THE ONLY PERSON YOU NEED TO IMPRESS IS THE OLD YOU
Constant comparison is an inevitable hazard of a creative job; creators naturally surround themselves with the work of other artists to admire, reflect and draw inspiration from and in the process have a tendency to compare themselves constantly. Cue feelings of “competition” and “not good enough” when you were looking for “inspiration” and “satisfaction” from appreciating the work of others. Result: side affects of despair and feelings of inadequacy from swallowing a pill we didn’t need to take.
Compare and Despair is a very real thing and is defined as: “To distress oneself by comparing one’s own situation with that of others who seem more successful.”
For artists especially, it can be a constant battle of the mind, a catch-22 as we purposely seek out and surround ourselves with the work of others; a possible
definite spin out always lurking around the next scroll session. So it’s important for artists to rethink the reaction they may be having to viewing the work and success of others. It IS possible to transform comparison into appreciation and end the distress of the compare and despair cycle so that the next time you nonchalantly open Instagram for an innocent scroll through and see the killer #bts of a fellow artist who always seems to be working on amazing projects, it will cue feelings of possibility and the desire to accomplish rather than prompting an unnecessarily hard shower cry. After all, the internet is an alternate reality, we see what people want us to see, otherwise there would be a lot more Netflix binge posts with hashtags of #thisisactuallywhatididallday.
So the next time you find yourself catching a case of impostor’s syndrome while falling down the rabbit hole of compare and despair, instead think of these five things that will ground you into remembering who you are, where you are going and what sets you apart.
” … ADMIRING THE WORK OF OTHERS SHOULD BE INSPIRING, NOT ANXIETY INDUCING.”
– “Starting Out As A Stylist”
OTHER ARTIST’S WORK IS NOT “BETTER” OR “WORSE”
It’s DIFFERENT. Every artist speaks their own language and just as in life, the tone, the tempo, the words chosen, all the ways that someone uses to speak is unique to them and as you continue creating, you are expanding your vocabulary; which doesn’t require learning an entirely new language.
Take notice and appreciate talent but don’t let it control how you feel towards your own self worth and work. And, just as important, don’t duplicate admired work as a perceived shortcut to endless likes and admiration. The world deserves to know what YOU have to offer it and although the desire to recreate something that was successful and well received is natural (there has been undeniable research that encourages mirroring the steps of an admired professional successful in their field for increased advancement, at least in the beginning) it’s important to fight the urge to copy and instead take the time to create a personal style that is instantly recognizable and authentically you. Be honest when you are directly duplicating someone else’s style. That artist may be producing the caliber of work that you aspire to and maybe they are getting the acclaim that you are seeking, but you will find yourself lost, looking at the world through someone else’s eyes if you only mirror the ideas of others.
Anyways, if it’s been done before professionals will know it, so set yourself apart, create a fresh concept and instead of mimicking something you admire, take inspiration from it instead. Internalize inspirational images, create personal meaning and re-interpret the story; weaving inspiration into your own work, in your own way. Would you submit a plagiarized essay and expect respect? Copy and pasting from Wikepedia will not get high accolades just as directly copying an idea will not get warranted attention. Take the information from your inspiration and re-word it, formulate your own opinion and a personalized outlook and then write it out in your own words using an image. Finding your personal style is a process, it’s a journey, it takes time, there is no shortcut. In the meantime, don’t allow someone else’s success change how you feel about your own work and journey; there is enough success to go around, so find your own.
NIP THE NEGATIVE SELF TALK
You know the voice in your head that sounds like you but says mean things you’d probably never say to another person.
One second you’re happily scrolling down Insta lane and the next you’re helpless to nagging remarks of, “That’s better than anything you’ve ever done”. Burn. And, “You’re not working hard enough.” Ouch. Inevitably followed by the classic, “You’re not good enough.” Painful.
The words fill your mind before there is even time to un-think them and the damage is done. It is incredible (and necessary) to appreciate the work from others, but it is also imperative to remember that you are constantly growing as an artist and the caliber of work that you produce is growing as well. What you are probably looking at was likely created by a team of talented artists that have been honing in on their skills for years longer than you and have spent those years creating a network of other artists and team members who have also been honing in on their skills. They’ve created teams that they jive with who own their craft and it shows … experience will always set work apart. As you progress you will work with other artists and photographers who have also progressed and the caliber of work produced together will eventually be at the level of work you once felt was out of your league. If it were a math equation it would go a little like this: longer time spent honing in on your skills + working with people who have been intently doing what they do for a while = work on a level you never thought possible. So say to yourself, maybe not now, but in the future it will happen. Make it something to aspire to, instead of something to criticize yourself about.
“… CONSTANT OBSESSING OVER SOMEONE ELSE’S WORK MEANS YOU ARE NOT OBSESSING OVER YOUR OWN AND WAYS TO IMPROVE IT.”
– “Starting Out As A Stylist”
You know what else increases as you progress in your field? Your budgets and the resources that you have access to. The longer you have been intently working, the more doors open, quite literally, to designers and showrooms that will assist in elevating the caliber of work you produce. We say something through a visual language, using clothing as the medium and so naturally, the garments and accessories used will have an incredible impact on the caliber of work produced. Get better garments = Produce better work. There is a hierarchy when it comes to getting clothes from showrooms and the more quality work you produce, the more likely you will get that Gucci suit you asked for. Odds are, if you’re going bananas over an editorial it’s because the clothes are a dream and the editors are able to get their hands on some pretty amazing things (working for a magazine has its obvious perks) so know that you are doing the best with what you have available which will eventually lead you to even better.
“Everything you have done up to now has brought you closer to your best work. “
Now how about the artist on the same level, in the same city, working with the same creatives and being put up for the same jobs? THIS is probably the easiest catalyst for self criticism and the most difficult to overcome, but you need to get to a place of being supportive instead of jealous quick because the energy spent comparing can be used for better things, IE/ to progress in the industry instead. There is a difference between peeking in to see what your competition is up to and obsessing with how much further they appear to be or agonizing over the projects they may be working on. Extra esteem demerit points given if you stare not in an appreciative way, but in a comparative way that tricks you into thinking you’re making no progress. If you can’t look appreciatively then don’t look at all. The industry is competitive but it does not need to feel like a constant competition, there is a difference. Yes, you are competing with other artists for jobs, but compete with yourself and with the level of work you can create and you will be satisfied with the trajectory of your place in the industry because it will naturally progress (without all those negative feelings).
“The industry is competitive but it does not need to feel like a constant competition”
There are greats out there, editors, stylists and artists who have created masterpiece imagery, embodying underlying messages or expressing through humans as a medium, and the work of these greats should be appreciated, their methods studied, the images stared at; contemplated. You should use the work of great artists as a basis for what you are striving towards not as an indicator of the quality of your own work. Do you find yourself scrolling insta with a lingering feeling of dread that you are not where you should be in your career or beating yourself up over how amateur your work looks compared to that of other artists and stylists? STOP. Work of other artists should be a source of inspiration, not self imposed misery, and although it is ok to give yourself some good self reflective criticism when it comes to your work or processes, having your brain on a constant loop of, “My work is not good enough” will actually derail you from making better work, and the constant obsessing over someone else’s work, means that you are not obsessing over your own and ways to improve it.
longer time spent honing in on your skills
working with other people who have been intently honing in on their skills
work on a level you never thought possible
Everything you have done up to now has brought you closer to your best work.
So do not let someone else’s work bring you down, let it bring you up and inspire you to do your best work possible. When you see work that may make you spiral, remind yourself to put things into perspective: how long have I been doing this vs how long they have been, what is their budget vs what is mine, who are their clients vs who are mine. Be realistic with the factors that contribute to producing high caliber work and be confident in saying to yourself, “Perhaps not right now, but not never.”
We’ve all been there.