there has been a recurrent issue over and over again, my whole life.
It was REALLY bad when I first became a professional photographer;
it was even MORE when I became a mama just two short years ago..
Do you know what I am referring to?
It’s the comparison trap.
I see you nodding. I know you have been there.. maybe you are there right now. It’s human nature to look at your life, and other people’s lives and wallow in pity for the things you wish your life was, but isn’t. As a person who feels very much over comparing anyone to anything, I have some words of wisdom I learned the hard way. I apologize now for the fragmented paragraphs.. this is just going to flow out.. we shall see if it helps anyone out there!
Do you realize how amazing you are? There is no other you in the world. Repeat after me; “I am *insert your name here* and I am a special and unique snowflake.. dangit!” This realization is huge in the process of getting out of the comparison trap. Specifically when it comes to things like professional photography! I started out in 2009 with the goal to A.) earn my income through making art for people, B.) to have the freedom to raise my family in the way I had always dreamed of and to C.) BE HAPPY.
Photography was a dream I have had since the 2nd grade. I wanted it and I wanted it bad. Yet, somehow, I allowed every single photographer within a hundred miles to get in between me and my goal, and they DIDN’T even know they were doing it. It was a form of self-destruction as I constantly created my work, made clients happy and then felt like it wasn’t good enough.
HELLO? Why did this matter?! I was attaining parts A and B of my goal, but I WASN’T HAPPY. I was miserable and it showed. I wasn’t creating to be the best me, I was creating to be better than so and so.
Newsflash – We can’t be better at being someone else than they are at being themselves.
Good news is that we are called to be the best version of ourselves, and once we stop mirroring and start just being.. AMAZING things happen.
I watched an amazing portrait photographer named Sue Bryce teach a workshop last weekend and she said something that completely resonated with me.
“Whatever you focus on will grow and become larger.”
Are you focusing on the things that are important to you? or are you focusing on the things that other people have done and that are important to them? Where is this going to lead you? Will you be happy being a second rate copy of someone else or a first rate version of yourself? Are you focusing on the positive or the negative?
When I look at my life now, I realize that the difference between where I am now (living the dream, baby) and where I was headed (depressed clone of someone else) is directly related to the moment I stopped focusing my attention and energy on what everyone else was doing and started looking at what it was I REALLY wanted out of this life. I started to focus on finding my passion (within photography, within faith, within life) and the rest fell into place.
Starting out in photography (like many other businesses, where people are essentially selling themselves) is TOUGH. There are issues with territory, ownership of ideas.. client issues, people who don’t believe your work is worthy, people who think you charge too much or not enough, the way you work, people who don’t like your marketing ideas or who copy your business closely. Intentional and unintentional things you do that someone takes personally, or things people say that make you feel inferior. It is really, REALLY hard to push through and stick it out; to realize that people are not hiring you to be someone else, but hiring you because you are the only person that is YOU.Luckily, I am hard-headed and fiercely independent. So after letting myself fall into the mess that is comparison.. making friends and making not-so-friendly with people.. feeling pretty lost and not sure how to fix any of it.. something happened.
I think it might have been getting pregnant.. knowing that I was now responsible for another human that shifted my focus entirely to her wellbeing.. wanting the best for her in life.. wanting her to chase her dreams and NOT wanting her to experience this terrible feeling that only exists within our own minds of “not good enough.” I think there is something about viewing life through the eyes of your future child that wakes you up to how stupid you are being with the life you have been given.
Or maybe it was the comparison trap that lies within becoming a parent that shook me out of it. If you are a mom, you know what I am saying. There are only about a million choices to make when you get pregnant and only a gazillion opinions on what is the best.. and of course if your decisions don’t match up with the mom down the grocery aisle, then clearly you are an unfit mother. Luckily for me, I snapped out of comparing my life to others just in time to reclaim Ana’s first year and take my own road and so far (for the most part) I have been able to sleep just fine at night with the choices I have made, in love, for my daughter and my family. I am a firm believer that life is NOT one size fits all, and going by the book was not working for me (and it probably won’t work for you either!).. so our book went through the shredder and now it’s all “mom knows best.” We are all a million times happier to have a mom that is not obsessively reading “what to expect…” and fretting and panicing as another google search tells me that if the sure-fire methods to get Miss Analeigh to sleep are not working, then there is something wrong with her, or me.
Whatever it was that tipped the scale, enough was enough. And since then, I have been able to feel joyful about the life I have.
Unfortunately I didn’t wake up to this realization soon enough for everyone in the business (and out of it) to understand who I really am; and being misunderstood is the worst form of not being liked. I had to let it go though, knowing that eventually everyone who wanted to would know me, the way I want to be seen; the way I truly am.
The comparisons go beyond what was applicable to me as a photographer and a mother.. but I am sure you are already thinking about the things you compare in your own life. The house, the car, the job, the marriage.. we all think the grass is greener and until we water our own (focus on OUR own), we can’t see how green it will be!
Here’s to getting out of the trap and finding the joy that comes with freedom to be you, where you are right now.
I watched a online church service from North Point Church last month completely randomly, and it was absolutely wonderful in speaking to our journey away from this trap. He says is in such a straight forward way.. If you are struggling in this, watch it! It rocked my world. Here are a few quotes from the pastor Andy Stanley. http://www.northpoint.org/messages/comparison-trap
“There is no win in comparison. There’s no finish line, there’s no final sense of satisfaction. There is no win. If your better than people, that doesn’t help you. If your not measuring up to other people, it doesn’t help you. There is no win in comparison!”
“You find yourself rejoicing over their failures, their small failures and you know that is evil and embarrassing but its not just a casual thing , its a dangerous thing.”
“Don’t determine where you are based on where everyone else is”
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. – Proverbs 14:30
Then I observed that most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. But this, too, is meaningless–like chasing the wind. Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4&6