Creative Types: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

“Just as much as we see in others, we have in ourselves.” ~William Hazlitt

Most days I am a dedicated writer and artist, focused and working away with my oh-so-happy hands.

Most days I feel inspired to share adventures and insights from living in Paris for over two years while going to graduate school. Or referencing the intense spiritual work and personal growth I’ve experienced in recent years. Or describing how I quit the unfulfilling rat-race to focus on my passion and my life dreams.

Most days I have confidence and pride in my personal creations and feel pretty darn good about my creative ideas. Most days I am on a roll.

Then there are the other days.

The days where I spend too much time on the Internet looking at what other people are doing and comparing their brilliance to my efforts. The days where I find myself at a library staring down the rows of books, wondering if my writing is enough. The days where I count numbers and look at blog data that isn’t quite impressive yet.

So many people are already acclaimed writers, bloggers, artists, and creative experts. Is there even room for one more?

On those days, my head gets spinning in creative comparison, and I can’t get out of it. My energy plummets down, down, down, as if sinking to the ocean floor.

What do I have to offer that is different and new? Are “they” more talented, creative, recognized, and special than I am? Are “they” more qualified to write with more incredibly brilliant things to say?

I decide to get out of the house when I can’t get the comparisons out of my head.  Exercising, grabbing a cup of tea, reading a book, and sitting in a park are all great remedies. But there is one place in particular where I love to go to turn my mind off: Ikea.

I am in love with Ikea. And I like to believe that Ikea is in love with me because of how often I invest quality time in our blue-and-yellow relationship. If they offered personally monogrammed shopping bags, I would use mine as a purse.

Strolling through the giant store is an immediate spark for my visual senses. I follow the winding path, my heart leading the way, and stop in the warmth of the lighting section. Dang, this area is bright.

Hundreds of lights adorn every surface and direction. Each light offers a different vibrancy, size, and function. I notice how there’s room for all to shine their full wattage.

I loiter in the middle of the surrounding fixtures, as some illuminating thoughts about dealing with creative comparison pass through my mind.

1. Recognize specifically what is triggering the comparison.

Is it the desire to be “seen” and acknowledged? The fear of not being valued? Confirmation of not doing the “right” thing?

Let that vulnerable part surface and be seen. Allow it to be heard. Bring it to the light.

2. Send that vulnerable part high-wattage love, big hugs, and warm understanding.

Send it confirmation that comparing is part of human nature at times. We are social beings who want to see where we fit into the social fabric around us.

Take the comparison simply as a “checking in point” for what is possible in the world. Use the vulnerability as a place of inspiration. Send it more high-wattage love.

3. Compare and despair? It rhymes, so it’s an easy adage to remember, but it’s not a productive thought. Replace those two words with this rhyming pair: Admire and inspire.

The best of others bring out the best in us. What a gift to have so many people to find inspiration from! What a blessing to feel creative energy from others! Allow the light of others to light a bigger path for yourself.

4. Remember: everyone has two hands and one mind that they can use to create, but we are each blessed with a unique creative voice from our individual souls.

Never doubt the power of what you are compelled to offer.

Your soul essence has a light that is yours to broadcast and share. No one else can share your soul’s creative voice in the world. Your soul only knows your personal truth and can only steer you in that direction.

5. Realize that what you are called to do in your heart is what you are called to do for the hearts of others.

Claiming your soul’s purpose without expectation, judgment, or attachment is the primary commitment.  You lose nothing and gain everything by shining your light brightly.

There is room for all of the many lights in the world to shine brightly and boldly.

Ahhhh. I now feel so relaxed and calm after standing here with my heart light blazing.

I see much more clearly now how the world needs as many lights to shine as possible. Every light is valuable, seen, and special. Every light brings unique energy beyond what can be measured.  Every light is a gift to and from the soul.

I believe it’s the reason why we are all here: to shine boldly from the heart light that is waiting for us to turn—and leave—it on.

I purchase my must-have items and pass up the urge to grab a cup of meatballs for $1. There is one problem with thinking so positively in Ikea: the yellow bag sure does get heavy.

As I leave the parking garage, I have one more thought about the enlightening lighting department.  It’s silly, but it makes me happy.

I have this visual that every night, each light is turned off one by one to go to sleep—errr, save energy. As a single light flicks off, all of the other lights say, “Thank you for adding so much warmth and beauty to the room today! It was perfect! See you tomorrow for another day of light!”

Then another light is turned off, and all the other lights say, “Thank you for doing your best today! We saw it and we recognize you! See you tomorrow for another day of light!”

Then another is light turned off, and all the lights say, “You were so amazing! We were so happy to be in your glow today! See you tomorrow for another day of light!”

And on and on it goes until every light is asleep.

The next morning, they all turn on with fresh energy, strength, and willingness to shine even more brightly—without stress or comparisons.

Photo by pedrosimoes7

About Molly McCord

Molly McCord is a writer, teacher and contributing author to The Thought That Changed My Life Forever (Imbue Press, Winter 2011). She created the website Conscious Cool Chic where you can grab a few free guided meditations. And be sure to connect on Facebook for almost-daily inspiring thoughts and messages.

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  • I have realized that my self doubts start to emerge when my emotional energy is used up.
    In those situations I try to find my way back and motivate myself to see my goals and believe in them again.

    When my emotional energy is high I feel certain about my goals, I know I will complete them and I can work effortlessly to completing them.

  • Dan

    I have a tendency to compare and feel down on myself for not doing enough or being good enough or regretting choices i’ve made. But as a get older and through raising 3 kids, I’m slowly realizing that we all have unique and special contributions to make in this world. A friend or aquaintance may be a fantastic writer, creative interior designer, high-earning sales rep, etc….but that doesn’t lessen what I am and what I can contribute. Happy to surround myself with these people and as you say admire and be inspired by their gifts. That’s what makes this world a beautiful place!

  • Kisane

    Thank you so much fro sharing this – I am without words right now to tell you how much this touched me in a place that needed it RIGHT now – the answers we need are always presented if we are looking for them! You’re light is shining so brightly and I am blessed it has lit up my life for this moment! 

    One question I would like to ask – how did you find the courage to let go of the “rat-race” as you put it and follow your heart & soul? 


  • Great post Molly! In whatever I do, social comparison always seems to play a role.  Of course it is not necessarily a bad thing, but when it feels like a lack of acknowledgement, value, or just a plain old quandary about life direction, well, those are “the other days”.  

    But I love the analogies you used. Every light is valuable, every light unique.  Knowing that we each hold a light that will make the world a little brighter, is such a clear example of how we make a difference.  

    This post was extremely applicable – I really related to this one, great job Molly!


  • Anonymous

    I love the compare and despair vs. admire and inspire analogy. So true!  I also love Ikea, they are so clever and creative you can spend hours, which I do, just getting ideas.

    Great post, thanks!

  • linnaeab

    The last paragraph visioning each light fixture (an bulb) at Ikea being thanked for sharing their light for the whole day was touching. Thank you.

  • Michelle Raiford

    Thank you so much for this!

  • Kenny Solway

    also think of how many millions of people need your service in the world versus how many thousands are offering it…there’s plenty of opportunity!!!

  • Hi Chris, 

    Thanks for sharing that this was a topic you can relate to as well! It’s so nice to know we’re not alone in our social comparison at times. And luckily “the other days” are few, and the inspired days of shining are many. 🙂

    Thanks for shining your light!


  • Daniel, I really like your thoughts and the connection to emotional energy levels!

    It’s a very good point because as emotions run through us, they do tend to guide the mind and take us to high – and low – places. Simply identifying the pattern is powerful and insightful in knowing what is going on.

    Thanks so much for sharing.


  • Hi Dan,

    Your honesty is beautifully powerful. Thank you for sharing because I think we all go to those places at times – it’s so normal, right? And yet, at the same time, we have so much to offer that is special and cannot be duplicated anywhere else in the world. I’m sure your 3 children see your light shining brightly every day. No one else can compare to the value and love you bring to them as a father and role model, that’s for sure!

    ~Thank You~


  • Zane, I’m so glad this was a message you needed to hear right now! Don’t you love how that happens at times? 🙂

    My process of letting go of the “rat-race” wasn’t as linear as I’d hoped. I had doubts. I had fears. I had “oh no, WHAT IF… (insert latest thought)”. I wondered about the road ahead that I couldn’t see and what the potential pitfalls might be. I let myself go through those scenarios so I could look at them and be honest with myself about the underlining fears.

    But what I came back to each time is that:
    ~ My life is worth living the way I want to live it
    ~ I have a responsibility to myself to at least *try*…
    ~ … And every time I have tried something new, it has taken me to a beautiful place beyond my expectations
    ~ If something doesn’t work out, I can always go back to the “rat race” (worse case scenario!)
    ~ And most of all, I am on this earth to be myself and follow my soul, my heart, my inspirations. Those answers can’t be found in anyone else. I own them. I love them.

    Hope that helps? Stay in touch, Zane! Going to check out your blog. Best to you~


  • Thank you for the feedback! Glad we can both relate to “admire & inspire” – and Ikea! It’s incredibly healthy to get lost in creativity – and shopping – from time to time. 🙂


  • Hi Linnaeab,

    Ooooh, I’m glad you liked the last paragraph. Sometimes those little analogies carry a lot of meaning that connects to us. It made me smile, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.


  • You’re welcome, Michelle! Happy to know it spoke to you. 🙂


  • You’re right, Kenny! Being of service to the world is *huge* and so important. We all have something valuable to offer and the opportunities are endless. A good perspective to keep in mind when we are searching for where and how to shine our light. Thank you!


  • You’re right, Kenny! Being of service to the world is *huge* and so
    important. We all have something valuable to offer and the opportunities
    are endless. A good perspective to keep in mind when we are searching
    for where and how to shine our light. Thank you!


  • THanks for your wonderful post, Molly! Of the many self-help, inspirational posts I see, this one caught my eye for your spot-on description of my occasional dependence on comparison and affirmation of my work as a writer/blogger. I realize this is my insecurity speaking, and will remember your lighting department epiphany.
    It seems that, like all kinds of love, there’s no such thing as too much creativity. The light you shine might just prove to be the one that’s needed to brighten another creative soul’s shadow!

  • Rini

    Hi Molly,

    Thanks so much for writing this article. I have several creative hobbies and I find myself constantly comparing myself to others. When I was a kid, I loved figuring out how to play my favorite songs on piano by ear and coming up with my own songs. In my teens, I entered a few piano competitions. Playing piano became much more stressful for me because I had to play in front of judges. I never ended up winning any competitions. There were so many brilliant pianists and child prodigies I had to compete with. I felt discouraged from playing the piano because I thought I wasn’t talented enough.

     In college, I have played piano occasionally but never consistently. I made excuses for not playing; that I didn’t have enough time and that I would never musically talented as my other friends. Last winter, I was determined to to play piano again. I was determined to prove to myself and to others that I was a good pianist. I spent hours playing scales and songs that were technically difficult in order to improve. I felt like I was going nowhere. Later, I realized that I was only making myself miserable by trying to prove my creative worth. In fact, I felt so envious of other musicians that at times I couldn’t even enjoy their music. Instead of being inspired by others, I compared myself to them.

    I slowly began to understand that is silly to assign arbitrary measures of worth to creative efforts.  After all, isn’t art supposed to be subjective? Everyone has a unique way of expressing themselves. I think the idea that everyone has an individual “light” to contribute is beautiful. If one person likes a song I play, I should feel happy that I brightened their day in a small way.

    Sorry for writing such a long post– I’m working on being more consise.

  • Emmy


    Thank you so, SO much for this.  This is something I really needed to hear at this time in my life.  I just graduated from college earlier this month with a performing arts degree, and I am living back at home for a few months in order to save money to move to NYC in the fall to pursue a career in acting and singing.  Many of my friends are already working in performance jobs in places around the country, and sometimes I find myself facing feelings of both jealousy that they are getting to do things I want to do and also self-doubt that maybe I am not as good or as talented as they are.  Though I’m proud of their accomplishments, I can’t help feeling that what I’m behind somehow, because their talents are being recognized right now and mine are not because I chose to put performing on hold until I felt more financially stable to go pursue it in a few months.  It makes me feel as though I have to catch up.

    But then I remember that we are all on our own journey through life and that life is not a race to be won.  No one’s path is the same, and I have gifts and talents that my friends do not and vice versa.  I appreciate what they bring to the world, and I know deep down, they appreciate and love what I bring to the world.  I know that when my time comes to shine, they will be just as proud and supportive of me as I have been for them.  So when you said replace “compare and despair” with ADMIRE and INSPIRE, I’m taking that to heart from now on always, because I feel truly BLESSED to be surrounded by so many creative, talented people who feel the same passion for the arts that I do.

    So thank you again for your words of wisdom.  I’m glad to know that I am not the only person in the world who sometimes needs a little reminder of just how valuable my talents are!  🙂

  • Sam

    I love your #3 – Admire and Inspire.  Too often I’ve found myself instead stuck in the “compare and despair” cycle – and that can be a very dark cycle.  Such a straight-forward change in mindset can help me to achieve rather than be frustrated.  Thanks!

  • This post seemed to come into my life at the right moment.   Thanks Molly.  I found this encouraging and en”light”ening.  🙂   I want to finish creating what I’ve started so that I can finally put it out into the world.  I’ve spent so much time doubting myself and judging what others may be doing better than I am that I freeze into not putting my heart where it wants to be: creating happily.  I find myself a bit opposite from you.  Honestly I have more “other days” rather than the happy ones, but I’m working on turning that around, and this post helps.

  • Comparing myself to others is definitely a trap I’ve fallen into. I’ve also fallen into the bad habit of comparing myself to my past or future self, and either regretting what I don’t have anymore, or delaying being happy until I’m “better” in the future. It’s so hard just to stay in the moment. 

    I loved your thoughts about the lights. It’s so revealing – sometimes you don’t want the brightest lamp in the store. Sometimes you just need a soft little nightlight. There’s room for all of us.

  • Beautiful piece!!  Love the visual about shutting the lights of the day with a positive comment.  I will take that with me and think about that when I get into bed.  Thank you.
    There is a paragraph in the poem, Desiderata – “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.  Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.”

  • Francine

    Hey Emmy, I am a singer as well, I have an apt in Brooklyn which is about a 35 min train ride to and from NYC and pay under $500 a month which is totally cheap and the apt is super nice, gonna be either subletting or moving out soon enough. Please email me if ur interested, I’m always down to help others. -Francine (

  • Lori Brighton

    I needed this post! Being a writer, I know how you feel. I love the last part particularily, the lights going off and thanking each other. Instead, I pictured the lights in homes turning off one by one and people thanking each other…

  • Hi Rini,

    Thank you for your long post – it was perfect. Your examples were well thought out, and helped paint a very lovely picture of your journey. I’m not a musician at all, so I appreciate that gift in others even more.

    I think we grow up trying to figure out where we fit in the world and as a result, where are talents and gifts fit. And we often aren’t taught (and it isn’t modeled for us) that where we fit isn’t in relation to other people so much as *in relation to ourselves.* I bet that your piano efforts have improved considerably throughout your playing career, and to this I sincerely honor and recognize you! To be better than you were before is what truly matters. Every practice and effort you put towards your own improvement makes your light shine brighter.

    Also, you never know what another piano player is thinking when they are striving to improve. It’s probably the same mind-talk as your own, and they could be in the exact same place of comparison. Just being able to recognize and question that tendency to compare helps move through to the other side of it.

    EnJOY those fabulous ivory keys! 🙂

    Best to you,

  • Hi Jeffrey,

    Thanks for your lovely words! I’m so glad this connected with you and affirmed what you are doing matters as a writer/blogger. Writing, blogging and putting ourselves out there does matter. We all need to know that at times. Insecurity is normal, but what we do with it shows our true character. I would suspect that your light helps many others beyond measurement. If you’d like to share any of your work, I’d love to check it out! 🙂

    (I was at Home Depot this past weekend and wow, they’ve got a lighting department that really inspired me…bigger than Ikea’s!)


  • Danneleigh


  • Hi Sam,

    I’m happy to hear the rhyming duo “Admire & Inspire” was helpful for you! I really like that one, too, and have a little note card in my office with just those words on it. A quick refresher to “get on with it” and keep moving forward. 🙂

    Onward & Upward,

  • Hi Justine,

    Your honest creative spirit is beautiful! Thanks for sharing what you’ve been going through. The mind games can be tough, no doubt about it (and distracting, and icky, and tiring, etc.) 

    When you get down, just imagine your light connecting to the lights of others. Allow that to energize you forward. I bet there are many who are waiting for your gift(s) to be available. 🙂 If you are inspired to create something, there will be hundreds and thousands eager to receive it – your invisible cheering section. I’ve seen this happen many, many times.

    Let me know when it’s done, yes? Maybe I can share your creativity on my website?


  • Hi Sylvia,

    Oh, you hit on a good point about your “past or future self” – there are many ways to compare ourselves in all directions. And yet at the end of the day, there is only one way to love ourselves.

    The soft little nightlights are my favorites at times. They have a comforting, loving glow that really feeds the soul. There is definitely room for all of us. I love discovering new lights all the time. Thanks for being here and shining yours! 🙂



  • Hi Harriet,

    What a great paragraph! Thanks for sharing. It’s worthy of hanging on a wall for a quick refresher or perspective change.  Hope your day ends with a positive comment for shining your light! 🙂


  • Thank you for this bit of synchronicity and synergistic support which feels absolutely perfect today 😉
    Hugs and blessings,

  • Thank you for this bit of synchronicity and synergistic support which feels absolutely perfect today 😉
    Hugs and blessings,


  • Hi Lori,

    Oh good, I like hearing that as a writer, you understand this post as well. It’s so nice to recognize each others’ light and appreciate it – or else we’d be living in one dark world. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


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  • Hi Emmy,

    I loved your response. Thank you for sharing your journey and where you are on your path right now! This is a time of big life transitions and I think everything you described is normal. It can be frustrating when you’re so ready to GO, and yet the opportunities aren’t presenting themselves as you’d like them to yet – I’ve definitely been there.

    I’m glad this post connected with you. Your idea to work, save money, and live at home for a few months sounds like an excellent (and responsible) decision. There is nothing to be lost from that because what you are meant to do performance-wise will be presented to you when it is time.  And I would guess that being a talented performance artist means you are pretty in-tune with your instincts and gut, so you’ll know when that time and opportunity have arrived… I really believe that. You won’t miss a thing because the best opportunities will arrive to meet *you.*

    Keep shining your light, Emmy! There are stages around the globe that will be happy to host your bright talents at the most perfect time & in the most perfect way. 🙂

    Onward and Upward,

  • Oooh, thank you Virginia! I’m a huge fan of synchronicity and synergy, so that is a lovely compliment. Glad this resonated with you. 🙂


  • Thank you Danneleigh! (And what a pretty name!)

    Namaste to you as well. 🙂


  • Yoga Girl

    Thank you for this wonderful post.  It reminded me of a book I read years and years ago the– Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  Because of this book, when I get jealous of other creative artists I immediately do something on my creative To-do list and the jealousy goes away.

  • Hi Yoga Girl,

    Thank you your thoughts! I’m glad you found value in this post. So much creativity to share in the world that it’s important to move ahead and get on with it! 🙂

    Cheers to your creative success,

  • Kelly

    Thanks, Molly! I needed to hear this today. My high school reunion is coming up, and I’m feeling inadequate. When I list what I’ve done in the years since high school, I’ve done quite a bit but I’m still worried that everyone else will be judging me and I’ll come up as less than a success. Remembering that others appreciate my light and that it is unique helps me feel a lot better. Thanks again!

  • Thanks, Molly — It’s so nice to be in touch with you! You can check out my work at my site,  I’d love to have your comments and/or following!

  • Hi Kelly,

    Oh yes, high school reunions can trigger “stuff.” They often serve as a “life checking in point” to what we’ve done in our lives so far. Good idea to appreciate your special light and remember your numerous successes since you wore the cap and gown. Don’t hold back on either! 🙂

    One thing to remember is that if anyone is judging you, it’s only because they are also judging themselves.

    Thanks for sharing! Hope it’s a fun event. 🙂


  • Kisane

    Thank you so much – as you probably saw by my blog I have been running around in a circle but something has clicked this lat few days and I have decided to fly to chicago (from Australia) for an opportunity next week and to leave my regular old “JOB” – here goes! Thank you for your inspiration for me to follow my path! xx

  • Thank you so much for this post; it really struck a chord within me. Social media makes easy to “compare and despair”. As a new blogger I’m trying not to get caught up in it, but I do find myself in that space at times…so thank you for your wise words, reminding me that I’m not alone, that I’m normal, and for providing me tips to get of that rut, whenever I find myself in it.

  • Lovely article, Molly. I especially loved “Admire & Inspire”… time to write a song about that! 🙂

  • Sarah Gilbert

    this was a cute analogy

  • mazaibuzai

    great insight thank you for sharing!

  • Gsalemi1954

    Practice listening. The writing part will take care of itself. There are so many different ways of listening. A mother will put the side of her face right next to her infants face and take just the slightest sniff. It is a way of listening. Feeling the baby’s warmth, hearing it breath, affirming to the child and to themselves that they are there for them. It gives the mother joy and the baby comfort. It tells others of her love for her child. There is so much to listen for in every second it would be impossible to write about it all, never mind finding the time to judge it. There is no judgment in listening. Judgment is like putting on a very dirty pair of glasses and trying to see in the dark. Some of us feel that everything that is important has already been written. All you have to do is put the words in the right order. lol. good luck. I would say that you are a good writer but I do not want to judge you, so I will just say thank you for your article. I enjoyed it very much.  glen

  • Thank you so much for this message. As a fellow writer, I completely understand the random days when it feels like we aren’t good enough, or working hard enough. Great to let the vulnerabilities show!


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  • Thank you for your post Molly.  I can totally relate to this.  I think I’ve spent my whole life in comparison of how I ‘should’ be and what others want me to be.  Something eventually changed and I think it’s because I’ve started to notice and OWN my uniquness.  I’m not sure what exactly changed but I see myself in a newer light and it must be from all of the amazing support I have around me.  We have been given a gift by god, spirit or whatever and we got to appreciate it! 
    Alycia Hall

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  • Thank you for the lovely words! <3

  • Eve

    Really great honest writing, I felt relief as I was reading this – very happy to have it and will be sharing this with others.

  • TimothyF


        What bowled me over more than the spiritual infusion of positive wisdom is the simple dedication you show to each person that posts in response to your article.  Aside from your ability to work-out those nasty little thought buggers that tell us to be less than who we are, you’ve clearly shown the emotional depth that we need to achieve our dreams.

    I find myself drowning in pages of Joyce and Eliot, thinking about the futility of my quest:  I can never be on par with these guys, their imaginations and skills far outweigh mine, and I feel like anything below is somehow failing.  This, for some silly reason, hits me on unfortunate moments of “the blues.” Pulling myself back to reality, I realize that each person simply walks their own path: we are never in comparison or competition with each other, but we are all walking together, on many millions of paths beside each other.  By nature of your own genetic uniqueness, you, and you alone, are capable of producing something which has never occurred before, and will never occur again in human history. 

    It’s an absolutely arresting thought.  The power of each mind contains infinite possibilities and the goal of the artist is to harness these possibilities, believe in them, and create them for the world.  We owe it to ourselves to complete this task and if we can succeed in doing so, somehow the very idea of comparison dissolves in our minds, for we can take great comfort that we achieved something that our “comparisons” could never.  That we struggle with comparison is a shared growing pain of the writer.  I suppose no writer can claim to have produced what they thought of as transformational beauty without suffering the “slings and arrows of misfortune.”  But pelted by rocks and stung by quills they may be, the ultimate growth and perseverance lies within.

    I wish you all the best on your dreams.


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  • Ann P

    Hi Molly,

    This article was exactly what I was looking to read today. I especially loved the part about “Admire and Inspire”. Thanks for sharing your beautiful words. 🙂

    A big hug,

  • Em

    Oh my gosh, the whole light dialogue thing is so adorable and simply sweet it made me want to cry. Thanks so much for writing this it really made me feel better.

  • steve

    Ikea? That’s your solution? Bright lights of Ikea? That makes my spirits plummet “down, down, down” as if I am sinking under the sludge of all this snake oil.

  • Tessa Albin-Garza

    Thank you so much! I was in a really dark place after letting my self doubt consume me tonight. Your beautiful words absolutely lifted me out of it and inspired me to turn my light on tomorrow without fear. No doubt that I’m bookmarking this for future lonely dark nights.