It is a very natural behavior to compare yourself to others in every day life. When you throw in your own business, let alone a business where your work is judged in the eye of the beholder, it can be something you have to deal with every day. Add to that the emergence of social media, and the habit of comparing yourself to others is at an all-time high.
Why is this a problem?
It leads to negative feelings about yourself as a photographer and your business.
It leads to animosity towards other photographers.
It leads to cattiness, envy, and a lack of cooperation in the photography industry.
In short, it doesn’t help to compare yourself to other photographers.
We’ve all been there:
Gosh, she seems so busy.
His work is amazing, but mine is not so much.
How does she get people to pay that much for her photos?
She has so many Facebook fans.
Look at how many times she has been published.
These are all things that you cannot control or change, so why spend any amount of time thinking or worrying about it? Your focus needs to be on what you can control: your photography and your business.
Do men and women deal with comparison differently?
Well, of course! A man who compares will not get down on himself. Rather, he will express himself in a competitive and outward way. For instance, if he were to compare himself to another individual and feel threatened, he would push himself harder to best the other person. It is easier for him to take the focus off the other person he is comparing himself to, and bring it back to what he can do.
A woman, on the other hand, does not always express her insecurities outwardly. She internalizes it. So, when comparing to another female, it is not easy to turn things around and focus on the positives about herself. Those negative feelings then drag her down.
This difference in behaviors can been seen in young children, and it continues well into adulthood. This is due to a combination of how our brains are hard-wired and what we are taught in this society.
With females starting to dominate the photography industry, comparison leading to cattiness, envy, and a lack of cooperation is becoming quite a problem. Even some top, successful photographers feel threatened and do not want to help any other photographers better themselves and their businesses. This industry should be about working together to better ourselves as photographers and business people, but also better the entire photography industry.
How do I stop myself from doing it?
Unfortunately, there is no “off” switch when comparing ourselves to others. Since we are all human, this behavior will continue to happen.
The good news is, there are a few ways in which you can prevent yourself from being dragged down by comparison and envy.
#1 – Catch Yourself.
The best technique for combating comparing yourself to others is to catch yourself while you are doing it. More importantly, notice it before heading in a downward spiral. Your mind will naturally wander when you come across another comparable photographer. Just realize your train of thought and stop the negativity when it happens.
To take it one step further, focus your negative thoughts on what more you could be doing for your business. Consuming yourself with thoughts about another photographer is not going to help better your photography business.
#2 – Get Inspired and Learn.
Don’t envy, but rather get inspired and learn.
Yes, there are more talented and better photographers out there. There are photographers out there who run their businesses better than we do. What can you do about it? Work harder at your business and improving as a photographer. Definitely easier said than done, but it is what you can control.
I am certainly not endorsing copying their work or information on their website. But rather, what can you learn from how they run their business? How can their work inspire you as a photographer?
See if they are willing to set up a meeting with you. Tell them you are completely inspired by their work and their business and would love to sit and chat more with them in person. Hopefully, they are receptive to your request. If they are not, maybe you should rethink whether you should be looking up to them as a photographer!
#3 – Stay Positive.
Just because the photographer seems to be more talented than you or runs their business better than you do, does not mean you should not like them. Or, you may get the feeling that someone has “wronged” you if they are more successful that you are. But, many of us feel this way anyway, despite it being completely irrational.
Ever thought about sending your competition a nice note complimenting her on her work?
Think about how great you would feel afterwards! You are acknowledging and accepting the talent this other photographer has.
Find the positives in your life. If you have a bed to sleep in and food to eat, you have a lot to be thankful for. Stay positive and keep life in perspective.
#4 – Love Yourself.
Believe in yourself, accept yourself, and find your strengths. I hate to get all fluffy and corny, but this is such an important point.
If you feel good about yourself and have confidence in yourself, it will not matter how well another photographer seems to be doing. This may be the most sure-fire way to not allow the comparison to happen in the first place.
Think about people who are arrogant and cocky. They are too high on themselves to even consider comparing themselves to anyone else. While I do not think this is a healthy outlook, having a little bit of arrogance and cockiness could go a long way for your self-esteem.
Feel good about yourself, and you won’t feel the need to compare yourself to others.
And remember, you do not have the entire story.
You may look at another photographer, and think it is an equal and fair comparison between your business and his/her business. You do not know that individual’s personal situation, how much profit the business makes, or what his/her schedule is like.
What if the photographer’s strategy is to just appear busy? Brilliant marketing strategy, but not what it looks like.
What if the photographer’s prices are high but gives deals and discounts to most of their clients? Or, the photographer is spending more time and money and not making much of a profit?
Another difference is how much time someone has to focus on their photography business. For example, I know I do not have the free time many photographers do in my market, simply because I have a family to take care of while I’m running my business. I do not want to hire a nanny or send my kids to daycare in order to invest more time into my business. It’s a personal decision I’ve made for myself and my family, however that decision does restrict the time I have to grow and develop my photography business.
Focus on your situation and making the most of yourself and your time.
We are all different and unique.
This is a very important point to keep in mind. All of us are different individuals with different styles and different personalities. It is not an “apples to apples” comparison by any means.
We all have strengths and weaknesses. Your concentration needs to be on building on your strengths and improving your weaknesses. And, no matter how hard you work, accept the fact that there will always be someone better than you.
And that’s OK. Get inspired. Learn. Stay positive. Love yourself. And, catch yourself before you start down a negative path of comparing and envying.