Overcome Comparison in Creativity

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If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media, or ever met someone who’s on a similar path to you, then you’ve experienced comparison. Actually what am I saying...if you’ve lived for any amount of time, you’ve definitely experienced comparison! It is so natural to jump to comparing without even realizing it’s happening - we compare houses, kids, degrees, money, careers, skills, everything! And comparison is, unfortunately, at our fingertips all hours of the day because of the internet and social media. When I first discovered pinterest and instagram, I felt so inspired to try new things and improve and learn! But over time, I realized that I was starting to expect myself to be like everyone I saw online.

When we see quickly scroll through content from several different people, we are exposing ourselves over and over again to all of those people’s very best strengths that they are choosing to share with the world. As we do this, it so easy to start combining each those individual successes we’re seeing into one mega person in our heads. And now we expect ourselves to be this person who is good at all the things. All of a sudden we have to make 10 different things by hand for our house, bake a three tiered cake for our child’s birthday, start a small business, always dress on trend, and have children who are adorable all the time. Umm it is completely unreasonable to expect ourselves to do all that! Especially in a small time frame! Having these insanely unrealistic expectations of ourselves inevitably leads to unnecessary disappointment in ourselves. When we consume content, we have to recognize that everyone is sharing only what they want to share and often they are sharing only their strengths (which is totally okay, just important to recognize). Despite trying our very best, no one does it all and that’s fine! That is what makes each of us unique, our special blend of background and skills and what we enjoy makes us who we are and there’s no need to try to be someone else. Or especially no need to try to be a bunch of someone else’s.

The easiest thing to forget when comparing yourself to someone else is that you probably know very little about their background in the thing you are comparing. For example, I might see a painter on instagram who has stunning work, tons of followers, and makes a lot of sales. But then I notice that they have less than 50 posts. Wow! Now I’m starting to panic because I have way more than 50 posts! And I’m starting to feel bad because I’m not making nearly as much money or gaining nearly as many followers or making nearly as much artistic progress as this person. STOP. This is destructive thinking that will lead to nowhere. You have no idea how long this person has been painting, or what their background is, or what previous experiences they’ve had...just let it go and be excited to see someone else succeed. It is completely natural to compare our beginning to someone else’s middle, but keep in mind that your “beginning” could be 5 years into doing something when you compare it to someone who has been doing that thing for 20 years. You never know what leads to someone else's success, so just focus on you.

So how exactly do you focus on you? How do you gauge your success and progress without comparing yourself to others? I personally believe that if you are being intentional about your everyday choices and actions, and you are constantly striving towards being what you feel is your best self, that is the only bar you need to set for yourself. Have expectations for yourself, of course! Goal setting and achieving are great and rewarding but just make sure that the expectations you’re setting for yourself are reasonable. It is fantastic to push yourself outside your comfort zone but if you find yourself never achieving the goals you set, consider starting smaller. It would be much better for your morale and you will make great progress anyways. Small steps are how big things happen.

Something really really really important to remember when we’re considering comparison and even envy is to always remember that if you’re not happy now, you’re not going to be happy once you have whatever it is you are wishing you have when comparing yourself to someone else. Your brain is going to try its very hardest to convince you that the opposite is true but it definitely isn’t. Find joy in your current experiences and then when opportunities and growth come, you will have already learned to enjoy your life wherever you are on your path. There’s always going to be someone more successful and beautiful and talented and funny and whatever else. Who cares! Learn to enjoy who you are now and then actively try to make yourself better because it’s rewarding both while it’s happening and once it’s achieved. True joy and happiness come from the inside, not from external things.

If you are struggling with comparison and doubts and questioning what you are able to achieve compared with everyone else I’d invite you to consider how many people you are actively following on social media, newsletters, blogs, etc. Pay really close attention to how you feel when you consume the content of these people you are following, especially people who you follow pretty closely or on a daily basis. Do you feel inspired, happy, joy in their accomplishments, a sense of community, etc.? OR do you feel worn out, not good enough, inadequate, envious, disappointed in yourself, doubt in your abilities...those are all very real possibilities! And what makes all this tricky is that you might be feeling a combination of these emotions because “too much of a good thing” can very easily happen in the world of scrolling. Sometimes content that is wonderful and inspiring for others (or even that used to be for you) can turn into something that makes you feel inadequate or like you're falling behind or like you really need what they have. Or maybe you even find yourself trying to copy or recreate what someone else is doing. Go ahead and choose to unfollow! Only expose yourself to things that feed you creatively and help you to feel connected and inspired.

Here’s an example. To some people this might sound crazy, but if you are struggling with overwhelm, doubt, and comparison, I invite you to aim to follow about 100 people. Now obviously that number might look different for everyone but I think 100 is a great target. Choose whatever number is both realistic and challenging for you to get to. Simplify your life and start unfollowing the noise. I know you will notice a big difference! Also remember, you can definitely follow again later if you really miss it, but I think you’ll find that you don’t. Remember, none of this is permanent, so just go for it! And stop comparing yourself to others.

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Did you find this helpful? Follow the links below to read more of this series on overcoming creative stumbling blocks. And share with others who need to hear this!
Overcoming Discouragement in Creativity

Interested in listening to and/or watching this content and many more helpful topics? Watch my Skillshare class Creative Stumbling Blocks and How to Overcome Them for free!

Whitney Rainsdon