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Journal Two: Thoughts and Writing

Comparison: Silent But Deadly

 

Comparison: Silent but Deadly

Comparison. Don't tell me you haven't struggled with it. 

That peer who is always leaning over your shoulder to get some "help" with his assignment just landed the internship you were gunning for. The cousin who continuously spams your Facebook feed with photos from the Eiffel Tower and the Isle of Skye while you're stuck in your parent's basement studying your life away for finals. The girl on Instagram who has more followers than the population number in the city you live in. The photographer who's image graced the front cover of Hello May Magazine for the wicked wedding they shot in Ireland. 

We live in a society that encourages us to constantly rank ourselves against each other. From test scores to the way we look to the amount of money in our bank accounts. It's an exhausting and damaging cycle, but it is nothing new. There are countless examples in history of people acting out of comparison and jealousy, and it has never ended happily. But it seems like it has been plaguing this generation like never before. 

Most of us have heard the phrase, "comparing your low-lights to other's highlights". Basically Social Media in a nutshell. When not approached responsibly, we can easily fall into the trap of measuring the mundane parts of our lives with the incredible, adventurous, beautiful moments both our heroes and friends share online. We're like five year olds, eyes glued to the commercial break on television, drooling over the advertisements, and breaking through the walls of the house with a holler, "Mom, I want that!" We spend far too much time coveting the things other's have. Or more often than not, appear to have. 

In the context of creativity and pursuing a career in wedding photography, this has been a struggle that I have known deeply since the beginning. It's easy to look straight at someone's success and forget that it took years of relentless practice, hundred's of thousands of junk photos, risks, tears, heart. It's never as simple as "they're more talented than me". Personally, I currently have 384 squares on my Instagram feed, but guess how many images have been imported into my editing software? 

108 807. 

That doesn't even include the other hundred thousand photos I've taken but haven't edited. It's work. So much work. And far too often I lose that perspective when I'm viewing the work of other photographers, many who started out just like I did. 

And in the process of trying to build a business, it is natural to follow the trends. To look at what others are doing and excelling in and perhaps unintentionally, replicate it. If I am completely honest, my journey with photography, up until the last few months, has been far from original. Instead of looking internally for creativity, I have been sourcing my inspiration solely from other photographers and that has lead to unintentional imitation. And although I don't necessarily believe it is wrong to incorporate some aspects you admire from other's in your own work, it is so very important to pay attention to the extent and ask yourself why you like it in the first place? 

The thing about comparison is it's often silent, but I don't think it is victimless. It hurts others and it hurts you even more. It hurts you because if you are so concentrated on the opportunities others have, you'll miss the ones sitting right in front of you. I used to feel so discouraged I didn't have mountains in my backyard, but my eyes have since been opened to the stunning and underrated beauty of New Brunswick's coastal spots. They have been photographed well by very few people, so why not make the most of the opportunity I have right in front of me? 

It hurts you because you lose sight of your purpose, your individuality, and your value. There was a point during my time at YWAM Bethlehem when I really wished I felt "called" to long-term missions. I felt this desire to go to the nations, but as I began to examine my heart more, I realized that desire was not genuine and pure and was mostly birthed from a place of comparison. I knew the Lord had made it clear that was not my path. At least for the near future anyway. 

Lastly, it hurts others because when you have a level of jealousy towards another person, it can easily lead to bitterness and distance. What will it take for us to wake up and celebrate one another's success and joy? 

And although I am far from perfect and stumble more than I wish I did, I can truthfully say comparison no longer cripples my creativity and heart close to the extent it once did. That shift did not happen by chance or time. I have been intentional about ridding myself of this disease, and I thought I would share some of the practical changes I have made in the last few months: 

1. The most significant and ground-breaking thing I have done is pray. Yes, I pray. I don't pray that the Lord will help me get over comparison (it's already implied). I pray for the people I'm jealous towards. I pray that the Lord would bless them and their businesses. Instead of trying to play the mental game of how I can become better than them, I pray that they would excel in their craft beyond imagination. I pray until there is no jealousy left in my heart. 

*So for all of the people who have found new success, I've probably been really jealous of you and the Lord has heard my prayer and blessed you (half joking). 

2. I've shifted my source of inspiration. I've narrowed down the number of photographers I follow closely and limited the amount of time I spend viewing other's work. I've been reaching back into my childhood, my values, nature, music etc. for the majority of my inspiration and have been asking myself aaaalllll of the "deep" questions in an effort to find my style and approach to my craft. These past few months have been extremely creatively stimulating since I made this change. 

3. I've STOPPED CARING ABOUT NUMBERS. That does not need to be elaborated on. You know what I'm talking about. 

4. I have re-evaluated my motivations. This is huge. My motivation for growing a successful business is no longer in the pursuit of money and fame. Those things never mattered to me, so I don't know why they had their place for a little while these past couple of years. Glad I woke up. 

I want my motivation for a successful business to be in the pursuit of growing in diligence and perseverance. To find joy in the hard work of cultivating and nuturing something I'm passionate about. The heart of my work is simply to celebrate  the undying grace I know by sharing the beauty I see in the world and help others see beauty in themselves. Period. That's it. Whatever opportunities come out of that, I'll embrace them whole-heartedly. But I have to be driven by something more valuable than opportunity alone. 

This is a journey with an unforeseeable end. I'm human. I mess up. I get stuck in my head. I put unnecessary pressure on myself. I get ungrateful. Day in and day out. But I don't have to let this rule my life. I choose to fight it. And by the grace of God, I'm starting to win. And I believe you can too, friend. 

-S

sarah kierstead