The Comparison Game: Is Healthy Comparison a Thing?
By Mandy Faucher of A Heartened Calling
Have you ever heard that quote “Comparison is the thief of joy”? Most of us probably have. I think Theodore Roosevelt hit the nail on the head when he stated this. Let me ask you, what is the job of a thief? I know your answer! To rob someone! And yup, you’re right! That’s just what unhealthy comparison does, it robs us of our joy, of our happiness. It leaves us feeling empty, like there is this void. Those thoughts come into our head and we let them rob us of something that is so truly vital in our lives, including our creativity.
But wait, you may be asking why I said UNHEALTHY comparison earlier? Can there be such thing as HEALTHY comparison? I think there can. Let me explain that. I fell in love with the hand lettering world in January 2016. When I first started, there were SO many artists I came across, as well as SO much information out there to learn. It really was daunting for me to try and soak all that in right away. So I decided it would be best to focus in on learning how to use just the Tombow Dual Brush pens I had, and follow a particular lettering artist that was super talented with these pens. I was absolutely floored by her talent, and wanted to learn how she lettered. I also felt my lettering was very similar to hers. So I thought in order to LEARN how to better myself, I would practice by lettering pieces of hers here and there (this was before I found out there were lettering challenges and I hadn’t really found any brush lettering resources yet!). I would try to copy how she did her lettering piece, and then I pushed myself to do redo it MY way. I did that EVERY time. I did not ever post a picture publicly, it was strictly for me to learn and grow. I knew it was THEIR work, THEIR talent, and not mine. But I knew I also needed to learn how to do it, and sometimes for me, watching someone in action is the best way for me to learn. I believe that can be healthy comparison. It’s ok to see the differences in others, compare them to yourself, and then use it to push yourself forward to grow and learn new things!
But I would be lying if I told you that since then, I haven’t fell into unhealthy comparison. Because I did. I had definitely seen improvements in my lettering, and was pretty proud of how far I had come. But it seemed the more I scrolled through Instagram, the more I searched lettering on Pinterest, the more people I followed because they were talented at what they did, the more I started doubting myself. I started to look at myself and my Instagram account differently. I was happy to sit down and letter, but the TRUE joy of doing it was diminishing. I started to look at others and their journey and compared it to where I was. I’d see someone’s Etsy shop have hundreds of sales in a matter of months; I had 2, so I thought my work wasn’t good enough to sell. I’d see someone I was following gain thousands of followers in a matter of weeks; for every follower I got, I seemed to lose about 10 and my count actually dropped, so I thought no one liked my work and wanted to follow me. I’d see all these relationships growing between letterers and stories of people becoming friends outside of social media and talk with one another through the week; I was trying to do that but would not get the response back I thought I would, so I thought I was never going to have any lettering friends. The list goes on... I got stuck in a rut, and I started to hate my lettering. I started to tell myself I just wasn’t good enough. I’d research and read that this book or class would help, tried them, and still felt the same. Nothing was helping me.
Then one day I had a realization that it was ME who had to help ME. I was crushing myself. And a simple statement helped me realize that. I honestly cannot remember the article I read or what it was about, because all I could remember was reading this: “End of Construction….Thank you for your patience.” This was engraved on Ruth Graham Bell’s gravestone (wife of Billy Graham). I know it has nothing to do with comparison, but this statement just spoke to me. I realized that life is kind of like construction. And it ends when I do, literally the day I die! There is always going to be something new to learn, something to fix, something to make better. And where I am at with hand lettering, it is a construction zone. I couldn’t compare myself to someone else’s construction zone! We are all created differently, there isn’t a single person on the planet that is me. And there isn’t a single person on the planet that is you. My life has had different experiences, different adventures, different people, and no one else has had that except me. No matter in what area, including hand lettering, I couldn’t possibly be the same as someone else! So why was I trying so hard to?
I had to capture those stinkin’ thoughts that would come in and refuse to let them take hold of me. It’s a lot of mental work! I had to look at lettering in a new light, I had to compare myself with only one person, MYSELF. I had to change my mindset. I cut back time on social media and took a break from Pinterest. I needed to get back into lettering MY way, like when I had first started out. I needed to challenge myself to just be me. But I felt I had a ways to go in gaining my confidence back. And then along came this class by Kiley called the Unexpected Lettering Class. I saw the announcement on Instagram that day, and started scrolling past until the words “frustrated, stuck artist” popped off the screen. It peeked my curiosity since I was just in that place! After reading that this class was designed for the artist who felt stuck, and wanted to find their own personal style in lettering, I just had this instant knowing that I needed this. I had told myself I didn’t want to do any classes or get books until I knew I had my confidence back, but there was just something about this class! I KNEW I had to do it! It was extremely timely for me, and to be honest, it didn’t even feel like a class. It felt like I was being guided to rediscover myself, to learn the things that make me, ME.I learned to develop my own style with my lettering, and I started to regain my confidence back. I was learning to love my lettering again! It’s been a couple months now since I’ve completed that class. I have gained enough confidence back in myself to refocus on my lettering business, and even launch a website and blog! I am loving that my lettering is different than anyone else’s, and I love all the things that make me, ME!
With changing my mindset and the help of this class, I can honestly say I am out of the comparison woods! That TRUE joy of lettering has returned for me. That joy of creating something just because I LOVE lettering, and not to try and impress anyone else on social media is back. I may still not have a lot of sales on Etsy, or have a big following on IG. But that isn’t the point and why I started lettering. Because I have made this a business for me, I do have to focus on growing, but the second I start letting those stinkin’ thoughts come in I have to tell myself I need to put more work and effort into getting myself out there. It’s NOT because I am not good enough! I also make an effort to compete with MYSELF. I have always kept every piece of lettering I have ever done. It is a HUGE motivator for me to pull out a piece I did just a few months into lettering and compare it to something I JUST did. The progress is incredible to me, and helps me to push forward!
So how about you, do you struggle with comparison? One thing that has helped me when comparison starts to sneak in is this: Accept the reality that there will be more talented people in this world than me. And that is how it should be! Because if we were all the same, it would be quite boring wouldn’t it? Think of it, if we were all made exactly the same, we wouldn’t ever be amazed at anything anymore! If I lettered the same as everyone else, scrolling through that Instagram feed would be boring after seeing about 4 pictures! I wouldn’t get to see someone in their construction zone take a brush pen and use it in a way I never thought I would see! I would never get to witness their creativity knock my socks off! I would never get to encourage them by saying “You work is STUNNING!”. I would never get to be inspired by them, be encouraged by them, or learn from them! We would never be able to spur each other on, and push each other with all the amazing creativity that is out there! Instead of our creativity being limitless, it would be LIMITED. And that would just be awful. And you know what? You know those people you admire and follow and are crushing it out there and are super talented in their field? THEY struggle with comparison and self doubt too! At the time I’m writing this, I have read a few posts from major talented lettering artists I follow where they genuinely shared they had fallen into the comparison trap too! None of us are immune to it! So I encourage you to tweak your mindset when you look at others. Embrace the creativity that is theirs, then embrace yours for being unlike any other! There is something in you that the world needs! Don’t let comparison crush who you are meant to be!
As my gift to you, head over to my website to print off an 8x10 piece to remind you that it is so important to be YOU!