Name: Megan H.
Occupation: Graphic Designer
Tell us your story:
About a year ago I was MVP of the comparison game. I looked at other designers online and was filled to the brim with envy: envy of the dreamy clients they were working with, envy of their gorgeous portfolios, envy that they had (seemingly) endless streams of work while I still had dry-spells. This unhealthy obsession with the competition inevitably took its toll on me. Rather than appreciate the clients and work that I did have, I dwelt on what I didn’t. Instead of taking pride in own my portfolio and doing my best to improve it, I scrutinized everyone else’s work.
I didn’t realize the extent to which this obsession had taken hold, until one day while looking at another designer’s work I audibly uttered a degrading comment about the quality of it. This stopped me in my tracks. Why had I just said that? How had I had become this person who had to cut others down just to build herself up? I was repulsed by this negative, bitter version of myself that had just reared its ugly head.
From that point on I told myself that if I didn’t have anything nice to say about another designer or her work, I wouldn’t say anything at all. Ultimately this kind of an attitude was only hurting myself. I knew that the healthiest thing for me to do at the time was to stop looking around at everyone else and put my nose to the grinding stone. I unfollowed almost all other designers on Instagram and started focusing on growing my own business.
The following quote from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis fundamentally shifted my perspective on the competition. In this quote, Wormwood, a demon, is referring to God as the Enemy.
“The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the, fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents—or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.”
How beautiful (and counter-cultural) is the self-forgetfulness of this quote? More love for others and less love for self is the only true remedy for envy. I know that comparison is still lurking in the corner, waiting for me to be within its jealous reach. Sometimes I find my focus shifting inward again and feel comparison’s grimy fingers tugging on my heart. Then God reminds me that any client, talent, or acclaim I receive are only the result of His gracious provision, and that He also gives those very same things to others according to His pleasure. Who am I to question that?
What advice would you give another woman who is going through a similar experience?
It’s important to remember that there’s more than enough work to go around. I couldn’t single-handedly manage all of the graphic design needs in the world. So it’s good that there are other designers out there. Practically speaking, unfollowing the competition on social media is a great way to take yourself out of the comparison game. Gratitude is also a great antidote to envy. Make a list of all the clients and projects you’ve been blessed to have. This allows you to focus on what’s on your own plate, rather than eyeing your neighbor’s. If you are a praying woman, going to God with your struggle and giving thanks for His gifts is a surefire way to combat comparison.