Why You Should Stay in Your Own Lane – The Comparison Trap

In 2019, I experienced a series of creative slumps. I felt that everything that I made was 100% crap! I struggled with creative ideas and I began to produce a lot of lack luster projects. Unfortunately, I started comparing my creative work to that of my colleagues. It seemed like they were making highly innovative scrapbook layouts, traveler’s notebook spreads, mini albums, and pocket pages. Meanwhile, my brain grasped at any creative idea I could drum up.

I took a seat at the front of the struggle bus.

I also felt that I wasn’t producing content as fast as other YouTube content creators. I wondered how they were able to post high quality content on their YouTube channels everyday (or every other day) and why I struggled to only produce 1 video per week.

Sadly, I fell into the comparison trap.

It happens to the best of us. We are cruising along, doing our thing, then BAM! We begin to doubt our abilities and judge our talents against the talents of others. The comparison trap is vicious, leaving many people feeling as if they can’t cut the mustard. And sadly, some folks quit or give up something that they truly enjoy out of frustration and/or jealously of others.

You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” Sage words from my good friend Dr. Phil!

(Okay, technically, he went to the University of North Texas, the same college I attended for my bachelors and masters degrees, so naturally we are good friends. I digress…)

After months of laboring in the comparison trap, I finally had to face reality. There was nothing wrong with me or my creative work. The truth is…my expectations were out of whack. I was comparing apples to oranges.

Interestingly, we all do this at some point. I have talked to dozens of scrapbookers over the years who have stopped making layouts because they began to compare their talents against the talents of other scrapbookers.

We all have an idea or expectation of what we want our projects to look like. We get frustrated when it takes us longer to master a specific scrapbooking technique when it seems so easy for Suzy Q!

Darn you Suzy Q!

So, what do we do? How do we begin to stay in our own lane and confront the comparision trap head on?

First, acknowledge when you are starting to compare yourself to other artists. Do you feel jealous, envious, angry, or sad when you are looking at the work of a fellow artist? Do your behaviors change as a result? Do you become stressed, experience a creative block, or simply want to give up? Address how you are feeling head on and be honest with yourself.

Second, do something about it. You may chose to simply let go of those feelings and direct your energy into making projects that you love and enjoy, appreciating your individual talents, and accepting your limitations.

Or, in some cases, maybe you stopped following a specific designer on social media if you cannot seem to shake your feelings. It’s okay to let go until you are able to consume their content without falling victim to the comparison trap.

Lastly, recognize that we are all different. We have different talents, interests, expectations, work flow processes, and circumstances that impact what we create. You are doing yourself a disservice by comparing your talents and output to that of someone who’s circumstances, talents, years of experience, and bandwidth are different than yours.

At the end of 2019, I resolved to focus on my creative goals and projects, absent from comparing my work to that of my colleagues. I learned to appreciate what I bring to the creative arts industry and to support this community the best way I know how. I took ownership of my insecurities and came through the comparison trap storm a little be wiser and a lot more confident.

I learned to stay in my own lane.