Sizing ourselves up against others is natural but I believe comparison is creative poison. It doesn’t serve the vulnerable creative inside us well to measure our art against another’s. It will never be a fair assessment and likely to lead do being disheartened.
Don’t Compare Apples with Oranges
I heard a great quote on the Create and Thrive podcast:
“Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.”Hugh Macleod
It really struck a chord with me. I, like most people, am always comparing myself, my work, my life, to other peoples. I guess we really can’t help but compare ourselves to others but let’s be kinder to ourselves and at least compare apples with apples. What we see of other people is what they want us to see. We all have our public and our private faces. Generally, we see other people’s outsides but we look at our own inside. It isn’t fair on ourselves to compare the two.
The Social Media Phenomenon
Take social media for example. Use of social media has been linked to depression due to users comparing their lives to the lives of their, apparently, more successful friends. Comparison is creative poison indeed. The fact is, however, that our social media profiles and feeds are carefully crafted, highly edited reflections of our real lives. We tend to post only those things that we are proud of, excited about or that make us happy. Sitting at home reading about all the lovely things happening to other people when you’ve just had an average day (not even a bad one) can make you feel like your life is pretty dull. We are comparing our inside (the full gamut of our lives) to their outside (the bits they want to show us).
The Photoshoot Edit
This notion of comparing insides with outsides came home to me in a stunning way once. I was invited to be featured in an online article about the Etsy Made Local Market that I was part of. I was contacted late on Monday afternoon and asked to provide high-quality photos of myself, my studio and my products by Wednesday!
After the initial panic, and realising that, with the very short timeframe I could not manage this alone, I contacted a local photographer whom I had met, Grace Costa. Grace came to my rescue and we did a photoshoot on the Tuesday afternoon.
On Monday night, however, she had me move most of the books off my bookshelves and leave only a few styled pieces on view.
What has this got to do with insides and outsides? Well, the gorgeous photos Grace took of me in my studio were very much the polished up version of, well, both me and my studio. I already knew it to be true but experiencing it first hand drove the point home – the photos you see in magazines, on the Internet and in professional Instagram feeds are the carefully styled, presenting-the-very-best-side photos that send the message that the editor wants you to see.
Even I am Envious of My Outsides!
I love the photos Grace took but they don’t tell the whole story about me and my ‘studio’. Even the word studio sends a more glamourous impression than is fact. My ‘studio’ at the time was a room in my home which wasn’t really mine at all. It was the study, guest room and extra sitting room as well. I even ended up sharing it with my husband through COVID lockdown! Anyone looking at Grace’s photos of me might compare these with their own studio (or whatever space they have) and feel they fall short. Hell, even I do feel like I fall short of those photos – of me! But they would be comparing their inside with my outside and that just isn’t a fair comparison.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy
I think it is a particular trap for creative people – and we are all creative people – to compare themselves to others. Expressing your creativity is such a personal thing. I believe completely in the importance of creative expression but it is scary to put your stuff out there where it can be viewed (and therefore judged) by the outside world. If you add to that fear comparison to others, it is no wonder so many people do not take the risk and miss out on the joy that creative expression brings.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”Theodore Roosevelt
How true! Comparison does take the joy out of things. Especially when you are starting out with a new area of creative expression, it is just unfair to yourself to compare your piece to others who are ready to put out in front of the eyes of the world. It can create blockages too.
It isn’t even relevant to compare yourself to anyone else because it is the process of creating that is important. The product can certainly be satisfying but the real juice is in the process. It is the process that is good for wellbeing. Comparison is creative poison!
I know we will go on comparing ourselves to others but let’s do ourselves a favour and put it in the right perspective… Compare your outside with other outsides and not apples with oranges. Or better still, don’t compare yourself to anyone except the person you were yesterday!