Comparison, like over-thinking, is a habit that has plagued me most of my life. Early on, if you had asked me to contemplate its effects, I would have said something along the lines of how necessary comparison is to success. We can’t know how far we’ve come or how far we have left to go if we’re not comparing ourselves to other people and their achievements.
Over the years, I’ve compared myself to friends, family, and strangers in almost every way one can: looks, possessions, attitude, health, wealth, skill. You name it. It’s easy to see what an exhausting endeavor constant measurement taking could be. And how soul-sucking. But back then (by which I mean up until a few years ago), I didn’t see it. I couldn’t. I was too wrapped up in striving, hooked into the false belief that highlighting my perceived frailties, weaknesses, and imperfections was the best way to overcome them.
Then, during my daughter’s health crisis, I was forced to come face to face with myself and didn’t like what I found. I set out on a quest to learn how to be more authentic, to learn how to love the person I was beneath the rhetoric.
Reading Gifts countered almost everything I thought I understood about what this life expected of me. The book is subtitled, Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. Whoa. That’s what I wanted. Brown outlined 10 guideposts that teach us how to lead more authentic lives. Guidepost #6 is about the role cultivating creativity plays in letting go of the detriment of comparisons. “The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world is born of our creativity.” It is to this section of the book that I return again and again.
I started art journaling as a direct result of this teaching. Putting paint and glue and glitter to paper opens my heart. This meme reminds me that instead of wasting precious time judging myself, I need to play. I need to lighten up, take myself less seriously. In this way, my writing life also improves. Art is an action that connects my head to my heart to my hands to my keyboard. And, I hope, one that connects me to you.