How to avoid the comparison trap


Have you ever caught yourself obsessing over the success of a rival creative professional? It can quickly sap our self-confidence – here are my two best ways to get your own confidence back and be the most authentic version of you.

Do you ever do this?

You keep obsessing about a professional in your industry who is doing similar work to you, but they’re much further ahead. They may  have thousands of followers on Instagram, selling work at ten times your price or they get the type of contracts that you only dream of.

We all have someone like this – and they often make us feel that we’re falling short.

As a coach to creatives across the industries, I can tell you that comparison is becoming one of the biggest causes of suffering today and I’ve seen, in the last year, it’s becoming even more extreme.

It makes sense – we’re all stuck at home, with only the gloss of social media feeds to hang out with.  Human nature is designed to want to be liked – and social media makes us even more aware of our shortcomings.

I think it’s a real problem, not only for our mental health but for the health and purpose of the creative industries.  Our real job, as creatives, is to offer something original,  to challenge the status quo.  How can we do that, if our energy is taken up with comparison?

If we are fixating on others, we’re more likely to imitate each other and our own authenticity is reduced. I’m seeing this in all mediums – that creativity is becoming safer and polished to be a marketing tool, rather than a deep expression of truth.

So – what I really want to see is more, unique and quirky voices out there expressing their own perspectives on the world.

The question is – how can we break out of this comparison trap and be braver to express our creative ideas – and not worry whether they’ll be liked?

So – these are my thoughts on this conundrum.

Choose to be inspired by other artists – and learn about your own voice

Comparing yourself is useless and will only lead to a deep feeling of lack, whereas being inspired to learn from other artists has a different quality and energy to it. This mindset can actually help you to be braver.

For example – when you see work you love  – be attentive to what it is you appreciate about their style.  Get into a curious mindset and treat it as a way to learn about your own style.

I know, as a singer, I love Lady Gaga because I feel that she sings truthfully and with a deep freedom.  I can emulate her style – but I will never match the power of  Gaga – but what I can do, which gives me more courage, is to since with a fierceness – but in my own way.  This brings more of myself into my singing.

This perspective immediately builds confidence and is different from copying. If I copy, it’s a poor imitation. If I feel inspired to be brave – then I find myself.

Focus and be fascinated on how you are different

If you try and imitate another artist – you may be railroading over a quality in your own style, so pay attention to this.  Ask yourself how you see the world differently?  What is it you care about that is different to this artist? What are your innate strengths that differ to other artists?

Here are some examples from people I’ve worked with recently:

One client, a photographer,  stopped comparing his own work to others and began to realise that their personal brand was more about focusing on stories on the environment. They realised that this topic really mattered to them and they began a series of projects that told this story in a more vivid way. This gave them a clearer purpose as a photographer and developed a clearer niche based on his values.

A stylist had been comparing herself on Instagram until she realised that her superpower was that she was naturally someone who loved to host events in her home, which she described as being like a museum.  Instead of trying to compete with someone on Instagram to sell clothes, she began having fun creating little stories around her home – and creating an inviting atmosphere.  She stepped into a more authentic version of herself, which meant that she changed her relationship with Instagram.

My story – I recently looked at all the other coaches for creatives and realised that my skill was creating community around me.  I now tend to host events that people can attend – and focus on a membership community, which brings me a lot more joy than the days that I was fixated on being ‘as good’ as another coach

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