The Comparison Trap
Art is subjective. Period. That is a fact that we as artists should never forget. Especially when we look at our own work or come across other people’s art.
With the internet it is easy to go down a rabbit hole of comparison that can be hard to get out of, later on, it might even become something you do without noticing.
How does this normally happen?
I have experienced this problem throughout art school and while working professionally as well. I will outline how it usually happens and then tell me if you have seen this pattern with yourself. It starts with your own work, that’s always where it begins, you are not satisfied with it. Then you start looking out for help as to what you can do or should do to make your work better. Searching for answers like that is indeed a great thing to do, you need to learn and better yourself to move forward!
The tricky part is that while looking for help or inspiration you might feel completely helpless in the process. You might watch a landscape painting video of someone with years of experience ahead of you and think to yourself “How the fuck does he do that?! It looks so simple when he does it!”, even if you know that this professional artist has 10 to 20 years ahead of you working in his field and he trains on a daily basis. That is precisely why he is so good at what he does! He most likely also gets paid to create his artwork and that is a totally different world than painting for your own self interest.
Painting for your own betterment is sometimes painful but necessary. The compensation you get is the skill itself, that is how you have to look at it.
The problem is that you still compare that person to yourself, your brain has a tendency to make unfair comparisons. Same goes for other areas, not just art, for example, young women comparing themselves to top models on magazine covers. That top model has to look like that because it is her job, that what she does for a living, not to mention the whole team of photographers and make-up artists helping her look that good just for that one cover.
How to change your mindset and get out of this trap!
All these successful artists have had their own journey and their own challenges to overcome. You have to remember that if you see someone that is amazingly proficient at painting, he/she started the same as you did. The exact SAME. They sucked a lot when they started out! There is no shame in making shitty paintings, we all do or we all did at some point, it’s part of the process.
There will be moments when you are down and feeling defeated while looking at amazing art on Instagram or other social media, don’t latch on to that! That’s a trap!
Here are a few things you can do, that I have been doing for myself for a while now, to make sure I have a sound mind and stay productive.
Spend less time on social media, use it sporadically and mostly for professional purposes.
Follow artists you truly admire and see their art for what it is, not some kind of black magic conjuring that looks effortless. That is far from the truth!
Ask yourself if YOU like your painting, don’t gauge your self worth only from other people’s shares, likes or opinions.
Paint what interests you, paint what made you interested in art to begin with. We all have jobs that don’t line up with our goals, but being an artist means sometimes you have to artfully bite the bullet and do your best to not let go of your dreams.
Listen to feedback gracefully, don’t hold it against you or anyone else. Being criticized is a blessing, you might be offended sometimes or even hurt, but those small dents to your ego make you a better artist and person in the end. Trust me, I can vouch for that. Don’t take criticism personally, ever!
I would like to hear from you your own experience with struggles such as this. How do you deal with crippling self-doubt? What motivates you to keep going? Send me an email or comment here in this blog post, I would love to hear!