The Comparison Trap
For the most part, I love the blogging & Instagram community. I've met some incredible people through this odd online world and I'm happy with my own little corner of the internet. Most of the time, I compare my work to my own content from a year or so ago, happy with how my writing, photography and overall aesthetic are evolving. But sometimes, as I'm sure is true for all of us, I fall into a spiral of comparing myself to others.
My blog isn't as good as hers. How does she get all these sponsored trips around the world? I wish I had her figure. I wish I had her wardrobe. I wish I had her hair. They're living in my dream house. Her life is perfect. How can I be more like her?
If you're active on Instagram, don't tell me that you haven't had the same thoughts.
It's all well & good to be inspired by the images that you see online, aspiring towards creating similar content or styling a similar outfit, but things get messy once you start to fixate on something (or someone). It's important to remember that you don't see the full picture when you scroll through someone's Instagram feed. Yes, they might look amazing stood on that beach, wearing that dress, on the other side of the world, but you don't know what's going on in their life when the camera is put away. They could be incredibly lonely, or may have just broken up with their boyfriend, or could be struggling financially. You can't assume that someones life is perfect just because that is the image that they portray in front of the camera.
How many takes do you think it took before that perfect Instagram shot was captured? It's very, very rare that someone simply leans against a wall, has their photo taken and strolls off. There's usually multiple shots taken from various angles, all trying to get that flattering image that best compliments the outfit. Out of every 100 photos, maybe 2 or 3 get used. Those women who post daily photos of themselves have learned overtime to find the angles that show off their best features and hide their worst. No-one is perfect.
I'm writing this because I spent my train journey earlier this evening scrolling through Instagram and feeling jealous. There is the girl who has the perfect hair that is both wavy and glossy, the girl who always seems to be the guest of an exotic tourist board, the girl who has a wardrobe filled with (gifted) clothes that I would love to own. It's hard not to feed this jealousy, giving in to it and feeling sadness, frustration and even anger - but what good is that going to do?
Rather than jealousy, I try to take away inspiration from the people who I follow. I might reach out and ask what products she uses on her hair, how she built up her platform to be able to work with tourist boards, or if she recommends purchasing that dress. Or I might simply save the image to one of my folders and move on. I don't dwell on the thought that she has everything, because I know it's more likely that she doesn't. She's just a normal girl who writes well and takes good photos, and that's something that I can aspire to.
For me, the worst comparison is photography skills. There are so many talented individuals on my Instagram feed whose work constantly inspires me. On a daily basis, I find myself staring at their images and wishing I had taken them myself. I store my own photographs in folders, never to be shared because they don't measure up. I get frustrated that my photos don't look like theirs, when they are never going to with my kit and phone editing apps. I blame my surroundings, claiming that there's nothing for me to photograph.
In this case, I'm trying to take a step back and see inspiration instead of comparing myself. The line between the two is blurry but I'm leaning towards the right side of it. I'm spending more time on my photography, I'm allowing myself to be inspired by others, and I'm learning from others when they share advice. Yes, I might not have taken that AMAZING shot, but an idea might spark from admiring it, allowing me to create an image that I'm just as proud of.