January 11, 2016

“don’t let comparison be the thief of your joy.”

i read that on the internet recently, and i like it. especially as someone who makes things for a living, it’s easy to lose yourself in the endless stream of work made by people far more talented than you, who seemingly have it all nailed down & figured out. your taste always exceeds your ability, and it seems everyone else is waving it in your face.

at my worst, i buy into this notion whole-heartedly. my talent is average at best, my ideas are trite and ephemeral. as out-there and radical as i sometimes like to think of myself, my existence is commonplace and pedestrian. in my professional life, it makes me second guess every pen stroke. personally, it causes me to overanalyze every decision with a cyclical and nauseating repetition. i am overwhelmed with doubts about my character, and fear about the future.

but i am not my work, and i am not those other people, nor will i ever be. no one has taken the same path as i have. birth is the last similar experience i’ve shared with any other human being on this planet.

in my professional life, reminding myself of this makes me prideful of every imperfect line, every glimpse of personality shining through futile attempts at perfection. every drawing that misses the impossibly high benchmark i have set for it in my head lands among the rest of my body of work, that is somehow, through all the attempts to copy heroes and influencers, uniquely my own. in my personal life, this paradigm shift has made me more patient, more empathetic, and more understanding (though, it should go without saying, that personal project is never finished) of others, as well as myself. despite a digital culture that often seems homogenized, every person is also uniquely their own. this may sound obvious and banal, but sometimes i have to peel back the layers of irony and semantic desensitization that come with a platitude to really understand the message.

when i see beautiful work from talented individuals, or documentation of a rich life lived - or being lived - fully, my reaction is no longer self loathing. it’s alright to look on with jealousy, as long as that jealousy is not met with contempt, and is instead turned inward and used as an impetus for my own growth.