Comparison is the Enemy of Creativity

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Stop comparing yourself to other people. (Seriously, stop it.)

No healthy decisions are made out of self-consciousness. I’d go as far as to say that most decisions determined by what other people are doing/saying will make you feel less motivated, less inspired, and less creative overall.

This is certainly something I’ve grappled with in the past and continue to fight against now. The best mantra I’ve heard to push back against the urge to compare oneself to other artists is:

Comparison is the Enemy of Creativity. 

The moral of this post: you are effortlessly lovable.

There’s no need to compare yourself to others because you are a human person created with dignity the love of God.

Sneaky Comparisons Which Drain Our Confidence

If you’re anything like me– and the many others humans I have encountered– you like to know what other people have got going on. 

You see their house, their clothes, their hair, their kids, their husband, their dog, their business…and two things happen:

  1. You compare your things to their things.
  2. You begin to envy that person and their things.

In my experience (and according to the good ‘ol Word of God) comparison is a one-way ticket to despairville. 

I see this A LOT, especially with creatives. 

Perhaps you look at another actor’s social media account with a huge following and think: why don’t I have that many followers.

Or maybe you’re learning how to scat by listening to Ella Fitzgerald, and your brain immediately tells you you’ll never be good enough to do this in performance.

Picture this comparison scenario:

You’re attending an audition. You listen to everybody performing their singing audition one at a time. 

What are you doing? Are you really just listening to their singing? Or are you judging their performance. Are you celebrating what they’re doing right? Or comparing your own audition to theirs.

I’ve gone to many an audition where I walk in intently focused on my own song, memorization, and confidence, but as SOON as somebody impressive gets up there, I’m immediately more nervous about my own audition. 

That’s the power we allow comparison to hold over us! Instead of focusing on how much practice I’ve put into my audition and maintaining a confident, humble mindset, I compare myself to others. 

This makes me nervous, envious, and self-conscious. Three emotions that are audition KILLERS.

Related Post: Complete Musical Theatre Audition Prep Checklist

The audition room is one thing. (I mean, the judges are literally there to compare auditioners, so it’s natural for auditioners to be listening to other performers. That listening can go south to comparison pretty quick, though.)

The warm-up room is another. The real kicker for a lot of us is: it’s not always obvious when you’re comparing yourself to others. 

When you walk into that warm-up room, the best thing to do is focus on your own audition. You scan the room for a place to sit, but all of a sudden, you start to feel nervous. 

You might not know why you’re nervous, but you are. And then you realize all of the little comparisons your mind made when you did that initial scan for a seat… 

  • There’s the girl that always gets cast as the lead.
  • You hear somebody else humming THE SAME audition song as you under their breath.
  • There’s a guy in the corner warming up with insane riffs.
  • You’re a “confident mover” wearing Nike shorts and there’s a slim dancer in the corner stretching her splits in Lulu Lemon leggings.

(Yes, I am drawing all of these examples from experience!)

Instead of simply noticing the auditioners around you, your brain automatically began equating that comparison formula:

I sing REALLY well + this girl does horrible in her dance call = A shot at a supporting role. 

Comparison is why you got nervous. 

Now that I’ve pointed out how comparison is a rampant problem…

Let’s talk about some strategies to overcome comparison!

1. Awareness

I’m pretty sure situational awareness is a part of our natural instincts. After all, if we didn’t see the cars zooming down the busy street we were about to step into, we’d all be flattened! 

]The problem really comes when that awareness turns into hyperawareness. Being excessively aware of your surroundings and what people are doing leads to anxiety and envy. 

For example, our brains decide to ignore the fact that we can see our nose 100% of the time. Now that I’ve mentioned it, you’re hyper aware of your nose’s presence. (Hi, nose.)

Being focused on your nose is pretty annoying for most people, and for some, dizzying and unpleasant. 

Hyperawareness in creativity is the same way. Take a music genre standard, for instance. If you’re trying to improvise in a jazz chart, you can either let your practice & knowledge of jazz lead your musical choices (ignoring your nose). OR you can be hyper aware of the technique, triads, shoos, and doo-woops that are coming out of your mouth (seeing your nose).

For most musicians, a little bit of carefree experimenting in their music goes a LONG way. If you spend all of your time comparing your music to the genre’s norm, you’ll waste all your time trying to ‘fix’ your music. AND you won’t spend any time creating!

  • It’s healthy and fun to be aware of and appreciate creatives in your genre.
  • It’s unhealthy comparison when you’re absorbed in conforming to the specifics of other creatives’ ideas. (Not to mention, you’ll probably just end up recreating something somebody else created first!)

2. Gratitude

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful. It’s being content with what you have. The only thing that gracious people need is what they already have. 

If you (like me) struggle with comparison, try a gratitude exercise:

Every time you are tempted to look at someone else’s success as your own failure (a common trend in comparison), call yourself out. 

After you physically say, out loud, ‘I’m comparing myself to them,’ immediately jot down in a journal or your phone notes 3 things you are grateful for.

Look at those things you do have to be grateful for, and decide that they are enough right now. 

Being aware of these moments of comparison will help you break free from comparing yourself to others! It really is a bad habit that many people (myself included) get into. 

Holding yourself accountable (by acknowledging ‘I’m comparing myself to them’) is critical in altering the way your mind views the world. Then, pondering those 3 (or more) things you are grateful for guides your mind away from envious comparison!

3. Examine Your Online Presence

I’ve talked about in-person comparisons, but online comparisons are also a major source of envy and anxiety in peoples’ lives nowadays.

Talking about social media and its effects on our psyche isn’t exactly unique or revolutionary, but I figured it was worth mentioning here. 

I watch a LOT of Broadway singers on social. They pop up on my feed daily. If I allowed myself to compare my own Instagram singing videos to their fully-staged, Broadway-orchestrated performances, I’d be super duper discouraged.

After all, I’m just a gal with a mic in her living room. 

There’s no sense in comparing my posts to theirs because I don’t have access to the resources they do. And don’t even get me started on comparing oneself to a studio recording.

I’ve heard multiple music producers say that if you’re not using at least a little bit autotune, you’re crazy. (I have opinions on this…for another time, perhaps.) 

There are barely any musicians that don’t use autotuning software on their voices. Not to mention the wonders reverb, compression, limiters, and a little EQ can do. 

You CAN’T compare a live performance of a song with a homemade backing track to a Broadway cast album’s recording. You look at a live performance as a live performance. 

I think performers would be happier overall if they stopped trying to belt notes that Broadway stars belted as a one-time thing in a recording studio. 

The great majority of professional singers MIX THEIR BELT on the daily. 

4. Understand and Appreciate Real Creativity

This strategy is actually quite simple.

You can’t be creative if you’re too worried about what everyone else is doing. REAL creativity is inspired. It’s unique in some way. If you’re trying to audition for a musical, but you are so absorbed by all of the talented auditioners around you, you won’t enjoy your audition performance. There won’t be anything creative or musical about your audition.

(Yes, auditions are inherently creative! You’re (usually) working with an accompanist to share a musical experience. It’s basically a duet where one musician is sight-reading and the other is well-rehearsed. That can get pretty creative!)

Even while writing this blog, I’m fighting those little comparison voices in my head. (I’m not crazy, everyone has an internal monologue…right?) 

They say: ‘Why are you writing this? Nobody wants to read it. You struggle with comparison and self-doubt yourself. You have no business sharing advice with others.’

I could just succumb to the temptation to quit writing this blog right now because I’m not as funny or as talented or have as big a following as other bloggers.

But I’m not going to! Because at the end of the day, I enjoy blogging as a creative outlet. And I’m not going to let my enemy (comparison!) keep me from living the life I want to live and creating the music and blog posts and performances I want to create.

I hope these strategies help you to overcome comparison in your life. I also hope you will allow yourself to be actually creative in whatever it is you do. If something has never been done before, it doesn’t always mean it is wrong or will fail.

Write a unique song. Make bold and unique choices with your audition. Add a little scat into a live performance (improvised or pre-planned!)

Have a lovely rest of the week,

Grace

Want Some Performance/Audition Confidence tips?

Check out my 10 Confidence Boosters For Musical Theatre Auditions post!
“Hey there! Audition anxiety happens to all of us (I happen to get it really bad). But there are some methods of preparation and wonderful #truths that I would like to share with you to assist you in letting go of some of that inner tension. 

Here are my top 10 confidence-boosting tips for musical theatre auditions.

This is my mantra for every audition I go to. Ready? 
1. The Directors Want You To Succeed.”

Grace is a musical theatre enthusiast, aspiring classical singer, lover of jazz, & wife of a country singer-songwriter. She started this Sing With Grace performing arts blog to share musical stories from her life and celebrate the experiences and wisdom of the fantastic performers she's met along the way! FOLLOW her on Insta for more musical theatre, singing, and performing shenanigans!