In 2012, I returned to school for my bachelor’s in graphic design. It’s also the year I was given my first DSLR camera. At that point, my desire to learn and perfect my crafts turned into an obsession. I sought out social media sites and educational platforms that could feed the fire burning in my stomach. Every time a professor would recommend a person or company to follow, I clicked the like button.
My passion turned to fixation. A switch flipped and suddenly I was no longer learning. I was frozen in place.
Wake up your phone. Now, look at the accounts you follow on Instagram or other social media platforms. They’re perfect, aren’t they? Far better than your own. It’s like the people behind them were born perfect.
There it is. That doubt, fear, and perception based on the filters we use in the fake world. That’s mostly what the internet world has become…fake. Some would argue it’s the only place to truly be yourself, but I say no to the thought. The internet is where we go to be perfect or incredibly cruel — neither of which would be so appealing if it wasn’t for the anonymity of the screen.
The people behind those perfect accounts you follow were not born perfect. Even if they have mastered their craft, they still aren’t perfect. They just didn’t post their flaws.
How It Affects Creative Growth
Here’s the thing: even if our heroes talk about their flaws, we have our own perception filters to work around. We’ve seen and idolized the flawless face they originally put forward and we can’t unsee it. When our idols tell us about what it took to make it, all we can hear in our head is, “Yeah, but I’ll never be as good as them.”
That mantra played over and over in my head for years. If I’m honest, it still plays from time to time, but I’ve learned to control the volume. When you allow the volume to be loud, eventually, the mantra wins. Once it wins, we only see perfection in the people we use for education and the images we look at for inspiration. Then, we freeze. We stop growing because our inspiration has embedded fear into our brains and hearts.
Stopping the Cycle
I finally saw what was happening to me. It took a long time, and I can’t say I know the exact moment I figured it out, but I saw the horrible cycle I was in. I saw my desire to learn and grow was feeding my fear of failure. I realized that my life wasn’t an Instagram account. I had to give myself some grace.
I did this in one simple step: I stopped comparing myself to others. Simple to say, difficult to do, but it can be done.
Start by blocking out all that perfection. Take a break from social media or unfollow the people you are using for inspiration. Start following people in other genres where you can’t compare yourself. It’s like switching from apples and apples to onions and apples.
Now just practice what you have already learned. When you don’t really have to think hard about a particular technique, you’re ready to move on. Just don’t hop back on the comparison wagon. Head straight to YouTube or some other educational platform to get right into the learning process. When you’ve learned it, practice it. Forget about going to find inspiration. Just focus on you, the technique, and your own style.
You are probably ready to look for inspiration again once you get to the place where you can look at your own work and can see where it needs improvement but are still able to admit that it is good. I do this the most with my photography. I can look at my image and see where I would want to improve it. At the same time, I can be excited by what I just created.
Your life is not an Instagram account. Perfection is not the norm, but failures, struggles, and stumbles are. Use them to grow, give yourself some grace, and then move on. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are unique. Own it and use it to build yourself up instead of using it to tear yourself down.
Want an environment free of comparison? Interested in cooking or feeding a household with multiple eating styles? Join Lisa in her Facebook group, The Chews Letter Table. Get recipes, tips, and support for all eating habits.
Lisa Anderson is the owner and creative director of The Chews Letter, a digital magazine about food and celebrating dietary diversity. Lisa has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and over three years of experience in the magazine industry. Her photography, designs, and writing can be found in such publications as Designer Original, In Fitness and In Health, and multiple community magazines in Central Florida. Visit The Chews Letter website for more of Lisa’s recipes, articles, designs, and food-inspired merchandise.