Patrick Ward words, code, and music

Your Creative Death Sentence: Comparing Yourself to Others

I’m sure I’m not in the minority when I admit that I consistently compare myself to others. It’s a human trait, and an annoying one at that. For a would be writer it’s a near death sentence. I mean, how can I possibly expect to write another short story after reading an anthology of Philip K. Dick stories? It just doesn’t seem possible!

Yet, stop comparing we must.

Remember: You are this infinitely unique miracle of genetics, experiences, and ideas. There’s no one else exactly like you and there never will be. Sure, it’s a trite old reminder, but it’s true.

I can hear you saying, “But — I’ll never tell a story like PKD did!”

You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of being you! You’re not supposed to tell anyone else’s story, paint their picture, or start their business. You’re just supposed to do your thing.

Look, even if every story has already been told, every picture’s been painted, and every business idea has been tried before, it’s never been done by you. Maybe your idea is a fresh take on an old muse? You don’t have to convince the world, just enough fans who think you’re the new “awesome”.

Take this blog post, for instance. There are a bazillion articles and entries with the words Stop Comparing Yourself to Others on the web. When I started thinking about this article, I first thought “why should I add to everyone else’s thoughts on this subject?” Of course, the answer lies in the title itself. Because, if I didn’t write it, I’d be comparing myself to someone else’s thoughts instead of contributing my own. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to contribute to a meme that’s already in progress. It just means you’re helping it move along, whispering the truth to more eager ears and adding to the conversation. Perhaps, you’ve never read one of the bazillion other articles about this idea. If so, then it’s my pleasure to pass it along through this post.

So, when you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, try a different approach:

  • Admire them, but don’t compare yourself to them. Remember, you’re supposed to do your thing, not theirs.

  • Learn from their talents, and let your own talents grow because of what you’ve learned from them. I’ve become a better writer because of the inspiration I’ve found in other’s writings.

  • Do it for yourself. If you’re enjoying the creative act, that’s reason enough. Ultimately, your love of the creative process is what’s going to make what you do inspirational to someone else.

  • Enjoy the journey. Follow the path of right action, and immerse yourself in the flow of what you’re doing. When you forget about comparing yourself to others, your mind can open up to the full power of your own creative potential.

  • Be willing to suck. If you’re willing to take the risk of failure, then you’ve already won. There are countless stories of people like Babe Ruth who failed time and again before realizing their own potential. Failure is never the end, but it’s always a learning experience.

  • Give yourself some credit. I’m the worst when it comes to giving myself credit, but I am proud when I complete something. Regardless of whether I think it’s good enough, I still have to admit that each act of creation has added to my experience of life, my understanding of creativity, and my knowledge of the process I’m working with.

  • Finally, Realize that the comparison is just a stalling tactic. Ultimately, all this futile comparing of yourself is just holding you back from realizing your own potential. The sooner you get past it, the sooner you can get to being awesome yourself.