I used to be a very narcissistic kid. It’s not even funny. I had no serious competition, and others kept telling me how awesome I was at drawing. I’ve always been known as “Andrea, the girl who draws well“, got accused by older kids for tracing my own drawings, and teachers favored me. In elementary school the principal even officially announced me as “The best artist during his entire carreer“. So flattering but ghah, the cringes. Damn, you can’t imagine what all this did to my ego.
Oh, and it got worse.
I felt unstoppable when growing up. I’m gonna get rich and famous, I won’t even have to work for it, cause I was born perfect! I’m gonna rule the world MUHAHAHAHAH!!
Then I discovered internet. And the early art communities. Crash and burn, baby. Many awesome artists there were extremely skilled, and many were even younger than me. This messed with my head, because believe it or not, I honestly thought for so long that I was a prodigy. World peace will be because of me and Oprah was gonna call me any day.
I don’t even know what to say about that. Oh god I wanna go hide somewhere.. Well, reality proved me wrong of course. Luckily…
Compared to those who never drew, I was way ahead. Technically. Since I “had no life” and drew every day, haha. But seeing other serious artists and their technical skills, I was barely average. Suddenly I felt small, and for the first time I felt defeated. I’ve never really felt that way before about my art. I started to shift. Developed a huge complex, and along came…
Constantly comparing myself to others.
Since the age of 13, I’ve suffered heavily because of my faulty elitist mindset when it came to art. I would never feel the same joy for drawing again.
Maybe you can relate to my story, maybe you’ve even had the same experience like me? Either way, I’m pretty sure that all of us will experience this at some time. Feeling intimidated and discouraged.
What a destructive way of thinking! Sure, a bit of competition may be helpful sometimes, but it’s very easy to tip over into that downwards spiral. I envied the ones who were younger, more experienced, skilled and seemed more successful than me. I hated them, and I hated myself because of it.
Can we change this?
Not until these past years have I somehow begun to overcome this. And you can too! I know you may not feel like that right now, but here’s the thing: It’s such a cliché but a way to change this is to realize that you are unique. Your stories are unique, and there’s only one of YOU in the entire world. Nobody can replace you, and you can’t replace someone else. There’s plenty of room for everyone. It is possible to find that healthy balance that instead of holding us back, actually motivates us.
Checklist to practice a healthier mindset about your own and others art
- Dare to praise those awesome artists
We need to keep getting something into our twisted heads: we won’t look bad just because we praise or mention those successful artists. It’s a myth! Others success is not your setback. I’m using this as my mantra nowadays to remind me of that simple fact.
- See others art as inspiration rather than competition
Oh, this is a tough one. We get bombarded by tons of awesome art as soon as we browse online. We need to remember that those pieces are most often their best work, and we don’t get to see the “failed” ones. Some days you just want to quit all together, because it’s so discouraging… How can we avoid this? Instead, view others art as inspiration and guidelines. You may actually have found a shortcut, right there. They already invented the wheel, and that’s to your advantage. If they could do it, then you can too! Try to figure out their approach.
- Learn to know the person behind the art
Yes. even successful artists eat, sleep and poop like everyone else. Having their own background, personal stories and struggles. I’ve learned that somehow, back when I barely knew any other artist in person. Only looking at others awesome art, I took for granted that they all live this perfect life. Everything comes easy for them, and they are probably all cocky and self-centered and.. Yeah your mind wanders off very easily, doesn’t it. Snap yourslelf out of it! Nobody is perfect, and behind that awesome art there’s an actual person with interesting thoughts and concerns. Focus on that first. Who are they, really? If you meet them, try to talk about other things as well than just their art. Not only will you see an actual person, but your main focus will slowly shift as well. Empathy might eventually silence that competitive mindset for good.