Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others

You are good enough

I’m going to start with a true story of Agnes de Mille. She was a great dancer and an awesome choreographer. In her early career, Agnes choreographed “Three Virgins and a Devil”.  At that time, she felt it was good work, however, seemed as though it seemed nobody really liked it that much.

Just a couple of years later, Agnes choreographed “Rodeo”. Once again, she thought her work was great this time, however again not much attention.

Then came the year of 1943, Agnes choreographed Oklahoma!, which was a musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein was an instant big success. Oklahoma! Had approximately 2,212 performances. In 1955, the film version won an Academy Award.

Now, little to her public, the success of Oklahoma! baffled her. She thought all her work on Oklahoma! was really nothing in comparison to some of her previous creations. She was later quote saying, “After the opening of Oklahoma!, I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha.”

Who was Martha you ask?

Martha was Martha Graham. She was, by far, the most influential dance choreographer of the 20th century. She wasn’t as well-known by the public, however, Graham is comparable to other such creative geniuses like Picasso or Frank Lloyd Wright by all others. So, when Agnes told Martha Graham about her frustration, Graham responded by telling her the following:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

Judging yourself is pure uselessness. There are those days we all feel just like Agnes de Mille felt. It doesn’t matter the outcome, we have to realize one important thing and that is, we are often our own worst enemies by judging our own work.

Martha Graham’s advice takes this even further and also states that it is not your job to judge your own work either. The biggest truth I believe is that it is not our place to compare ourselves to others. It is not our responsibility to even try to make out just how useful it can literally be.

I want to let you read a quote by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist teacher, and that is your job is to “come as you are.”

How many millions of people in every field of work that make each day a work of art just by the way they do it. We all have our own unique style that nobody else in the world has.

Remember in school, we were taught to keep our eyes on our own paper! Well, that was simple stating to not cheat. I believe there should have been a deeper message such as, it doesn’t make a difference what your school-mate writes down for their answer. So, same goes for your work today. Your only concern is to do the work, not to judge your work. Your concern is to fall in love with the process, not to grade your outcome. Keep your eyes on your own paper, in other words.

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