A couple weeks ago, I brought home some Fall in the form of flowers. The grocery store had giant mums in a wash of autumn hues, and they were simple and beautiful and perfect for the little console table in our house’s foyer, and perfect for the little square rose bowl I’d been wanting to use.
See, perfect and simple, right?
Do you think for one minute that those mums wished they were the fancier professional flower arrangement I’d gotten for my birthday?
Well, okay, first of all flowers don’t wish for things. I get that. But even if they did, doesn’t it seem silly to think that one beautiful flower would wish it were a different beautiful flower?
You probably know where I’m going with this, because it’s a pretty obvious cliche. “We’re all beautiful and different, and we need to celebrate what makes us individually beautiful.” I can pretty much hear your eyeballs rolling on the other side of the computer screen even though eyeballs don’t make much sound. I may or may not be rolling my eyes at myself a little bit right now, too.
Let’s all be willing to have a moment of vulnerability with ourselves though. No eye rolling allowed. I’m not talking about physical beauty; I’m talking about comparison of any kind that sucks away your spirit. And you know exactly what that is for you.
Photographers are especially susceptible to the nasty comparison monster. We follow one another’s Facebook pages and blogs and Instagram feeds for “inspiration,” but frequently what we get is self-doubt, frustration, or good old pangs of jealousy. I’ve been at this professional photographer thing for going on five years now, and it still sneaks up on me when I least expect it. A la: So-and-so photographer got featured in [insert your most coveted photography publication here]? Wow, that blog has rejected everything I’ve ever submitted. So-and-so has how many likes and comments on her most recent Instagram post? I don’t even have half that many followers! So-and-so is humblebrag-complaining about being so busy because he has portrait sessions scheduled every single day until Christmas? Yeah, the last ten people who inquired with me ended the conversation as soon as we began discussing prices.
Photographers — being a photographer is harder mentally than it is physically. And we all know it isn’t easy physically.
So the question becomes, how do we get out of the cycle of comparing ourselves to others?
It’s something we have to re-address on the regular if we want to keep that comparison monster at bay. It’s something that we can only keep at bay if we remember — whatever it is that we’re comparing is not where we find our identity.
I know, deep down, that I am much more than a photographer. I don’t even introduce myself first and foremost as a photographer these days, because I’ve been working hard to stop letting that overwhelm my identity. But when I see what other photographers are doing, when I hear what other business people are accomplishing, I revert to feeling like a little girl in a world of grownups.
My friends, you and I have both got to stop selling ourselves so pitifully short.
We are so much more than our jobs. We are so much more than our creative goals, our latest endeavors, our failed projects, our grand successes, and even our wildest dreams. The thing is — we won’t truly believe that until something else, something bigger replaces each of those things in our own hearts.
So I leave you with this, a graphic jess creatives made from some words I shared online over the summer. Think about what you’re worth. Think about why you’re worth it. Think about where your identity really lies. And keep reciting it over and over whenever comparison tries snatching away your joy.