My name is Joanna & I love Pinterest. It’s my happy go to, ‘let’s zone out and look at pictures’ place. My boards are full of bits of wisdom & beauty I’ve collected, I quite often scroll through finding something that resonates at the moment of looking, something I need to hear or see. Sometimes I just take the disconnect from the reality of living in a busy house (5 kids, 3 cats, 1 dog, 4 chickens & the love of my life). Pinterest offers me escapism in a world where we find ourselves living through lock-downs and a global pandemic.
I also love Instagram but here’s the thing… somehow I get caught up in comparisons when I scroll through fellow artists posts & stories. A regular Instagram-er myself I post away on my personal and artist page happily, not thinking too much about what, where or how. I am what you might call a spontaneous poster, I’ve dabbled in stories but so far they aren’t for me. I watch others stories thinking… ‘where the fluff do you get the time to do all this?’ And then the thief of joy creeps in, right there, in that moment.
These words, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” by the wise Theodore Roosevelt is one I remind myself of, especially nowadays.
It’s also something that’s come up several times during these last 6 months of the pandemic as I’ve been chatting away with fellow creatives. Almost everyone has shared that their anxiety, worry, distraction comes from getting stuck in the spiral of doom on social media, thinking about what everyone else is doing. And wondering if they measure up, if they are doing enough in this period of huge social and global changes.
It’s a catch 22 of human nature. We’re genetically programmed to learn by watching others. That’s how we learn to talk, walk and co-exist in this world. In the creative world, there’s a good argument for keeping on top of movements, checking out ideas, and being part of the collective.
On the other hand, we have this irritating feeling called shame, which tells us we’re not good enough, we’re not keeping up. Here are some of the things I’ve heard my inner narrative say to myself more and more recently:
“Oh, they’re so much more together than me”
“They’re always creating art — how do they do it? They must be better/faster/smarter than me”
“Should I be doing that? They all seem to have a plan”
And so on… and so on it goes.
And it becomes a spiral of doomful comparison. Stripping me of my joy.
You see someone else doing something you’d love or do love to do, or you see them doing what they do really well. And you worry that you’re not doing it “right” or doing enough. And you get caught in the shame — once I’m in the spiral, the creative flow doesn’t come, I can’t concentrate, I’m too afraid of doing it wrong.
Because the thing about the spiral of doom is that it takes me away from what I’m doing. Because, in many ways, by being an artist, my work can’t be compared to others. I’m doing something unique. I can’t be directly compared to others.
The things I can’t see when caught in the doomish spiral of comparison is the other side of the story. Out there on social media, no one documents the months of thought, prep, or the wash bin full of dirty washing, or the tons of crap painting/prints/sketches. When I’m seeing what other people do, I’m seeing what they choose to share — it’s often authentic, they’re not trying to be unauthentic — but it’s the good stuff that happens. The curated collection of their lives and creativity.
So here’s the thing:
You don’t need to compare yourself to others. It will steal your joy, happiness, and creativity.
Today, this weekend, next week, consciously disengage from the spiral of doom. Instead, make a list of all the things you’re proud of, or all the things you’d just love to do. Come back to your creativity, your inspiration, your life.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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