Multnomah Falls, Oregon | Yashica Mat-124 | Fuji400H Film | Scan Photovision
I've written about this many times before, but I have a problem with spending too much time looking at creative inspiration. Why is this a problem? Well it's not...until I find myself in a corner fuming like a bridge troll -- questioning my talent, my choices and whether or not to throw all my cameras in the river.
COMPARISION IS THE THIEF OF JOY. -Theodore Roosevelt
Ever seen the quote that says, "Comparison is the thief of joy"? Well if you haven't you can probably find it on Pinterest with various woodland creatures surrounding it, hand written in chalk paint, stitched into a chevron pillow, or maybe typed out on a photo of a sunset mountain top where a willowy hipster stands looking up at the sky.
I have a feeling Theodore Roosevelt was probably referring to mightier things than our etsy shops or weekend hiking adventures....and YET, the truth in the quote is unshakeable. When I spend time comparing myself to anyone, I really am sucking my worth and wasting my precious time. So why do I fall into the trap so easily?
Well, the truth is I'm really REALLY hard on myself. I remember the day I saw the photographs of Elizabeth Messina -- I literally gasped out loud they were so breathtaking. I'd never seen photos so gorgeous and well styled, while at the same time feeling honest and real. I felt like I could see her soul in them and that if I didn't learn to shoot even half that well, I would die. Yes, I'm not being dramatic...that thought honestly went through my head. Now, being that I'd really only been taking photos of buttons and other people's pets at that point, I had a long way to go.
They say it should be about the journey rather than where you end up. I've never been very good at remembering that. I arranged photo sessions with friends with my brand new DSLR camera with a no-good lens on it and had the highest hopes. However, (shockingly) my work was looking nothing like the great Elizabeth Messina. I was devastated and felt like I probably didn't have any talent. My wise husband reminded me that I had barely shot and that I couldn't be comparing myself to one of the best wedding + portrait photographers in the world just yet. Seems like a reasonable thought, but I was lost in my tortured "artist" dismay and didn't heed his good advice.
You'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now! However even though my work has improved light years since that day, I still find myself putting my work on a scale with the professionals who I admire the most. Now, on some level, that kind of self critique is what will drive you to become better. We can't be too attached to our work because it's likely we aren't seeing it clearly (I generally think it's either worse or better than it is...neither are good). Plus it's really important to be inspired by and learn from others! But when it becomes toxic, that's when I've learned to step back.
I don't know the cure for this illness of comparison that plagues me from time to time, but I do know that legitimately being happy for others and supporting them feels like a pretty good remedy. I've also learned to give myself the time and space to become the kind of Photographer I'm mean't to be...no matter how much I love Elizabeth Messina's work.
If you are reading this, you are most likely a creative person of some kind. Or you wound up here on accident while googling rare Armenian rugs. Either way, I'll take it. Just know that you are good enough, right where you are. Next time you feel like you suck or at least your work does...make a cup of tea and leave a nice comment on as many creative blogs as you can. You'll immediately feel better....I'll do the same!