Do you ever love something so much you actually hate it?
Example: Amazing book. Tears out your heart. Shreds it with sharp fingernails and hands it back to you with a serving of thematic truth, raw emotions, and a glaze of carefully crafted prose and self-doubt.
Because how could you ever write a similar book? How can you reach that level of skill?
You learned a dozen new things. Now all your works in progress need to be scrapped and restarted. You’ll never finish anything. You probably miscalculated your passion years back and shouldn’t even be a writer.
It might be writing. It might be in relationships. It might be in marketing or coaching or baking or raising children.
Most of us try, subconsciously, to prove that we’re worthwhile by comparing ourselves to others. Until we invariably find someone better than us, at which point we must now be the most terrible person who exists.
Comparison is the death of confidence
I’ve dealt with it for ages.
Life is annoying like that, and struggles come in repeated cycles instead of being an ‘over and done’ deal.
Sure, we grow and learn. But invasive thoughts don’t give up easily. They’re going to come back again and again.
What we can do is get better at recognizing these thoughts and more prepared with answers for them.
For me, this looks like reading amazing books (like Red Rising) without hating my own work. I’m not perfect at it, but I have three techniques I tend to use once I catch myself.
1. I focus on what is important
I force myself to remember what’s actually important in what I’m doing and where I am. Eventually, this always comes back to God.
I’m here to serve Him, be it in writing, in life, or in relationships. The more focus on who I should be becoming and what I ought to be doing from God’s perspective, the more another author’s writing slips into its proper perspective—it may be beautiful but is neither the start nor end of my world.
2. I remember my goals
I focus first on life and writing goals, which ties in nicely with the last point.
My reason for writing isn’t simply to hand out emotional trauma or create the best book ever written. When I remind myself why I write, I can focus on what actually matters.
I should be growing as a writer, but that’s hardly the whole story.
Secondly, I look at my goal for whatever current work in progress I’m stressing out about.
Maybe using the new technique for suspense I just learned, or teasing out variations of a particular emotional twist will help my current WIP.
But then again, maybe the theme of my book doesn’t call for that level of emotional angst. Or maybe I’m trying to reach a different audience than the target readers of the raw, gritty, sci-fi fantasy I just read.
There are a thousand paths to a thousand different destinations when it comes to writing.
Each tool and twist and technique we learn is important in its place, but we need to figure out where that place is and if it will raise up our current story or bog it down.
3. I stop comparing myself to others
It doesn’t happen overnight, let me tell you. I’ve struggled with comparing myself to others for as long as I can remember.
There’s always someone who writes better prose. Who crafts better stories. Who’s a better youth coach. Who relates better to others.
It’s true too. Each person is unique. Everyone has their own strengths. And everyone I look at will likely be better than me in some area of their life, just like I’ll probably be better than them in other areas.
Neither side of that equation matters.
What matters is who we are compared to who we were. What matters is who we are compared to where God wants us to be.
That’s literally it.
Yes, we learn from others. We recognize where others are better. But it shouldn’t drive us into a spiral of ‘well, they’re better so I must be terrible.’
Their strengths have been given to them by God. They’re on their own journey with their own goals. But their journey isn’t your journey or my journey.
We can’t compare ourselves to them because it honestly doesn’t matter. If we are growing, and if we are where God wants us to be, that is what matters.
When struggles cycle back around
Something like comparison doesn’t go away with a single realization. It might take a break, but it will come back.
I can tell you this though, the more you wrestle with it, the easier you’ll be able to identify struggles and work to set yourself up for victory.
Write down your focuses. Write down your goals. Create an inspirational speech for your eyes only if need be.
Constantly go back to remind yourself who you are in God, why writing (or anything else in life) is important, and why you matter (hint: it’s not because you’re the best.)
Where do you struggle with comparison in your life? Comment below and let’s chat!