I recently had some experiences that made me reflect on how artists compare themselves. We all frequently compare things. It’s an important tool when you go shopping for a new car. Even little kids are taught to compare things, like apples and oranges. It’s how they learn. We can easily list the qualities of something that make them different and a number of things that make them the same. But, all things are not the same.
I’ve thinking about all this, because I’m wondering about how we compare ourselves to other people. It’s not so much about the comparison itself. We definitely notice differences between ourselves and other people. It’s a natural human behavior. We look at what kind of car someone drives, how old they are, their body features, etc. And we compare how what we have is different. It’s normal, right?
What I’ve been thinking about is how sometimes we use the comparison as a personal self-judgement.
Am I good enough? Good enough compared to what?
Among artists, I see this comparison going on all the time. Over the years, I’ve witness a lot of self-defeating behaviors. I’m not perfect. In high-school, I remember talking to a friend about going to college. I told her, “I’d like to go to college for art, but I’m not good enough. I’m going to major in science instead.” WOW!! Yes, I started young with this self-defeatist thinking.
While I was finding my artistic voice, I definitely had my share of “I am not good enough” moments. I still have them, but with much less frequency. It’s not that I think I’m “awesome” now — I have a lot of things I want to learn about my art and there is a whole list of ways I want to do to improve on my skills. What’s different is my mindset.
It’s easy to look at someone else’s talents and admire their skills. But, before I start comparing myself and thinking “I could never do that” … STOP! … let’s take the comparison a few steps deeper. I ask myself, “how long have they been doing this?,” “What education/training do they have?” Most likely its more than I have.
Now, think about it. It’s very rare to find someone naturally born with talent. They call those prodigies. Most artists have worked to refine their skills. So I tell myself, if I put in the same amount of time I could potentially be as good as they are. OR… I could learn the same skills and run with them in a totally unique way that makes them completely unique to me! Wouldn’t that be awesome?!! OR… I can learn this new skill and decide I don’t like doing it.
Defeatist comparisons can be crushing to finding our own joy. I can personally tell you it is more empowering to compare the differences as a source of inspiration and motivation. Your mindset shifts. Instead of “I could never do that,” I consider standing tall and saying, “I would love to do that! Let’s bring on the challenge.”