Throughout the conversations I’ve been having with artists to discuss well-being there have been many common issues raised. One of those is how frequently we compare our art and achievements with others, and the impact that can have.
This isn’t something limited to creatives, however it does create potential problems in regards to our own confidence and creative growth. But sometimes it just takes a small shift in our understanding of something to change its impact. So here are a few specific topics that came up in those conversations, and some ways in approaching them differently.
Who Do We Compare Ourselves To And Why?
Comparing our achievements against the achievements of others is a common thing. It’s often done as a way to measure development and success. In that regard we can often find ourselves comparing our work to that of people who are already in the place that we’re hoping to get to ourselves. This can be a good motivator, but it can also leave us feeling like we’re not at the stage we feel we should be.
So just remember, if you’re only starting out in the field you hope to succeed in then don’t compare your work to someone excelling in that field. You can look at their work for inspiration, but remember that they’ve likely got a whole different degree of experience under their belt.
What Can We Learn From Comparison?
If you do find yourself looking at others’ achievements in a way that casts concerns on your own then see what you can learn from that experience. It can be easy to fall into the trap of trying to replicate another person’s path, thinking it might get you to the same destination, but that won’t really work. Instead of looking at the end goal, take a step back and think about exactly how you’d like to get there.
It’s a total cliche, but the journey is often more important than the destination. By focusing on someone else’s journey you could be robbing yourself of your own unique experience. You might also find some interesting detours along the way that lead you to exciting and unexpected places.
Social Media Comparisons
This is a big topic that I found myself talking about a lot with other artists. More and more of our exposure to other artists is via social media. This has been even more prevalent in 2020 as we’ve all had to live with different degrees of social distancing and isolation.
The thing you need to keep in mind when looking at social media is that it’s often a finely curated and crafted narrative. There aren’t many artists that will share the details of their failed projects, the painting that didn’t quite come together, the drawing that accidentally had 6 fingers on one hand, and so on. Most people will share their best work and their success stories. If you compare yourself to that then you’re comparing yourself to an incomplete and inaccurate standard.
So What Standard Do I Use?
The basic answer is…. your own. Before comparing your art against that of others first compare it to your own goals, dreams and expectations. Are you proud of the work? Does it show growth? Does it carry a message you’re happy to be sharing?
And some days, the best thing you can ask yourself is “Did I enjoy creating this?”.
If the answer to that last question is yes, then I’d say you can consider that a success that needs no comparison.