I have a following like hers? Why didn’t my house look as exotic and interesting, and why did my adventures seem so boring by comparison?
The worst part about all of this was that I didn’t appreciate my own art or creativity because I was too busy comparing it to someone else’s.
Comparison can be a HUGE creative block because it causes us to feel so inadequate in our own creativity that we don’t see the point of creating anything, because it’s not as good as we think it should be.
So what do we do when we’re feeling like crap because we think someone else’s stuff is better?
Remember, we’re all at different skill levels.
Are you comparing yourself to someone who’s more experienced and who has had more practice in their art?
In my case, this artist was the same age as me, but she’d been selling her work for a lot longer, and she’d been working in her particular style for years while I’d just barely gotten the hang of mine.
It takes time and practice to get that kind of skill and refinement in an art, and that person you’re comparing yourself to might be at a skill level you can expect to have in a few years! You probably didn’t see all the first drafts, the not-so-good paintings, or the hours of practice and screw-ups that went into their craft. They aren’t better than you, they just have more practice.
You only see the highlights.
Let me tell you a secret:
Great creators make a lot of crap.
And when I say crap, I mean stuff that isn’t super marketable or that not many people would like, or stuff the artists probably don’t like either.
Trust me, I have TONS of stuff around my studio that will never see the light of day, and even more unfinished writing projects that I will never let anyone read. This is fine, it’s normal, and it’s part of learning and creating. Even masters and professionals have their own dirty laundry pile of botched creations that might become building blocks or practice for stuff they’ll make later on.
We can’t put a value on that art, but masters had to screw up and get it wrong a lot to get as good as they are. You might read the completed novel, but you didn’t read all the crappy early drafts or watch the writer do endless edits or rewrite scenes and awkward parts. You haven’t seen the artist’s early attempts in their sketchbook.
So don’t compare your “practice” work to their masterpieces, because you aren’t seeing the whole story.
It’s ok to muck it up at first. Even good artists and writers still make stuff they aren’t happy with. I consider myself a good writer, but not everything I write is good. Some of it is absolute garbage actually, and that’s fine. It’s purpose is to teach me, to be building blocks for other stuff I’ll make.
Don’t be afraid to be lousy at it. Even “good” and “bad” are relative here, because sometimes the purpose of a piece is to just make it. To have fun, to express, to experiment, and no one else but you even has to see it.
We all have our own styles.
Our style won’t look like anyone else’s style, and their style won’t look like ours. Isn’t that great? When we think about it, how can we really compare our work or be in competition with other artists when we’re all in a league of our own?
No two people have the exact same experiences, quirks, preferences, and everything that goes into a “style”, and no two people express themselves in exactly the same way. Two artists that paint trees might use color, line, movement, pressure, texture, or emphasis in totally different ways. Two writers might have completely different voices and ways of telling a story or ways of using words.
That is one of the wonders of art and creativity, that every expression and every artist is totally different, and those differences are to be celebrated!
When you create, know that your expression is completely unique and your very own, and that you skills are exactly where they need to be right now in order for you to progress. Everything about your art right now is perfect, and that there is no comparison for what you are able to do!