I was reminded of something important today, to not compare myself to others.
I know this is something that has gone around a lot recently, and you might be saying, “I know this, I’ve heard it before.”
The problem is, we don’t always know that we are doing it.
As a writer, I find I’m often comparing my writing to others without even intending to. I read a particularly beautiful story, poem or blog post and I enjoy it, but at the same time I’m enjoying it, there’s this voice in my head saying, “Why can’t you write something as good as that too?”
It seems to occur with my freelance writing business as well. Some mornings while I’m drinking my tea and procrastinating work, I come across an article written by a freelance writer for Forbes or Huffington Post. Immediately start thinking about whether I could write a post like they did or why I haven’t yet or how quickly I need to start doing that.
Not only is this awkward comparison practice of mine exhausting and debilitating, it is also logically flawed. The flaw with this comparison is, I could be competing with someone who has spent thousands and thousands of hours working on freelance writing projects.
Have I spent thousands of hours writing?
I mean, most definitely, between deciding I was going to write the next Harry Potter book in fourth grade (wasn’t successful), being an English major and poetry minor in college, being a Content Intern, then Content Strategist, now Freelance Writer, I have done my fair share of writing.
But, have I spent thousands of hours writing blog posts and website content for businesses as a freelance writer?
No, and that makes me psych myself out.
I see freelance writer websites with countless writing samples and thousands of testimonials from different clients.
And, I psych myself out.
I don’t have thousands of testimonials from thousands of clients because I haven’t had thousands of clients. I don’t have hundreds of writing samples on my website because, again, I don’t have that many written (though I could dig up some bad poetry to put up there).
I haven’t spent thousands of hours working on client projects, and that makes me feel under-qualified.
Recently, though, I’ve been trying to change my thinking. Now, I say to myself, “I haven’t spent thousands of hours working on client projects yet.
It’s one simple word, but as you writers know, that can make all the difference.
I haven’t hit that mark yet, but I will one day. I don’t need to be comparing myself to other writers who have been freelancing for many years because I will probably always lose. I just need to be where I am.
That goes for anyone in any career. When you’re just out of college, people won’t be expecting you to handle yourself with the grace of a veteran in the company. Managers won’t expect the employee that is in their first week to be the employee who produces results the fastest. Just be where you are.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself to improve every day, but it does mean that you shouldn’t compare your life to anyone else’s. And you certainly shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t have as much experience as someone with 10 years more experience than you, yet we do this to ourselves all the time.
We don't need to accomplish everything this very minute. We don't even need to accomplish it all this year. We do need to take consistent steps to get better, but that doesn't have to mean putting unnecessary pressure and stress on ourselves to be something that we aren't.
Instead of comparing, take a deep breath and say, “I’m exactly where I need to be at this moment.”
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