Comparison – The Joy Thief

Green Eyes

It’s no great revelation that in comparing my work to other artists I will find joy a waning commodity. Why then do I find myself scrolling through Instagram feeds acquiring heaps of self-doubt with the same tenacity as a dog eating chocolate?

In the jaws of comparison, I lose any hope of gleaning knowledge off other creatives who have climbed higher peaks than me. In those fearsome jaws, all wisdom, insight, inspiration and joy of seeing is pulverized to powder under the crushing bite of my insecurities.

The irony of comparison is that as I lie awake suffering my creative inadequacies, this very day, perhaps this very moment, another creative has stumbled across my work and found themselves similarly pressed by the vice of comparison.

Insecurity, fear, failure, perfectionism, criticism, unfinished work (and others I’m sure I’m missing) — these are the agents of comparison. They cause us to enter unhealthy cycles of evaluating our creative abilities.

Fourteen years as a creative professional including awards, financial success and the gift of consistent work as an entrepreneur hasn’t cured me of this ailment. Is it a lack of maturity on my part? A self-loathing and doubt rooted deep in my psyche by some life trauma? Or is this just simply a part of the life of a creative? Is it something we all must continually overcome? Are we doomed to this fate like the endless lingering of winter in Central Alberta.

Regardless of the source and longevity of this curse, we must learn to overcome it.

Here are some ideas that have helped me.

  1. Take a break from social media. Remove the tools of comparisons blight against your passion and joy. When we surf social media platforms looking at art we are often wasting time. It is a garden of poison ivy, brambles and thorns. Take a break from it. Get back to just focusing on what you love to do, not trying to find some magic artistic cure all in another creatives work.
  2. Makes something and then make something else. Success breeds success. Stop obsessing about the how, what, when, where, why and what ifs and just get cracking! Think about when you were a kid. Did you sit and evaluate your work and stress over who would like it or how many likes it was going to get on Instagram? If you’re as aged as I am the obvious answer to that is no because we didn’t even have personal computers back then. Every drawing you finish, every chapter you write is a stepping stone to the next one.
  3. Set some targets. If you just can’t help yourself and you keep looking at other artists, then reframe your observation from comparing to aiming. Look at those artists you dream of one draw creating like and aim towards that. Critically evaluate your work in a constructive fashion. Do some studies based off their work. Literally copy a few of their pieces and deconstruct how they are working.
  4. Pursue an attitude of contentment and perseverance. The creative journey is a mountain range. We climb and climb and at moments we find ourselves at a peak. But at that peak we see higher peaks ahead of us and not just in the direction we originally set out on. There are peaks of a different kind that we could strive toward. This is a journey and every stage of it offers beauty and a perspective all its own. Embrace each moment of the adventure. This will ensure you find joy in all things and that you continue to press on to the next vantage point.
  5. Find a creative support group. Share your work, struggles, goals and progress with some creatives you trust. They can help you stay free of the entanglement of comparison and provide you with honest feedback in the interest of growth.
  6. When in doubt play video games. No seriously. Spend some time doing something you love. Walk, run, eat, read, talk to friends, smile, laugh and just count your blessings. As artists, we can get really heady and intense. Sometimes it’s good to walk away for a spell.
  7. Pray and meditate. If you’re a believer, then pray. Ask for guidance, wisdom, inspiration and help. There is a creative force in all of us. We are made in His image and He is creativity. Tap into that. You non-believers out there, make no mistake, you are spiritual beings. Get in touch with that side of yourself.

It is imperative that we reign in the comparison beast. It is the creators equivalent to jealousy between lovers and it will kill your creative joy.

Go forth and slay the beast! God speed!


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