If you are a creative, you’ve been there…Beating yourself up with comparisons. You see someone else’s work in the same field as you and think: They are so much better than me. Or maybe you are a writer like me, and you read another author’s work and think: I’ll never be that good! How do they keep coming up with such unique material? How do they consistently have more likes/reviews/audience traffic?

Why Do We Compare Ourselves?

We often feel ‘not enough’ as modern-day humans. I only say modern-day because that is the frame of reference we all have, but if you think about it, I’m sure even Cleopatra or Genghis Khan thought at one point or another that someone in their circle appeared to be better than them in some regard. We can look at others’ strengths and immediately compare them to our weaknesses. It’s not just you that does this. Everyone does it! We just don’t talk about it enough (is that a comparison?!)

For example, one writer friend of mine has published several highly regarded non-fiction books and is a retired English professor. In my mind, she is super successful and well-educated in our field. I wish to be like her someday. In turn, she reads my not-so-serious works of fiction and thinks I have this amazing gift of telling stories in a short, concise way. She loves the characters I create and often gives me glowing feedback while disparaging her own. We both should be over the moon with that kind of feedback. And to be fair, we are…for about five minutes. Then she’ll tell me about another author in our community who knocked it out of the park with something, and I’m immediately in comparison mode. Why do I do that? More importantly, how can I fix this seemingly bad behavior?

You Are Not Broken

The short answer is there is nothing wrong with you. You don’t need to be fixed. However, behavior can be adjusted to help us live our best lives. Let me explain with a bit of background info.

Our sense of self-worth and self-esteem is directly tied to how others perceive us. From early childhood, we are conditioned to compete with our peers. From the minute we are born to those first few days of life, we are placed on a chart of comparisons. How long were you? How much did you weigh? What percentile does that put you in? These things help doctors keep track of averages and ease our mind that our beautiful baby is healthy, but it also sets up an immediate sense of rivalry among other new parents.

I remember joining a playgroup around my first child’s second birthday. The parents were friendly, and we had many things in common. Yet, the comparison monster was strong among us. When did your baby start walking and talking? Can they count and recognize colors and sight words already? What preschool will they attend? The list goes on. Then in primary school, it was testing and ranking, SATs and colleges. My point is we humans have been creating contention among ourselves for a long time. It is built into our minds (and maybe our DNA, but I’m no scientist!) that we must be alike enough to form a community but distinct enough to set ourselves apart to appease our sense of individuality.

How Comparison Hurts

As individuals, we can do so many things, like discover fire and invent the wheel or send ourselves to other planets! But too often, especially in the age of Social Media, we can fall into the trap of harmful competition and comparison. It harms how we feel about ourselves and how others see us. When we start to feel bad about ourselves, it can often lead to depression and other illnesses. One of the most significant mental health issues of our day, in my non-expert opinion, is this feeling that we as an individual are not enough. That not-enoughness is the root of everything from anxiety to anger to feelings of despair. We jump in the hamster wheel expecting to go somewhere, only to find the faster we go doesn’t get us anywhere but exhausted and often back where we started.

Helpful Action Steps

I’m not sure we can ever break the concept of comparison, nor should we want to. Healthy competition spurs growth and invention. It’s the slippery slope into the unhealthy territory we need to keep our eye on. How do we do that? My first recommendation is mindfulness. What does that mean? Simply pay attention to your thoughts. Catch yourself when you have one of those thoughts and observe it. How does the comparison make you feel? Does it spur you on to try something different, or does it make you want to plant yourself on the couch in front of the TV with a pint of Rocky Road and a bag of Salt & Vinegar chips? You’ll know which one is the unhealthy version.

Once you’ve caught yourself and observed your reaction, try repeating a mantra or making a list. “I am good enough” is a nice easy one. Or “I am worthy of success” is fine too. List your previous accomplishments or progress on your way to your goal. Haven’t achieved much yet, or even started your goal? Well, take some action. Because let me tell you, that thing you want to do isn’t going to create itself. Those abs aren’t going to show up in front of the TV. You need to do something. One small step. Open that blank Word document, pick up that paintbrush or charcoal pencil, and put something on the page!

Actions to Stop Unhealthy Comparison

    Next, start learning your triggers. Is it Social Media? That one braggy friend? Certain shows? Stop paying attention to them, or set healthy boundaries with those you interact with.


    I attended an online seminar this week hosted by Kristen Kieffer (www.kristenkieffer.co) about finding empowerment in community. She and her co-presenter addressed limiting beliefs and mindset issues. Their advice was to find a community of like-minded individuals keen on uplifting you versus showing off what they can do better. So whether you continue hanging out on Social or work on your in-person relationships, try and find those who can help you succeed or help you recognize how you’ve already achieved. Remember: Seeking external validation as an artist or creative is okay. That’s precisely what those Influencers on Social are doing! Everyone likes to hear something nice about themselves and their work. Don’t be afraid of constructive criticism, but don’t take it to heart, either. Creativity is subjective, just like beauty. But that’s a whole other topic of conversation.

    Remember, healthy comparison can spur creativity and discovery. Unhealthy comparisons can lead to feelings of not being good enough, low self-esteem, and despair. You are good enough! We all are good enough! We all have a unique gift that the world needs. Embrace, explore it, and show gratitude for the opportunity to shine. ~ KTG

    © K.T. George 2023 | This post was first seen on ktgeorge.com


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    Comparison Kills Creativity
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    One thought on “Comparison Kills Creativity

    • March 19, 2023 at 9:12 pm

      This was spot on as far as comparisons and not just a creative persons problem. Everyone has this problem these days. Look and everyone’s Insta feeds and you’ll understand why. I like how you tried to help alleviate the unhealthy aspects by suggesting workarounds. I don’t know if there is a real cure for this problem going forward, but if we can create sound practices around this and other mental health concerns, there is hope!


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