Comparison is the Thief of Joy

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog: Comparison is the Thief of Joy

This is not (I realize) a new thought. But wow, is it true.

Kristine begins by telling a personal story. I will add: I would never in a million years audition for any form of performance role. Being an instructor in front of a classroom full of students is fine. Being a panelist at a convention is fine. Performance in a role, no way, not fine in the least.

Of course, the basic idea — that comparing yourself to others is not a happy path — is true regardless. She says:

The writers I’ve been around, particularly those with some success, often compare themselves to others like this: I’m more talented than XYZ Bestselling writer. How come he has all the luck? And then they try to explain it to themselves, often with a result like this:

Oh, he’s successful because he dumbs his work down for the masses.Or, he’s successful because he sucks up to everyone in power (in traditional publishing).

He’s never successful because of his abilities—not to that person. Not that it matters, either. In the arts, comparing two artists isn’t fair. They’re different. They’re on different paths.

This is indeed an insidious frame of mind. This is true whether you tend to be envious of other people’s supposedly undeserved success or envious of their acknowledged skills and simultaneously self-denigrating regarding your own. The latter isn’t as bad — it’s not mean-spirited — but it’s not helpful.

Long post, but here’s Kristine’s basic conclusion:

I know a lot of you have that problem. Most of you compare and find something wanting in yourself or you figure that the other person (persons?) cheated somehow and that’s why they’re doing better. The problem isn’t that they’re doing better (which might be a perception thing) or because they’re more talented or because they try harder. The problem is that you’re comparing. …

We don’t have enough joy in our lives … Enjoy what you can do. As an artist, you are unique. Your skills are yours alone. Comparing them to someone else’s is a waste of time and a waste of your precious abilities.

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3 thoughts on “Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

  1. There’s also the issue that you’re probably comparing yourself only to the brightest parts of the other guy’s life.

  2. I read quite a bit, so much so that I would be bankrupt if I bought every new book that I wanted when it came out, and don’t have time to go to the library, so I read lots of the KU books. Some are just dreadful, but occasionally, there are books so delightful that I wonder why they aren’t best sellers. I am extremely appreciative of the self publishing industry. There are a ton of terrific writers out there.

  3. Yes, Mary, and the carefully curated social media of the bright spots as well.

    Alison, that’s why I appreciate commenters here pointing me to authors they especially love. There are so many I would never hear of if not for someone here. Next time you encounter an especially terrific book, feel free to drop a pointer in a comment here, even if the comment is off topic!

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