I don’t think I remember the first time that I experienced it, probably because it seemed harmless. Before I really began my photography business, I always loved photography and began following the work of many photographers that I loved. I loved seeing the beautiful brides, pretty faces, amazing landscapes and everything else show up on my newsfeed. Of course, at that time, I knew there was absolutely no way that I could ever create something that beautiful from a camera, so I didn’t really compare myself to them necessarily.
Then, in January of 2012, I got serious about this wedding photography thing. I booked 4 weddings my first year and was determined to do whatever that I had to do to make it in the business. I thought a part of that should be networking (and it should). I followed so many photographers, studied their images to see how they made the light happen, what poses they put the couple in, etc. It all seemed so harmless.
Then, the comparison game began. All of the sudden, when I began looking at the images of other photographers, I automatically compared my work to theirs and the result wasn’t pretty. In the beginning I would feel down about myself, I would start complaining to Scott (my husband) about my work and how it would never be good enough and how I shouldn’t be a photographer. I would worry that my clients would take one look at my blog and then look at Katelyn James or another industry leader and laugh at how I think I could compete in this industry – maybe they would even ask for their money back. The feeling was definitely not good, but it was definitely a motivator to improve. I was determined to improve.
There’s a significant problem with that whole thing, though. Before I realized it, my self-worth and my identity quickly got wrapped up in this photography thing. Every time I was on Facebook and other photographer’s work popped up, I deflated a little because I had put all of my hope and identity in this idea of being an amazing photographer. Not only that, but I was jealous. Jealousy is not a cute thing to be hanging around with you, it poisons possible friendships, makes you feel negative about yourself, and can only really lead to bad places.
Fast forward to now. I still deal with this ugly jealousy/comparison thing – but it’s a little more real and I have to actually do something about it these days. Why? Because I have real and true friends in this industry that I am so extremely thankful for. I have some seriously amazing ladies that are photographers and I know they would do anything for me, and I hope they know I would do anything for them. Once these people were in my life – I realized that I can’t play the comparison game with them because it just produces ugliness and jealousy that can really poison friendships. I’m not going to pretend that I’m perfect and like I have it all figured out with comparison, because it’s a battle that I always have to fight – but now I know that it’s not worth giving into. Friendship and community should always trump comparison and jealousy.
So, in the spirit of fighting comparison, here are some practical steps that I’ve taken to be conscious of my mind wandering to comparison:
- Unfollow the folks on Facebook that are photographers that you don’t know personally, or tend to create the jealousy monster in you. At least for a little while until you can refocus your heart and thoughts on growing yourself without comparing yourself to them. I no longer follow many photographers that are industry leaders because I realized it just produced ugliness in me, or I would obsessively follow them to see what secrets to photography they would lead on their blog. Neither attitude was really that healthy.
- Go out to coffee with another photographer in the industry and get to know them without perusing their blog to see “how good they are”. Just simply be kind and enjoy a possible friendship.
- Create a referral group of folks who are in your similar price point, style, etc. Ever since I’ve done this, it’s made me more invested in these ladies business’ that are in my referral group and has led me to be really excited about their businesses and what they’re doing without jealousy or comparison
- Root for your friends to succeed, or root for someone that’s near your level to succeed. I’ve also made it a point to stop obsessively fan-girl commenting on the blog of really successful photographers (I’m never really sure my motivations were that good in doing that). Instead, I’ve started trying to comment and celebrate the folks that are like me, my girls on my referral list, etc.
- Join a Tuesdays Together group where you can take the focus from yourself and put it instead on building a community of creatives in your local area.
If you can’t tell, the main thing that has helped me overcome comparison, is to stop focusing on myself so much, and to instead celebrate others and place their joy in front of mine. When I value other people the way they ought to be valued, you can’t be upset with them for having a better image than you, a better office, better styling, etc. Instead, you’re just happy for them – and you celebrate them and you look at your to-do list and do what’s next instead of worrying about doing what they’re doing.
To conclude, I just want to leave you with a quote that captures the essence of what I’ve said.
“If you want to experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation, pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used by God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice in their success.” – Dallas Willard
Pictured: one of my most precious photog friends 🙂