You're Not the Best (and that's Okay)

One aspect of my overwhelming fear of failure is that when I see someone do something I can do, but much MUCH better, it makes me want to stop trying.

This is ridiculous, of course. Did I really expect to be the best guitar player? Or the best sketch artist? Or to play Moonlight Sonata better than someone who's had it memorized for years (that would be my wife)?

No. But sometimes I fool myself into thinking maybe I'm the best bass player in my church, or the best writer in my crit group. Then someone comes along in what was supposed to be MY realm, totally shows me up, and makes me wonder what I was ever doing there in the first place.

And even this is ridiculous. No matter what I do, or how small my realm is, there will always, eventually be someone better than me.*

There's the obvious lesson: Don't compare yourself to others. It's a game with no winner and one loser (you).

But there's also this: The fact that there are people better than you is a GOOD thing!

If you're close in skill level, that person can challenge you to become better.

If you're not so close, that person can educate you to become better.

And if they're so much better than you that their skills are the equivalent of MAGICAL WIZARDRY,** then at the very least they can entertain you.

So there you go. Don't compare yourself to others, but if you do (cuz it's basically impossible not to), USE IT.

* Unless my realm is just me, which is either just sad or else exactly the solution I should be looking for.

** As opposed to regular wizardry.


Hepius said...

This thinking crippled me for years. I would compare my writing to writer X, declare myself inferior, and stop writing.

It took me a very long time (Eternal Knight took 23 years to write) to realize that 1) It is impossible to be "best" and 2) I don't have to be best.

What I did have to do was to work hard and improve.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

The writing industry is like no other I've worked in, with this constant drive to compare, and an insistence (by some) that we need an external stamp of approval for our writing to be considered "good." What a fantastic way to kill the creative impulse in writers just starting on their journey (or even well along the path)! Which makes the human-observer part of me wonder if that isn't the purpose of it.

I love your challenge-educate-entertain pyramid. As I was telling the kids (in my library class), you can never be JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins. You can only be YOU. Striving for improvement in your own realm of one allows your uniqueness to shine out into the world.

And the world needs that. :)

linda said...

LOL! I suppose magical wizardry would be pretty entertaining.

I don't really consider myself to be the best at anything or have that as my goal. The closest thing I can think of is that I'm usually the tallest girl, and it does feel weird when I meet another girl who's taller than me... but then I'm not sure how you'd advise me to use that comparison. :P

What annoys me more is when there's someone who's decent enough at something and then someone else starts raving about how mind-blowingly amazing that person is when I don't think it's deserved. Or when someone doesn't recognize the quality of my work. Hm. It sounded more relevant when it was just in my head. XD

Joey Malone said...

Pretty much a common problem of mine too. Especially if it's something I'm new at or still learning. A piece of my confidence pie gets eaten by whatever or whoever I feel intimidated by. But I really like the way you put this. You have opened my eyes to a new way of looking at it.


Joshua McCune said...

Terrific post. My biggest prob w comparison is that it usually leads to false writing on my part or significant mental interference.

Victoria Dixon said...

What a great post, Adam. John Donne supposedly said "Comparisons are odious." I say supposedly because I got the quote from a piece of fiction (and had to look up the meaning of odious afterwards LOL) but I've always liked the thought. You can't stop yourself from thinking by comparison, but I love the idea of using that comparison in a positive fashion.

Wanted to tell you I voted for Pawn's Gambit and enjoyed the story. ;D

Adam Heine said...

@linda: Use that tall girl to challenge yourself! You can be taller, I believe in you! (Okay, seriously, I don't know what you can do with that ;-).

@Victoria: Thanks for quote, and I agree (both with the quote and that I've never been able to stop comparing anyway). Also thanks for the vote!

Michael LaRocca said...

Compare yourself now to yourself before, and keep on improving.

Adam Heine said...

Oo, Michael, that's a good one!

K. Marie Criddle said...

AMEN, Adam. Comparison is the antithesis of said someone a lot more confident in their work than me.

This is a really good reminder. Thanks!