Have you ever felt stuck thinking that everyone else is better?
“His mix sounds better than mine.” “Her voice is fantastic, mine is only mediocre.” “His guitar tone is top-notch, mine is terrible.”
It’s in our nature to get caught up in the comparison game sometimes. It’s easy to look at someone else’s possessions or skills, and think that we’re never going to be that good, or that lucky, or whatever.
Comparing ourselves to others is a dangerous road. It can lead to paralysis. We think we’re not good enough, so we don’t create anything. We hold back because we’re too embarrassed to release our “mediocre” art to the world. We’re afraid of rejection.
Personally, I feel that this inferiority mindset and fear-driven paralysis is one of the most difficult things that an artist has to face. Not only does it paralyze us, but it hides a highly valuable opportunity to learn and grow.
You see, comparison can be a good thing. You just have to go about it with the right attitude.
You get better by looking up to other people
From kids on the playground at school, to people in mentoring relationships, to parents and their children, people need somebody to look up to. It’s just how we tick as humans. And it’s true for you too.
So maybe you have a friend who is a much better guitar player than you. The way I see it, you have two options.
- You can get depressed, or decide that you’re going to stop playing guitar because you’re never going to be as good as your friend is.
- You keep practicing, work on getting better, and learn as much as you can. You look up to your friend as a mentor, and try to model what he does. You leverage his skill and knowledge to improve your own.
You see, things like guitar skills are not in short supply. Just because your friend is great at guitar doesn’t mean you can’t also be great at guitar. There’s plenty of “greatness” to go around.
Furthermore, one of the best ways to get better at something is to follow an example. Surrounding yourself with people who are better than you is a fantastic way to improve yourself. Getting depressed or paralyzed is completely counter-productive.
In order to become great at something, you need to be willing to suck at it first
Everyone has to start somewhere.
When I first started playing guitar, I wasn’t very good, obviously. It took quite some time to improve my skills, and get to the point where I was comfortable playing in front of other people.
Today, I’m a much better guitar player than I was back then. But even so, sometimes I’ll see another guitarist who is better than me, and something in my ego gets tripped up.
If you want to become great at something, you need to be willing to suck at it first. Even if you don’t suck at it, you need to be comfortable with where you are right now, and be willing to take the next small step toward your goal.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to yourself
This is something I’ve learned to do recently.
If you find yourself feeling down because you’re comparing yourself to others, try looking at yourself. Compare where you are today with where you were a month ago. Or a year ago.
If you compare your current work or skills to what you had in the past, you’ll almost always find that you’re on the road of constant improvement. You’re headed in the right direction.
So don’t worry about the fact that others may be “better” than you at some things. Don’t let that stop you from creating and sharing your art. See it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Figure out what you want to get better at, and figure out what is the next thing you can do to move toward that goal.
Do you get “stuck” or paralyzed when comparing yourself to others? I know I do. Tell me about it in the comments below!