When you try to make new things, it's tempting to see how others do the same work as you.
But, there is a downside to this approach. When you compare the quality of your work, or how rich and successful you are compared to others, you are bound to feel unhappy and dissatisfied with yourself.
For every artist, there is always another artist who is more popular than him, or more rich than him.
If you always search for someone with whom you can compete with, then you will never be able to produce your best work.
When you compare yourself to others in terms of how many twitter followers you have, or how many five star reviews you have, your focus is on gaining more followers or more reviews for your products. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you spend too much time obsessed about these numbers, you won't have enough time to practice your craft, and you will miss the most important thing that you need to succeed - gaining mastery in your chosen field.
When you compare your work with someone more experienced than you, then you may feel disappointed as your work may not be of same quality as those of that experienced person. And when you compare your work with someone less experienced than you, then you may feel egoistic that your work is better than theirs.
Both these comparisons are bad for you as an artist.
The first approach makes you feel your work is worthless and demotivates you. And it may even make you abandon your work, thinking that nothing good will ever come of it. It may also make you jealous of your fellow artists, or angry about yourself that you are not as talented as others.
The second approach makes you feel that you have already reached the highest stage of your work, and there is nothing more to learn, which may make you stop your learning and thus stall your growth as an artist.
If both these approaches don't work, then how should you compare your work? Sure, there has to be some way to check if you are moving in the right direction.
Fortunately, there is. And it's to compare your present work only with your own previous works. Or, to put this a different way, to compete only with yourself.
When you compete with yourself, you get many benefits which you don't get when you compete with others. Here are few of them:
You can measure how much you have improved
When you compare your earlier work with your present work, you can see the improvements for yourself. You can see the areas in which you have become better, and the areas in which you need to focus more. You can compare how efficient your output is, and how much time it takes you now to do the same work.
You can understand what you did right
As you gain experience, you can clearly see what has worked for you in past, and what turned out to be a waste of time. Focus more on what went right and how you can repeat it again.
You feel better about yourself
When you see that your work is of higher quality than it was before, you feel a sense of accomplishment, and it makes you feel good about yourself. You feel you are turning into a pro, and that makes you act like a pro and do your work every day.
You aren't jealous of others' success
You no longer feel jealous when you see others succeed in the same field as yours, as it only reconfirms that there is a chance for you, too, to succeed. And this drives you to keep working harder and become successful yourself.
You aren't angry with yourself
When you compare your work with others, you become angry when you can't produce the same quality work as them. But when you compare only with your earlier work, you don't feel any anger, as you are getting better every day, and you are happy to grow at your own pace.
You become positive in your approach
You focus more on what helps you to grow, and not what others think you should do. You discard the negative energies around you to do the work that's important to you. You start to think in terms of what is possible, and what steps you can take to achieve it, and not that it will never work and you shouldn't even try.
You think about excelling further in your craft
When the only one to compete with is yourself, you only focus on getting better than what you are now. As you don't have to beat anyone, and you don't have to be better than anyone, you try to beat your own standards every time. And as you don't compare your work with others, there is no limit to how far you can grow, as some day you may even beat all your competition, and yet be unaware of it as you only compete with yourself.
You invest in resources that suit you
When you know what you need to do to improve your work, you invest in the resources that's right for you. Whether it's writing, designing, or programming, each field is so vast that you can never learn every thing about it. But when your only competition is yourself, you know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. And so you can focus upon only those resources that help you to achieve your personal goals.
You form your own definition of success
Your goals and definition of success are unique to you. You don't have to be as rich or famous as someone else. You only have to be as much successful and happy in life as you want to be. For you, success may mean having a creative, happy, and healthy life, and not necessarily a lavish or famous life. So you work to satisfy your own definition of success, and not someone else's.
You see the path you have to follow
When you look at your own journey, you can see the ups and downs in your life. If you look close, you can also see the path which led you to where you are now. If that path worked for you, you can continue to follow it, and if not, then you can always take a new one to reach your goals.
The key to self-mastery
You are unique and special in many ways. But you lose this uniqueness when you start comparing yourself to others and compete with them. You can live with this uniqueness, if you compete only with yourself, and then use your unique skills and talents to find new opportunities that are relevant to you.
Make your present work better than your previous one. And keep doing that every day. Soon, you'll see improvements in your work, and what's even better, you will feel this improvement in your work. Then you won't have to ask anyone to rate your work, because deep inside you'll know that you are doing the right thing, and moving ahead at the right speed.
You go beyond praise and criticism, when you learn to judge your own work and try to beat your own quality every time.
Mastery in any field comes when you compete with yourself. That's the only competition you should care about, and try to win, every day.
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