Comparing ourselves to our peers or role models is, I believe, something we tend to do naturally. Whenever we seek praise for our success, comfort for our failure, or advice for our trepidation, we compare our situations to others as a method of placement among those who have already come. Healthy, yes, to get an idea of our present and a base from which to spring to the future. I say again, healthy for an IDEA.
Comparing yourself to another is only healthy when taken lightly, without creating too much of a crutch on the examination of apples to oranges.
I am referring to many consecutive years of putting either my writing or my physic on the scales next to others (most of them established, more successful individuals). It has taken me up to this my twenty-second year to own up to this toxic habit. Those others (may they be Jo Rowling or Stephen King to Men’s Health Cover models or simply my fellow gym rats) I did not realize have gone through much rigorous training and years of dedication to their passion to get to that form when I am exposed to them. I did not put together the these persons have a deep backstage story to their success before being placed on a pedestal. They were/are inspirations from which I hope to achieve some day. This source of motivation is healthy, mind you. It serves as a voice in my head chanting the mantra: “I want to write/look like that. I want to work to get like them.” This is good. This is great, in fact. However, like I said before, these role models should be looked upon lightly, compared to especially with a tentative hand.
Although, since I put Jo and others on said pedestals, it makes it impossible for me to compare myself to them; they already have a leg up on the playing field. The thoughts of “well she got published this way,” “she got started writing because. . .,” or “she had a childhood/upbringing like. . .” only got myself into a punching match that left me bloodied and crawling to the ropes. And I’m the one who’s throwing the punches, not her. Those self-destructive thoughts do nothing to bolster your resolve, your individual identity.
I’m here to tell you that you’re worth a damn of your personal identity. (By writing this, I’m reinforcing this for me too.) We need to stop looking to our icons, our longtime stars as something we can replicate. We will never be like the Jo’s or more ripped icons because they aren’t us! If we want to be successful writers, even full time ones, or weekend warriors we need to set our own standards. Why would we want to be somebody else when we’re awesome all by our lonesome? We have stories and physical potential that won’t result in the Harry Potters or airbrushed six-packs that’s been our motivation. And that’s okay. Be different. Be your own version of the Harry Potters or airbrushed abs.
I know I won’t write a novel like Potter or look like Chris Evans because that’s already been done. Why would I want copy what’s readily available? That’s like the architects of Washington D.C. saying, “instead of just modeling our street patterns off Paris, let’s just recreate Paris but with an American spin? Instead of the White House, how bout the Palace of Versailles but stick an American flag on it; instead of the Washington Monument, how bout an Iron Nail like the Eiffel Tower but with an eagle on top of it?” They took the blueprints of what is but put their own spin on it. They made it their own.
This bit is important, and what I will end on. I’m probably not going to take Jo or any of my other role models off of their pedestals. I know now it doesn’t matter whether or not they are elevated or standing side-by-side. I understand, or am understanding, that I can use my inspirations as specimens from which to take what I will and transform it into something it is not, something I can make my own with no traces of the modeled work. It’s important to know where you come from, whom you aspire to be like (not replicate). It’s more important to find value in within yourself whether it’s in writing or on the bench. Once we accomplish that, we can become models for others and encourage them to search the corridors within themselves to find their special sparks. You do you and others will too.