I started writing this original blog post during the Porto Illustration Summer School in July 2019 but got so caught up with the experience I didn’t get round to editing or posting it. There will be a review post about it, but this post is about comparing yourself to others as a creative.
What is the point of Comparing Yourself to Others?
It was day one of the Porto Illustration Summer School 2019. Twelve participants were bright-eyed, full of energy and ready to learn about illustration. I was one of them.
It was the first time I’d ever been around other artists. And it was awesome.
But the thing about being around awesome artists, is that they are… awesome artists.
When it came to sitting down and practicing hand-lettering on the first day, I noticed myself being particularly self-conscious. I looked around at others’ work. Why did my lines look so sloppy compared to theirs? Why did it seem so effortless for them? How were they holding their pens? Was I going too slowly through the exercises? Or too quickly?
These internal comparisons were almost enough to make me want to stop. But then I asked myself, why am I even comparing myself to these awesome artists?
There is a Time and Place for Comparing
… like if you’re going for a job and need to hit a particular market. But most if not 99% of the time, it really doesn’t pay to compare.
The penny dropped when I remembered why I registered for the Summer School. I was there to improve myself and my art. There was no value in making myself feel bad because there were others doing better work than myself. Turning the focus back to myself and my own goals was all I needed to stop comparing myself to others.
And it worked. With a new focus on me and improving myself, I was able to block out what everyone else was doing, and just work.
But even better, I told myself if I could impress myself in three ways, I could be proud of myself and really work towards making great art. Those three ways were:
I’m unbelievably distracted when I have access to my phone or laptop. And I’m sure a lot of others are too.
That’s why focus was my first priority during the course. If I could learn to focus on the art task at hand, then I could be proud of myself and be more confident in calling myself an artist.
About five minutes into hand-lettering, I realised just how tense my body was. I wasn’t breathing, my fingers hurt, and my shoulders reached for the ceiling. Bad posture is a sure way to prematurely end your art career.
I told myself, if I could just be more aware of my body, then I could have a healthier body in the future to create a lot more art.
3. Being Patient
With social media, it might not seem like it anymore. But good art still takes time! And between you and me, I blame speed painting/drawing videos for a lot of this misconception…
In any case, it wasn’t about racing toward a finish line, it was about pacing myself and going at my own tempo. It was frustrating to carefully and methodically hand-letter an entire word. But I told myself that I needed to push through the nervous need to rush art, then I would have learned a valuable lesson.
After challenging myself to myself instead of to others, I was able to just get into making art. It wasn’t about how I measured up to others’ standards. But just to my own.
It’s too easy to compare our work to others. I acknowledged that comparing my work to others just didn’t serve me. So I stopped doing it, and just compared myself to myself. I decided the three ways in which I’d challenge myself instead. And that served me much better than comparing myself to others.