Why comparing yourself to everyone else is stupid

February 6, 2016

I was having one of those days. Sitting there writing, thinking that even if I write and write and write, I’ll never be as good as [insert author name here].

Funnily enough, it seems like a bunch of other writers were having those days too. I checked into social media, where at least three author friends were feeling down about their progress in their writing career. Most of us don’t have a huge fan base to build us back up with praise. The comments sections lie empty on blogs.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not capable of achieving the heights of writing that I want to achieve. That there’s a ceiling on my ability. That I don’t have the intellect of so and so, I’m not as linguistically competent as this person and blah, blah, blah.

My husband just laughs at me. “You have a Salieri complex.”

I’ve written more extensively on my love of Amadeus here, but what it boils down to is this: the film is about the relationship between two composers, Mozart and Salieri. While Mozart soars with the ease of a prodigy, Salieri struggles to make art. By the end of the film, he calls himself “the patron saint of mediocrity.” And some days, that’s just how I feel.

All artists are guilty of making comparisons. We want to be like the people we admire, but we sacrifice our own unique visions to do so. We want to be successful, but what the hell is success these days?

I’m just going to call it for what it is. Bullshit.

Because you should never compare yourself to other people, because no two people are ever the same.

Because your favourite author slogged hard to get where he or she did and you have no idea how hard those words came to them too.

Because one of Francis Ford Coppola’s early films was Dementia 13, and four films later he directed The Godfather.

Because if you’ve developed the ability to see what parts of your work sucks, then you’re better than you thought.

Because being respected by others and doing good in the world doesn’t rely on your ability to produce art. It’s about being a “high quality human being” to quote my friend Simone.

Because you are unique and bring your own perspective to the world. And that vision will never belong to anyone else.

Give yourself credit where credit is due. It’s too easy to forget the things you’ve already achieved. It’s too easy to think “Oh well, but that happened last year. Now it’s 2016.”

I was reading one of my favourite blogs, Zen Habits, which talked about doing a Monthly Review. Taking time each month to look back on what you’ve achieved, writing it down so you have a record of all the good things you’ve done this year.

Looking back, I can see how much I’ve improved from those first fictional words I wrote so many years ago. I’d gone from woeful user of adjectives to having my first book published last year. MY NAME IS ON A FREAKIN’ BOOK THAT I DIDN’T PRINT MYSELF. PEOPLE HAVE BOUGHT IT WHO ARE NOT MY RELATIVES!!!!

And you know what, I have to remind myself that there are probably people out there who compare themselves to me. Because everyone is looking up to everyone else.

The fact is, the only Mozart you need to compare yourself to is you.

 

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