Most of us have been taught that we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. And indeed, it can be harmful and toxic, making us feel all kinds of negative emotions. However, does comparison always have to be a bad thing? Can you make it work for you and help you grow? Chelsea Nicole believes you can, but you have to change your approach. In this video, she’ll teach you how you can compare yourself to others in a helpful rather than harmful way.
When you browse through other photographers’ splendid, you may feel like an imposter. I think it’s happened to all of us at some point, and that’s why we’re so often advised to never compare ourselves to others. But Chelsea believes there are two problems with that piece of advice. First, comparison is hard-wired. We’ll never be free from it, and we’ll always find a way to compare ourselves to others. After all, we most often do it unconsciously. And second, comparison is our power tool. If we somehow completely removed it, we would get rid of a mechanism that could be used to our advantage.
So, how can we rely on that deeply rooted need for comparison and turn it into something useful? First, let’s distinguish between active and passive comparison. Passive comparison happens naturally, without any thought. That’s the unconscious act I mentioned above, and that’s what we often do when we scroll through our Instagram feeds. You can probably guess – this isn’t the kind of comparison we can benefit from. Instead, we should start actively comparing to others: find photographers we admire and look up to them. When you take control over your active comparison, you’ll get three things in return.
- Clarity: you’ll get clarity of what you want in your work. What’s sometimes even more important, you’ll get clarity of what you don’t want. When looking at someone’s work, you can ask yourself if it’s something you want, or you can just admire it without trying to achieve it. This way, you won’t feel bad. Just because you admire something, it doesn’t mean you should do it too. We’re all different.
- Raising your benchmark: actively comparing yourself to someone else can expand your vision of what’s possible. Imagine that you and someone else took photos at the same location, but you thought their photos were better. This can make you feel inadequate, but don’t allow that to happen. Instead, actively analyze the other person’s work. Think: what about their image made it better than yours? It will point you to the areas that you need to level up in your own work and help you grow.
- A roadmap: related to the previous point, comparison can also give you a roadmap. In other words, it tells you exactly what you need to learn and what actions you need to take to achieve a certain result.
Of course, all this is a little tricky (but that’s what makes it interesting). Remember that comparison is a double-edged sword: you can use it as a weapon, but you can cut yourself too. This is why Chelsea proposes four techniques that will free you from that negative side and take only the best from comparison:
- Celebration: instead of unfollowing those who are better than you – celebrate them. Leave them comments, reach out, congratulate them. This will make you free from the negative side of comparison, and both you and those other artists will feel good.
- Ask “Why not me?” Instead of asking “Why them?” Think about what you have to do to get where you want, and then start taking action.
- Aim higher: challenge yourself to always push forward and do something better. In a way, this is comparing yourself to yourself, and it’s always a good thing that makes you stay creative.
- Your journey is your journey: remind yourself of this from time to time. Even if your road is a bit bumpy, you’ll get where you want if you keep trying. Focus on the goal, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey, too.
I quite like Chelsea’s video and this topic. I think there’s a fine line between productive and toxic comparison, and it’s easy to slip from the first into the second one. That’s why we have to be aware of our thoughts and train ourselves to look on a brighter, more positive, and more creative side of it.
What do you think, is it good or bad to compare yourself to other photographers? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
[Is Comparison a GOOD thing or BAD thing as a Photographer? | Chelsea Nicole]