Stop Looking Out, Start Looking In
It’s easier than ever to compare ourselves to others. And for me, this has extended to comparing myself to others in my creative field.
With the internet at our fingertips, image-overloaded social media apps, and screens everywhere, we wake up and go to sleep watching how other people work and live (or watching people selectively share moments from their lives). It’s freakishly easy to get sucked into the comparison trap and start walking someone else’s path.
I’ve done it myself, and I’ve received countless emails from design students who are worried they’re doing the same. And then I’ve had people asking me how I got where I have and that’s a whole other level of mind-blowing. If I had to answer for myself, I’d have to say I got where I did quickly not because of anything I did, but rather because of what doing things taught me about myself.
I’ve learned how to embrace my unfair advantage and optimize the things I’m good at, and find solutions or deter my work away from the things I’m bad at.
The Huffington Post recently published the article To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind in Life, and I couldn’t help but nod as I read along, and it seemed relevant to this post, so I wanted to share a nugget from it that might be relevant:
We act as if we can read enough articles and enough little Pinterest quotes and suddenly the little switch in our brain will put us into action. But, honestly, here’s the thing that nobody really talks about when it comes to success and motivation and willpower and goals and productivity and all those little buzzwords that have come into popularity: you are as you are until you’re not. You change when you want to change. You put your ideas into action in the timing that is best. That’s just how it happens.
And what I think we all need, and also never needed to begin with, is permission to be wherever the fuck we are. We need to start thinking of ourselves as our best resource, and thinking less about how other people are going about it. We need to tap into ourselves to discover our unique traits, optimize our unfair advantages, and work within our natural mode of operating.
So, how do you do that? In short, if I had to break it down into steps, it’d be:
- Considering every natural skill or penchant—both tangible ones, like musical ability, and intangible ones, like the ability to multi-task.
- In a few sentences, defining a broad description of your unique value proposition. Perhaps you’re naturally good at organizing, or you’re like me and you’re good at creating stories or visuals.
- Making note of the traits deemed negative. And see if any can be optimized to find a flip-side strength. For example, I am unfocused. But that means I’m good at multi-tasking and have a great oversight of my projects, with the ability to zoom out or hone in on different areas of my work and life.
- Realize your value, and share that. In short, be yourself. No matter who you look up to, who you follow on Instagram, where you are in life and what you do, never strip yourself out of the equation. Rather, use yourself: take advantage of your natural abilities, strengths and be honest about your hang-ups, and then start putting it out there.