Comparison can lead to healthy competition, and it can motivate. Comparison can also make you miserable and lead to creative destruction. Comparison is a perfectionist’s best friend. It’s a boost when you’re doing better than others and an impediment when someone else is doing better than you.
Sometimes, comparison gives you a dopamine release. Someone shares a bad poem at open mic night, and you think my work is better than that. You see a bad photo get a lot of likes on Flickr and you think I can take better photos than that. A co-worker submits a bad report, and you think I can do better than that. You’re standing higher on the comparison step-ladder, which feels great.
Then you see art that is good, a co-worker or a friend succeed, or someone lower on your comparison ladder do well. You lose all of your confidence. You sit in those emotions, and wonder why you’re not good enough. You think I’ll never get there, so it’s all pointless. And, you end up doing nothing at all.
The problem with comparison is that you know all of your own struggles, but you only see the successes of others. The great short story may have taken months and dozens of drafts. The hilarious stand-up comedian may have been booed off stage many times. Your co-worker may have put many extra hours in. You never know the entire stories of others, and yet, you can’t help but to compare yourself to their shiny exteriors.
Seth Godin said, “The most important comparison, in fact, is comparing your work to what you’re capable of. Sure, compare. But compare the things that matter to the journey you’re on. The rest is noise.”
It’s all about doing the work that you know that you are capable of. You may or may not become the next Monet or Mozart, but you have to put in the work to find out.
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Feature Image Source: The Art of Im(perfection) I by Saeahlee Photography
Quote Source: “Compared to” by Seth Godin