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Conquering the Comparison Game as a Creative

December 2, 2021

I’ll never forget the first time I compared my work to someone else’s.  Up until that point, I’d just been exploring the world of creativity, snapping pictures as a side hustle.  I very much remember the feeling of standing behind a lens and wondering what the heck I was doing. I barely knew how to […]

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I’ll never forget the first time I compared my work to someone else’s. 

Up until that point, I’d just been exploring the world of creativity, snapping pictures as a side hustle.  I very much remember the feeling of standing behind a lens and wondering what the heck I was doing. I barely knew how to change modes on the screen, much less how to adjust aperture and make my vision come to life. But that felt exciting and fun, mostly! I had soooo much to learn, but I couldn’t wait to learn all of it. As much as I loved teaching, I dreamed of growing my photography expertise so I could grow my little business into a full-time gig one day! 

But then, I saw a preview of another photographer’s shoot, and I felt it for the first time – that icky feeling in my gut and that little whisper in my ear. “Look how amazing those photos are! And you don’t even know all of your camera settings yet! Do you really think you could make this your career?”

Here’s the real kicker: it wasn’t even about that other photographer’s work, although it was beautiful. It was my own self-doubt who was driving the crazy train, whispering those lies that I’d never make it. It was my fear of failure that was trying to sit me down and tell me to never, ever try again. 

That’s the truth, isn’t it? Comparison is preeeetty much never about the person we’re comparing ourselves to. It’s about conquering the insecurities that are in our own hearts. If we’re gonna win this game, we’ve got to remember who the opponent is. And, psssst, here’s the ultimate secret: the opponent is not other creative people.

Win to win that comparison game once and for all? I’m with you, girl! Here’s the game plan: 

Step 1: Remember who we’re playing against. 

Photographers – and heck, all creatives – are all just out here trying our best. This job is so fun, but it can really have some hard days. We should never make those days even harder by going up against each other! I want us all to win. And I really believe we can! So next time you’re scrolling through Instagram and see a photo shoot that sends your fears flyin’ into the front of your mind, sit them down and have a nice little talk. Remind them that there’s plenty of room at this table, so there’s no need to fear other lovely, talented photographers. There’s also no need to know everything and be “the perfect photographer,” because, whoops, she doesn’t exist. Of course there’s more out there to learn! That’s what keeps this whole thing interesting – we get to keep growing our craft for our whole dang lives. 

Step 2: Don’t compare, collaborate.

If you’re looking at other people’s work and feeling juuust a little inadequate, don’t despair. Learn! So many successful photographers offer courses, weekend workshops, blogs, and YouTube videos that were designed and written with the express purpose of educating the rest of us! Take advantage of all the great resources out there these days. Aren’t we thankful for the internet?! So much good content to help us along the way. 

On top of that, I’d highly recommend building friendships with the photographers around you, whether that’s locally or online. Like I said, there’s room for all of us – and when we can drop the comparison game, we’re free to actually collaborate. Learn from each other’s amazing successes and big ol’ failures. Lean on each other when it gets tough! Talk about presets, pricing, promoting yourselves on social media – or whatever else you’re struggling with in your business. Heck, you could even style and shoot a photo session together! 

Owning a creative company can get lonely. Don’t be afraid to let other photographers into your world! They might just be the ones who get you through the hard days. And while you’re letting them into your world, cheer them on in theirs! There’s nothing better than truly being happy for others when they shine, knowing that you shine in your own way, too. 

Step 3: Get creative again. 

Anyone else notice that insecurity tends to pop up most when you’re overwhelmed and overworked? *raises hand* Yep, stress makes me compare myself to others like nothing else ever could. When I feel that coming on, I know it’s time to take a step back and remember why in the world I started doing this. 

Grab your camera and go for a walk, capturing whatever you see. Obviously, you’re not getting paid for this session. That’s kiiiind of the point. When we get so bogged down in the details of the job, we forget that we actually love to do this. Sometimes, it’s just snapping photos of my everyday life, my kids, or my neighborhood that reminds me that life behind my lens is pretty good. 

The world needs your voice, your angle, your particular way of capturing beauty. Take a little time away from your camera if you need to and write, draw, paint, or color instead. However you choose to do it, get in touch with that inner creator in you. She’s in there. She’s probably just tired, and that’s why she’s freaking out that everyone else is better than her. Comparison and burnout go hand in hand, so don’t forget to take care of yourself. 

It’s really just a simple three-step game plan that’ll get comparison out of your brain and out of your life. First, remember that other people aren’t the issue, sis. Then, get yourself a creative community. If you’re reading this, I hope you consider me one of your photog friends! And finally, take care of yourself, and take some time to find the joy of creating again. I believe in you, friend. There’s plenty of room in the world for you and your work to absolutely shine. 

Need a little help finding your spark so your business can shine? Girl, I know what you should do. 

Join the waitlist for January’s session of Art and Heart, my online photography academy! >>

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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