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Comparison: The trained ninja thief in the night
Comparison: The trained ninja thief in the night

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Theodore Roosevelt

Have you ever heard that?

I actually thought I made that line up but then I googled it and found Teddy Roosevelt said it first. Not to brag, but sometimes my thoughts are very presidential.

Recently, I’ve been in a comparison rut. I don’t know if it’s human nature, woman’s nature, or just my nature, but I’m a victim of comparison. Comparing my looks, parenting, and photography to everyone around me, it usually results in me needing to drink a bottle of wine and wallow in my self pity while listening to Norah Jones circa 2002. How embarrassing.

Lately, however, it’s been the photography part of comparison that is stealing all of my joy like a trained ninja thief in the night. The kind of thief that wears all black, has super nifty tools, and knows how to dodge laser beams. You know what I’m talkin’ about here. I don’t stand a chance.

And, as silly as it sounds, social media has made everything worse. As much as we want to say we are building a community, often times it doesn’t seem that way. Competition is fierce, and for many people, if they use a camera it’s an excuse not to support someone else that uses one. I’m not as much focused on the amount of attention or the sweet comments my photos get as much as I’m focused on how much more other people get. I’m focused on the people that contact me to get a session but then post photos from another photographer that offers a deluxe package for less than the amount I pay on gas to get to a session. I see that people are posting images that get 257 ‘likes’ in the first 5 minutes and my post reach after 3 days is 42 people. I compare myself to the success of photographers that have been working over a decade while I’ve only been at it 2 years. I compare myself to the photographers that stay booked with posed portrait sessions while I struggle to make others see the beauty of the real and everyday. Comparison, I want to put poison in your damn coffee and watch you die a long slow death.

If you didn’t pick up on it, I’m annoyed. While my family relies on my photography business to generate an income, first and foremost, I do it because I love it and it makes me happy. It’s a creative outlet that doesn’t make as much of a mess as if I used acrylic paints or putting a potter’s wheel in my living room, and it is a special thing to be able to document otherwise lost moments. I was losing the happiness in a dark sea of comparison, and I needed to change that in about 5-seconds (I’m very impatient!) So, I thought long and hard about how to reverse this sick game of psychological warfare I was waging on myself, and I came to one conclusion: I needed a break from social media.

That afternoon, I scheduled a few posts for the next couple weeks on my business page and deleted all of the apps on my phone. If we are being honest, I got a little choked up saying bye to Instagram for my vacation. #imissyou #itsnotyouitsme

Over the next two weeks, I popped in on Facebook to check to see if I had any client messages and to follow up on some group discussions just to make sure I wasn’t leaving anyone hanging. I spent a total of about 20-minutes over the course of the two week period on social media and never once looked at the newsfeed or read a post that was not directly related to something that was business related or I thought warranted a response.

What on earth did I do to fill my time, you ask?! I found the pockets of natural light in my home I had otherwise overlooked. I cleaned my windows. I read 205 pages of a book. I took pictures because I wanted to, not because I had to post them somewhere. I organized business goals. I revamped my website. I made and printed an album of our summer. I sent notes to previous clients, just to say hello and thank you. I had an amazing session with a wonderful couple. I did an experimental senior documentary session. I got my watercolors out. I gave extra hugs and played outside a little longer. Of course I could have done all of this before, but I almost never thought I deserved to or had the time.

Here’s what I didn’t do on my break. I never once wondered about other photographers. I didn’t care about what they were doing or posting. I had nobody to compare myself to except for myself. I didn’t feel bad or frustrated, I felt grateful and motivated. I was more present in discussions over dinner because I wasn’t listening to the voices in my head telling me about how unworthy I was and how I needed to be working harder.

I know it’s silly for me to think I can get my name out there and engage potential clients without Facebook. It is part of today’s society and there’s not much I can do to change that. Following the break, all Facebook and Instagram work (posting, reading, liking, discussing, etc) happens when there is time. I don’t have the time or energy to scroll through my feed and beat myself up randomly throughout my day. I have a human to raise, a human to grow, a business to run, and a house to keep standing. I have no time for nonsense or Norah Jones.

I also missed the positive communities I was part of. I have met some AMAZING people through social media, and I had several questions I wanted to ask or sessions stories I wanted to share and was so excited to be able to do that by the end of the break.

So, what do I want you to take away from this when you start scrolling through your feed and falling victim to comparison? Two things:

Likes don’t define you.

Just because someone else makes pretty pictures, doesn’t mean your pictures aren’t pretty, too.