Ooh nelly, I have some things to say about competition!
I grew up not being too competitive because I was bad at a lot of things. Truly. I was a bad dancer, bad soccer player; I was good at school (until high school), but you get the picture.
That being said, while I couldn’t be competitive, I could be a perfectionist. And I’ve been jealous of others’ successes. When writing For Love, and for Cruelty, I thought I could never get it published. I looked at other poets and was jealous of their accolades, their prizes and MFAs.
I know that jealousy is ugly, but it’s also human. Sometimes you have to dive into some rational thinking to kill off the impulse to compare yourself to someone else.
Here’s my forever mantra that has served me well: collaboration over competition.
I mentioned the importance of networking and forming bonds with other creatives in a previous post. If you admire someone’s work, support it! Work with other people. Amazing things can be created when you mix different types of brilliant. There is really nothing more special than being able to create art with someone who you’ve admired from afar.
From a professional and marketing standpoint, collaboration is a much smarter choice than competition. After all, burning bridges for petty reasons will only leave you stranded on an island alone.
That is to say that you can multiply your audience by the number of people you work with. Boosting others up is a great way to be liked by your idols and just maintain a good attitude. It feels good to hear others appreciate what you have to offer. So show your appreciation!
Before we go, though, I want to tell you what’s helped me with comparing myself to others. I want you to have the mental tools to foster good relationships.
I take myself through rational thinking, because jealousy is an irrational fear. I ask myself: What will it take to get that same accomplishment? To get to where the person I’m jealous of got? Do I really want that thing? Is it necessary to meet the personal goal I’ve set for myself? Am I clear on what that goal is?
Usually after asking myself that series of questions, I realize comparing myself to another person is silly. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be anyone else. I do have things I’m proud of, and I don’t want to sacrifice those for someone else’s qualities. I will continue to grow and meet more goals along the way.
Our lives are short, but they are our own, and we should cherish the lives each one of us has.