COMPARISON vs. INSPIRATION

One thing that I know all of us creative types deal with is moments of self-doubt and feeling like our work isn't good enough. (I should note that feelings of inadequacy aren't limited to just creative people...most people struggle with these feelings too.)  These feelings are something that I have always struggled with, and although I don't expect them to disappear anytime soon (or at all, honestly), I have been working on recognizing what sets me off into a downward spiral of self-loathing and hating my work.  The biggest offender?  Comparison.  Let me elaborate...

I spend a lot of time on visual image sites and apps like Pinterest and Instagram (probably too much time).  I love looking at and following the work of other artists and designers.  I love seeing what other people are creating.  However, I have realized that in looking for inspiration from others that I have actually been falling into the comparison trap.  Maybe this has been happening to you, too.  There is a fine line between inspiration and comparison, but each of them make me feel completely different.

Inspiration makes me feel joy.  Comparison makes me feel unhappy.

Inspiration makes me feel excited about creating.  Comparison makes me feel like I should give up.

Inspiration makes me feel happy for the other person's success.  Comparison makes me feel envious and causes me to wonder why I'm not as successful.

Inspiration allows me to bring new elements into my own work and to try new things.  Comparison makes me feel like I should be creating work that looks like the work of others.

Inspiration tells you anything is possible. Comparison tells you everything is impossible. -Jon Acuff

See the difference?  The next time you are scrolling through social media or the internet, ask yourself, "How is this making me feel?".  Are you feeling inspired and uplifted?  Or are you doubting your own creative work or life journey?  It's a struggle, believe me.  Learning to recognize when I'm starting to feel bad has helped me start to learn to turn away from the things that cause me to fall into the comparison trap and focus on my own art.  In reality, it doesn't matter what others are doing.  It matters what you are doing.  And what you're doing is perfect for you.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I LEARNED FROM BEING A COMMERCIAL ARTIST

While I have always been a creative person and a maker, most of my artistic activities have occurred completely in secret!  Most of the art I have made over the years was made in the privacy of my own home, never talked about, and certainly not shown to anyone, especially not before it was finished.  I was deeply attached to whatever I was making, and looking back, I guess I was afraid that whatever judgement I received would reflect on me as a person.  As in, if someone didn't like my art, it meant that they didn't like me.  It sounds a little crazy, right?!  But this is a legitimate thing among SO MANY creative people- one of the most common issues that I hear about over and over again is fear of judgement and lack of creative confidence due to said fear.  What if they don't like my stuff?  What if they don't like me? (Who is this "they", anyway?  I'm still trying to figure that out...)

When we send something we've created out into the world, we feel vulnerable.  Especially if we are greatly attached to our work and view it as an extension of ourselves.  It took me YEARS to be comfortable with even putting my designs online, or showing friends or family (oh, the horror) what I have made.  I want to share with you the greatest lesson I have learned while working as a full-time sign artist for a major company (my non-internet real life job), that has helped me immensely in my personal artistic endeavors and creative life.

I learned how to LET GO and MOVE ON.

Let me explain... When I began working as a commercial sign artist, I had to learn how to operate under deadlines and become comfortable with creating work in the presence of other people.  While under deadline or working through a to-do list that's a mile long, I have learned to be okay with sending work out that isn't my best.  Not every piece of work is going to be the best thing I've ever made, and that's perfectly okay.  Because I am always on deadline and always have a list of work that needs to be done, once the finished project is out for the world to see, it's already out of my mind and I'm focused on the next project at hand.  Deadlines mean that you have no choice but to put your work out there.  It's going out and everyone is going to see it- I don't have any choice!  By the time any comments get back to me about something, that particular piece of work has almost been completely forgotten about, and the comments I get are almost always positive!

This "Let Go and Move On" mantra has helped me SO MUCH in my personal creative journey.  I am no longer obsessed with getting everything "right", I am significantly less attached to my work than ever, I no longer feel upset with any less-than-successful experiments in art and business, and I have realized that whatever feedback I receive is not a reflection of my character or my legitimacy as an artist (and once again, the feedback I receive is almost always positive- even on my least favorite work!). 

If you are struggling with sharing your art or other endeavors, my advice is to rip off the bandage and just start putting your work out there.  The more you do it, the less scary it gets.  The more you do it, the less concerned you'll be about what other people think of it.  The more you do it, the less attached you'll become and you'll no longer feel such a strong correlation between the success of your artistic endeavors and you as a person.  The more you do it, the more you will realize that your work is something you create, but it's not actually you

Let it go and move on so you can keep growing as a creative person, make more art, and continue along your path to creative confidence!  Any more words of advice?  What has helped you come out of your creative shell?