Soul-connected, creative friends! I'm back with the next installment of the #perfectionistproblems series. If you're new to these parts and want to know more about this series, you can do so here. (It's worth it. I talk about the television show Jessica Jones and about mind control. I promise it all makes sense ;)
Okay, over to our regular scheduled programming...
Today, we're talking about the comparison trap.
Ideas of perfection lead to toxic comparison
In our hyper-connected and digitalized world, most of us are glued to our computers, laptops, and mobile devices. You spend hours and hours browsing websites, reading blogs, and scrolling through social media.
Seeing nothing but perfectly curated Pinterest feeds and perfectly styled Instagram photos, it’s easy to get sucked into a pattern of creative comparison. You KNOW you’re looking at someone’s heavily edited highlight reel, but you still feel bad about your own less-than-perfect behind-the-scenes footage.
It’s all too easy to compare yourself to those people on the internet who seem to have made it and have it all together and find yourself coming up short. If you continue this for long enough, comparison can cripple your creativity and seriously diminish your motivation, both in life, creativity, and business.
Why is comparison so toxic?
Have you ever noticed that comparison starts with someone else's appearance of perfection and it ends with you feeling like you’re not good enough?
This is how the comparison trap works:
You make up a definition of what it means to be perfect.
You apply that expectation on yourself.
When you don’t meet that expectation - which you never will, because you’ve made up an unrealistic and unattainable expectation for yourself - you doubt your abilities.
If you see someone who you think is meeting that expectation, you become obsessed with learning every little thing there’s to know about that someone and you start to critique every little thing that you are doing wrong.
You feel like you’re not good enough. You feel like a failure, sometimes before you’ve even started.
How to deal with comparison
There are many things you can do to deal with comparison once it’s happened and you’re in the middle of a toxic comparison shame storm. I could write a list of “5 easy steps” to get over the damage comparison has done to you. But… this isn’t that kind of blog post.
The point I want to get across is this: ‘What if you could lessen the impact of creative comparison before it’s even started?’
Creative comparison happens because of these two things:
1. Being unfocused and not having a clear vision
When you’re thinking about perfection, you’re not living in reality. It’s easier to daydream about other people’s perfect picture and compare yourself to that picture than to show up for yourself and take action on your vision.
Phew, #realtalk happening here. Let’s unpack and clarify these statements…
You’re inviting comparison into your life when you look at what other creatives are doing and think they have it all figured out. Let me tell you: they don’t. Take off your perfectionism goggles and you’ll see that no one has it all figured out. Perfection is a myth. Perfection isn’t real.
Hard work, taking action, discipline, dedication, consistency; that IS real.
In what way can you focus your creative energy? What do you want to see happen in your life and business? What are some short term goals for your life, creativity, and business? And what’s is your long term vision?
Answering these questions will help you get clarity on what YOU find important. Spend some time figuring out what’s your life mission or the bigger purpose of your business and how your creativity plays a part in bringing your vision to life.
Now, you no longer need to look to others for a sense of direction. You’ve formulated your own destination. And hard work, discipline, and consistency will take you to your destination.
2. Not being clear on what your values are
Another aspect that drives creative comparison is not being clear on what your values are.
You’ll likely compare yourself to people that to all outward appearances are successful. They have a six-figure business, they have the cutest children, their work is published in some major media outlets, their design work is flawless, they sell their work like crazy on Etsy, they take the best flat lay photos and post them on Instagram. (I could go on forever, because, you know, I’ve been there...)
But I want you to ask yourself these questions:
What does success look like to YOU? And what are YOUR values when it comes to life, creativity, and business?
Maybe having a six-figure business isn’t that important to you. Maybe you value connecting with a small but loyal community on your blog over getting published on a bigger but impersonal website like The Huffington Post.
You’re comparing and measuring yourself to someone else’s measuring stick of success. It’s like entering a rat race and finding out that their finish line isn’t YOUR idea of a finish line.
Once you get clear on what your values are, you’re less likely to get distracted by other people’s shiny trophy cups. It renders comparison futile. That person you’re comparing yourself or your work to has a different definition of success, different values, different ideals, motivations, and goals.
Comparison isn’t bad
Let me repeat that: comparison isn’t bad. It’s a teacher. And it can be an excellent teacher.
Stepping away from the comparison trap isn’t about turning comparison OFF. It’s about TURNING AWARENESS ON.
And the way to do that, whether comparison shows up in your life, your creative endeavors, or your business, is to get clarity about your vision and your values.
So, this week I challenge you to get that clarity (using the questions above) and then to let your vision and values guide you.