with Courtney Slazinik
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.





  • Daniel
    September 23, 2015 at 8:36 PM

    My protege has been doing serious photography as a hobby for about 2 years. It’s only been in the last year that I got her off full auto. To make a long story short, the grasshopper has bested the master in many ways…mostly due to my teaching. Most of the time I keep murderous thoughts to myself and drink heavily. If I didn’t have so much time and money wrapped up in this, I’d bail tomorrow. Old adage…those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach. I suppose I can always pick up cans on the highway 😓

  • Michele Garcia
    September 23, 2015 at 8:40 PM

    Great perspective-thanks for sharing!

  • Norma
    September 23, 2015 at 8:51 PM

    I like your ending, that is so true, just because someone else makes pretty pictures doesn’t mean yours aren’t either :) how true I agree

  • Micelle
    September 23, 2015 at 8:51 PM

    As usual you inspire me lady! Thank you for the perspective! I needed it badly!!! ❤️

  • Jeff
    September 23, 2015 at 9:59 PM

    Thank you for that….

  • Pam
    September 23, 2015 at 11:16 PM

    Whoa – I think you can add mind-reader to your skills. I’ve been thinking about taking a break from all things e- as I try to rediscover the joy of creating that I once had. Not feeling too good about my skills and work lately. Thanks so much for putting yourself out there. It touched a nerve in me. Take care.

  • Kate Cornfoot
    September 24, 2015 at 5:30 AM

    Thank you so much, Ashley. I needed to receive this message LOUD and CLEAR! Be only been up and running as a business for 8 months and find myself in the grips of that comparison ninja often. Getting out of the habit of constant-social-media-checking helps. And remembering there’s no other ‘me’ out there, with my take on life. Just as there is no other ‘you’. Your images are stunning, Ashley.

  • Liz
    September 24, 2015 at 6:11 AM

    Thank you. I so needed to hear this today :)

  • Erin
    September 24, 2015 at 7:17 AM

    Thank you so much for your inspiring words, been feeling just like this lately and so frustrated. This helped give me a healthy and positive perspective on things and brighten my eyes to the possibility that I’m really doing OK!

  • berta bali
    September 24, 2015 at 8:31 AM

    Thanks for sharing
    That what happen to me at the moment
    Comparing my sosial media with others n it is frustating.
    Though i still struggle to make a beautiful picture

  • Julie is Hostess At Heart
    September 24, 2015 at 9:13 AM

    This post described me to a tee. I see some people that have gotten uber successful in less time than I have been doing it. I initially didn’t get into this to make money? But it’s my competitive nature. I went off the grid for a couple weeks and loved it. I need to reload my brain and thank you for a great post!

  • femi
    September 24, 2015 at 9:47 AM

    thanks for sharing out your inner thought its very hard for one to confess his or her ego

  • Melissa
    September 24, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    Wow….. I have tears. This is me right now. I live in a VERY small town in East Texas (about 800 people), and I kid you not, there are probably 10 people doing photography! Competition is fierce, and I feel like I should just stop. Plus I’m part of a project, that when it started, there were only a few photographers. And in the beginning, some of my photos were being chosen to be featured. Now a bunch of uber-talented professionals have joined the project, and my work doesn’t even come close! Makes me feel like dropping out…. Guess it’s time for me to re-focus and unplug. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Judi
    September 24, 2015 at 10:07 AM

    Thank you so much for the uplifting story.

    I am a wife, mother, grandmother and caretaker of my 90 year old father in law.

    I am in the beginning stages of starting my own photography business and it has been rough. I work a full time desk/day job and have done photography in the evening and weekends for the last eight years. It has always been for family, friends and through word of mouth but last year I decided to start my own business. It blows my mind how much time is needed to keep up with social media. Before starting my own buiness I didnt even have a personal Facebook page because of time constraints and now I need Facebook, Instagram, and at least a blog! With all that to take care of I don’t have time to take pictures.

    It has been hard and i have almost thrown in the towel a couple times (that ninja in the night) but I am determined to do photography fully time and have my own business.



  • Teresa
    September 24, 2015 at 11:24 AM

    Thank you Ashley. Not only a good reminder for me with regards to photography, but in other areas of my life too. I’ve said the very same thing to my children, “Likes don’t define you.” How sad that we ever think it does, but that’s part of the fabric of social media. Such a great perspective you have — thank you for sharing it.

  • Angela
    September 24, 2015 at 12:19 PM

    This is so true! I’m a fairly new photographer and I try not to ,but I do compare myself to others talents and even equipment. I have read this before but occasionally need a reminder. Thank you!

  • Evejenine
    September 24, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    I spend way too much time looking at all the pretty pictures. Before the Internet, it was pretty pictures in magazines and catalogs. It helps me get away from the have-to’s in life. I needed this wake-up call. Too much time spent enjoying what others do. I need to enjoy what I do and can do. Thank you, you’ve helped me today.

  • Latricia
    September 24, 2015 at 2:49 PM

    Thank you!!! I needed to read this

  • Terri
    September 24, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    Thank you! This is something I needed to read right now too!

  • pamela
    September 25, 2015 at 4:44 AM

    Great story see we are all the same a hahaaaa so good to know we are not alone!

  • Diana
    September 25, 2015 at 8:00 AM

    Thank you so much for your inspiring words :) I loved it!
    Sometimes i found myself comparing my photos with others and be demotivated, now you slap my face and i thank you for that ;)
    Kisses from Portugal

  • Sara
    September 29, 2015 at 10:13 AM

    Thank you, Ashley! What a great post and reminder! I needed that.

  • Debbi
    September 30, 2015 at 3:28 PM

    I have been on Instagram for 2 years. I wasn’t really trying to get followers, just post pictures of my own that I enjoyed. If I got a big following, fine. If not, fine. Until my husband got his own IG account about 2 months ago. In that short time, he has almost double the followers that I have. I tried not to compare myself with him but it’s hard not to. It’s very frustrating and annoying! So your message iwound up being very timely for me. I will have to kick the joy-stealing ninja in the ass and move on with my own photography endeavors!

  • Sarah
    October 7, 2015 at 7:14 AM

    Reading those first few paragraphs was like reading the story of my life. Every day I have been frustrated by the lack of interaction I seem to get with my work when others around me and (I hate saying this) with work I wouldn’t consider to be particularly great, seem to get greater recognition and more interaction. It’s frustrating and soul-destroying and sometimes makes me wonder, why bother?

    I needed to read this. Because I know comparison creates nothing but negativity in my head. I try to kid myself, sometimes, by saying I’m looking for inspiration, but I know the truth really – I’m comparing myself to everyone else out there.

    While I don’t feel ready to give up the social media just yet, I AM going to make a concerted effort to STOP COMPARING myself. No more wondering “what’s wrong with me?” or “why not me?”. Just do my thing, share and not worry about anything else. Phew, feels great to say it. I know it won’t be easy in practise but I’ll be saving this post and referring back to it from time to time.

    Thank you so much!

  • Marta
    October 7, 2015 at 10:35 PM

    I just wanted to say, thank you! This is such a wonderful post, so true and encouraging.

  • Beth
    October 15, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Hilarious! Beautifully written! And really useful advice! Thank you for sharing. :)

  • Mary Mouser
    October 21, 2015 at 2:21 PM

    What a fun beautiful article! I have never guilted myself that I don’t do social media. I find enough other things to guilt myself on it seems! I don’t do Instagram, Twitter, Linked-In, or Face Book or anything else that might be out there except for my little word of mouth photography blog. Naturally I miss out on some pretty cool stuff, but the time I have to spend on pretty cool stuff seems to make up for it. Thanks again for your insightful and fun article that reminds me I am on the right track for me.

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