Shakespeare once said “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players” and he’s 100% right. With a world that runs on Instagram, Facebook, and Tindr, we’re constantly putting ourselves on stage.
We curate what we share with the world so we can make ourselves the most appealing (or what we think others will find the most appealing). We post the selfie when we’re at the hip art show, but not when we’re disheveled after working on a freelance project for two days straight. We show the painting that sold, not the five paintings that lay unsold in our apartment.
This makes total sense to me as a marketer. Obviously, whether we’re trying to establish a brand, find a date, or keep in touch with friends, we want to show our best selves.
However, when we see others, whether its peers or celebrities, we tend to forget this fact. There’s a lot of comparing ourselves to them, wondering how they might have such great luck, or that they know so many more people than you, or that maybe they’re just naturally talented.
Michael Jordan, the most amazing basketball player in the world, has this message for you: don’t make excuses.
Sure, this is a commercial for your shoes, but damn, that commercial gives me chills, and I’ve watched it about four times in a row now. Really, it’s a great reminder that while we might bemoan everyone’s good luck or talent or success, we really should be constantly looking within ourselves. It’s not about whether or not someone else is destroying the competition, but whether we’re letting that act as an excuse to do our best.
“Someone else has already made it” is a great excuse to keep from putting your own twist on something. “They’re too good at doing what I want to be doing so why should I even try?” is a great question to ask yourself to keep yourself from risking something. The best thing is that art isn’t a zero-sum game – we can all be winners. Sure, there are a finite number of jobs at any given company, or only so many galleries in the world, but that doesn’t mean we have to be all cut-throat about anything. If we really choose to, there very little that we cannot achieve ourselves.
We all have “it” in us. “It” being the potential to do amazing things and create amazing work. Whether or not we want to be the best in the world, I hope we all share the common goal of making something worthwhile. Something remarkable that changes things for the better, even if it’s making a single person a bit happier for a second. This potential often gets buried by self-doubt, or negativity from friends and family members. We sometimes forget because when we watch the stage, all we see is the glitz and glamour of what people are putting out there for us.
Why compare the entirety of our lives to someone’s extremely curated successes?
While it’s hard not to respect the amazing craftsmanship of the Renaissance creators, I do hold a big grudge against them. Because information access wasn’t what it is today, they would often burn their sketchbooks to make it look like they had some rare gift from God – they basically hid all their hard work. Never mind that often artists were often sponsored by the church (so even back then smart artists knew how to market themselves), but their legacy is that of wonder and awe and envy and false information for generations to come.
The idea of artistry being raw talent and nothing else has plagued artists for centuries – think of how many people probably gave up on creating since they were comparing themselves to Raphael or Michelangelo or any of the other ninja turtles – I still get upset that I can’t do backflips while eating pizza. Fortunately, artists nowadays are very generous with their process and constantly share how much hard work they put into their craft, but nevertheless we often forget and get wrapped up in chasing other artists’ lives.
Even though we may follow them for their success, something we often don’t think of is whether or not they are actually happy. While this might seem like a good problem to have, there are a lot of trappings of success and fame.
There is the intense fear of failing now that everyone is watching you. There is the pressure to make another big hit. There is everyone telling you to make something similar but slightly different when you really want to go back and experiment with something completely different. There’s the issue of equating the money you’re now making to the value of the art, when that might not necessarily be the case. There’s something to be said about enjoying our obscurity now – mistakes are easily fixed, and no one is scrutinizing us – and who knows how happy they really are?
Take the case of an Australian Instagram model (yes, that is a job) Essena O’Neill, who recently rebranded all of her instagram photos with what it really took to get that seamless, “life of luxury and parties and fashion and a media-approved hot body” look. After disappearing for a while from social media after a bit of a personal life crisis, she’s back with a new site to speak out against the untruths we’re told by each other. Major kudos to her for helping remind us that what we see on the media is not 100% real life.
Remember to keep your comparing tools in check. Don’t let someone else’s highlight reel prevent you from doing your great work. Don’t let jealousy consume you and create unnecessary spite and negativity when you don’t know the whole story. Keep in mind that social media, with all it’s potential benefits and allure, is still just media, and media can be spun to tell a single story.
So let this be a clarion call to all artists out there – don’t compare yourself to others! You live a different life than they do, so never stop creating and as long as you’re making something you can be proud of, never give up. Keep on creating for yourself. Live your own life. Whether or not you can become legendary is for shoe commercials and inspirational Pinterest boards. What’s important is to remember that you’re already incomparable. So stand on your own feet and let’s get to work.