Last week a discouraged creative entrepreneur told me that she feels like everyone is doing the same thing. Why bother when there are a million talented creatives already out there?
On days when I’m feeling particularly optimistic I think we’re just lucky to be alive – that our one in a bajillion chance of even being here is our greatest accomplishment and anything else we can make or create is gravy on top. But on days when I’m feeling insecure or discouraged I know exactly how that creative I was talking to last week feels. Why bother?
For example, a couple years ago when I uncovered that I was not just passionate about branding but also coaching other creatives to live what they love, I felt like everyone and their dog was becoming a life coach. I asked myself “How many professional cheerleaders does the world need? “Who’s going to actually do the work and live the dream if everyone is just cheering from the sidelines?”
And then when I decided to launch an ECourse I felt like everyone else was already crushing it with their six-figure B-School online offering. When I fall into a comparison trap it feels like quicksand and I don’t have the energy to hustle – like Atreyu’s horse dying in the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story.
YOU’RE NOT A UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE
I’m pretty sure that discouraged designer wanted me to tell her the same thing I want to hear when I’m feeling blah about what I do and begin comparing myself to everyone else. What I want to hear is that I’m a unique snowflakes and only I possess the talent to do what I do. I want to believe it, but I just can’t buy it. Because the fact is, there are lots of other people who are successful doing what I do. But what I DO know to be true is that there is enough room for everyone to be great.
If you don’t feel like a special snowflake either, but do want to get out of your comparison trap all you have to do is change your mind. Here are some things that might help shift your perspective:
WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER BE DOING?
The creative entrepreneur I was talking to is a designer who loves design. It turns out she wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. That realization alone helped her get out of her comparison funk because there was really no alternative. But for others this question may reveal that your path needs to take a bend. When you’re doing what you really want to be doing, it doesn’t matter who else is doing it – or even doing it better.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE MARKET BUT DON’T GET SUCKED IN TO IT
It’s actually a good thing when other people are doing what you’re doing – it means there is a demand for your services. Let’s say you want to be holistic chef for a living – you get some training, you launch a website, and you start sharing your recipes. Then maybe you start following some other holistic chefs on Instagram and sign up for their newsletters. Before you know it you’re bombarded with other chefs’ work and BAM! You fall into the comparison trap.
It’s easy to feel like EVERYONE is doing what you’re doing when you follow everyone else that does what you do. My advice is to be aware of the market but maybe pick just one or two of your favorites to follow.
GIVE THE PEOPLE YOU’RE JEALOUS OF A HIGH FIVE
Nothing gets me out of my comparison trap like giving the people I’m sizing myself up against kudos for doing such a damn good job. But even if the compliment isn’t reciprocated that’s okay too. It’s more about me recognizing that other people can do great work and it doesn’t detract from what I’m doing. You can give someone you’re jealous of a “high-five” by giving them a shout-out on your blog, telling them how much you like them on Instagram, or even purchasing one of their products.
TIME IS GOING TO PASS ANYWAY – YOU MIGHT AS WELL MAKE SOMETHING
I mean… let’s say you give up and decide not to be a creative entrepreneur anymore because too many other people already have it covered. Then what? Every time I think about “quitting my job” I imagine hiding under a rock for about 36 hours, brainstorming something I could make, design, create, launch, and ship while I’m under that rock, then crawling out from under my rock so I can get back to work. (This also goes back to asking yourself what you’d rather be doing – the answer to that question will always come to the surface when you’re hiding under a rock).
WHAT IF BEYONCÉ THOUGHT “WHY BOTHER?”
I mean … c’mon. What if Beyoncé was all “Well, I mean… Tina Turner, Britney, Lady Gaga, Pink, and Madonna already have it covered. Why bother?” Enough said.
GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND DO THE WORK
Finally, if you’re busy doing the work, honing your craft, and making something you’re proud of, you won’t have time to compare yourself to everyone else. Get back to your hands. Put pen to paper. Or mouse to screen. Get into your creative process – go, make, do!
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Okay, so while I don’t believe the work we do makes us unique snowflakes, I do think who we are is pretty damn special. And I know that when we show up as ourselves 100% of the time, we attract the dreamiest of clients – the ones who believe we’re the only ones who can really help them and “get” them. That’s what personal branding is all about – being who you are in business. Because the blend of you the person + what you do, isn’t something anyone else can do the same.