January Reflection: Comparison A Terrible Thief & How to Snuff it Out

 Cover artwork for the latest Run The Jewels album release, shot by NYC's  Timothy Saccenti .

Cover artwork for the latest Run The Jewels album release, shot by NYC's Timothy Saccenti.

Comparison [kəmˈparɪs(ə)n/]

A consideration or estimate of the similarities or dissimilarities between two things or people.
 

"Comparison is a thug that robs your joy. But it’s even more than that — Comparison makes you a thug who beats down somebody – or your soul.  Scales always lie. They don’t make a scale that ever told the truth about value, about worth, about significance.  And the thing about measuring sticks, girl? Measuring sticks try to rank some people as big and some people as small — but we aren’t sizes. We are souls." - Ann Voscamp

 

I found comparison to be a great and terrible thief.  Comparison steals two major things.  Our appreciation of ourselves and the gift we are, and our enjoyment of others and the gift they are to us and the world.  

As a musician, fighting comparison can be a daily struggle.  I don't think any of us are completely immune to it.  A peer announces the release of another album, meets a crowd funding campaign where yours failed, or you scroll your Instagram feed to see a picture of an artist friend signing a recording contract, and the aching question 'What about me?' rises up again.  Or you're at a gig listening to a phenomenal set and rather than just enjoying the beautiful moment of art filling the room and allowing yourself to be raptured by the skill and heart of the player, you are experiencing a gnawing sadness because you will never sound like that.  

What a boring, consuming cycle.

The moment we decide to reject comparison in all of its form, is the moment we begin to experience a level of strength, peace and enjoyment which is otherwise closed to us as artists.  Once we remove the spectacles of scrutiny and comparison we allow ourselves to step back from the canvas and see the whole picture.  We then notice that the picture is in fact a kaleidoscope.  A cacophony of colour and design, and every person, every expression is working together to create a stunning prism of light.  

Through the spectacles of scrutiny it may seem as though one shaft of colour is more significant, more important, more beautiful than another.  However the bigger picture reveals the futility of this myopia. The prism of light is created by the whole.  It is created by every artist creating and sharing beauty as authentically as they can, serving their audience, standing in their sphere of influence, and doing their part.

When we remove comparison from our artistic rituals, we can pick up our instruments and listen to the sound our vocal chords make with the appreciation and reverence they deserve.  

No one on earth has the capacity to sound like you.  Your frequency is unexampled.  It's peerless. It's unique. It is unrivalled. 

It should have no rival.  And in reality it doesn't.  

Exercise: Today, catch your thoughts.  And if you can, write down every thought you have that is a comparison to someone else. Turn your comparison into praise, and think or write down one or two sentences of appreciation for that person and their gift.  Bonus: Consider sharing this with that person!

 

“Don't always be appraising yourself, wondering if you are better or worse than other writers. "I will not Reason and Compare," said Blake; "my business is to Create." Besides, since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable. ”  - Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit

Bianca x