As a millennial, in this golden age of personal branding and artistic entrepreneurship, you probably have felt a deep sense of insecurity about yourself and your work, largely because of how much you compare yourself to other people (ahem…social media), which makes you feel like you aren’t where you need to be, since other people seem like they’ve reached their goals much earlier than you have. However, you aren’t falling behind – you only feel like you are because of how people are quick to assess others based on how fast they achieve things and how much of it they do in such a short span of time (it’s just society’s way of measuring productivity, which people associate with brilliance and competitiveness). And honestly, that just takes all of the personal enjoyment away from the work that you’re trying to accomplish, and you need to recognize that “falling behind” doesn’t diminish your worth as a digital creative, and doing less while working at your own pace doesn’t make you any less of an artist than other people.
And here are the nine common reasons why you feel like you’re falling behind other creatives:
1. You compare yourself too much to other people who have “made it” and seem unstoppable because of how put-together their lives look, whether they’re corporate workers with a creative side hustle or lifestyle gurus who seem to have enough power and influence to work for themselves full-time, according to the gorgeous photos and inspiring captions they post on social media.
2. You feel fatigued all the time because you’re juggling with work, school, chores, family, relationships, self-care, and trying to make your artistic dream come true. And you have a long list of things you want to do, including putting more of your work out there, not out of pressure to prove yourself, but because your favorite creative activity simply feels good and brings you joy. However, you don’t finish as much as you’d like to because you’re physically worn out, so the severity of your physical exhaustion compounded with the desire to get many things done within limiting time constraints make you think that you are behind – and this makes you even more fatigued and unable to get things done, since you are so overwhelmed and don’t know which little task you want to start with.
3. You have very high and possibly unreachable expectations of yourself because you believe that other people seem to be churning out so much work faster than you, and they are always pointing it out on social media (while receiving thousands of likes), making you feel very insufficient and unconfident in your abilities to do the same. However, you need to remember that you ought to be working at your own pace and realize that other creative people are also struggling with something, but they choose not to share it, since they are also image-conscious and uncertain about themselves, in comparison to others that they perceive as “ahead” of them.
4. You are looking at other people’s end result and comparing it with your starting point. This is not even a comparison worth making because you are just getting started and figuring out what it is exactly you want to do: this involves a lot of experimentation, lifestyle adjustments, and deep soul-searching, which cannot happen overnight or even within a month, so it is unreasonable to expect yourself to do in a month what others have accomplished in three years. Relax, and understand that when you feel stuck, it is good that you’re taking a step back and slowly realizing that what you think you want isn’t what you truly want deep within the uncharted seas of your soul, if you were to strip away all of your ideas based on your perceptions of others’ end results and the way it makes you feel doubtful of your potential for future success.
5. You think that to be “successful” as a digital creative, you need to wake up at 4 AM every day, post flawless photos and be born naturally gorgeous, mass-produce creative works like other artistic lifestyle gurus in the blogosphere, read every single book that is recommended by all of the wise millennial philosopher-bloggers that are highly praised and have six-figures in their bank accounts, read five times the number of books a CEO reads in a month, be able to afford to travel to six different countries per year, have only one suitcase of personal belongings, have the magnetizing power to attract any sponsor for their blog (or vlog), churn out three original books a year, and on top of all that, have tens of thousands of followers on at least six social media accounts, which are updated five times a day. But that is not success. It’s just an unrealistic burden that you put upon yourself that makes you feel unworthy and miserable.
6. The people around you are quick to point out how you are falling behind and how you’ll never measure up to those famous people online, and they say you’re just a dreamer that will never make it. You’re someone that enjoys creating, but the way people judge you makes you feel like you aren’t a “real artist,” so you feel more discouraged and all of these judgments and comparisons stifle your creativity. You think that you need to achieve what they expect of you to stop feeling like you’re behind everyone else, but the more you try to force things to happen in your life based on your fear of being a failure in other people’s eyes, the more you freeze up, simply because you’re enamored with (and addicted to) the idea of finishing first and proving others wrong without considering how chasing after approval and fame could be the wrong path for you and ultimately lead to perpetual dissatisfaction.
7. You don’t necessarily expect it, but you kind of wish for overnight success and desire to “go viral,” but it’s because you’re envious of those who do seem to have quick ascension to fame. However, thinking about the end result is unhealthy and looking too much at other people’s appearance of success will only discourage you from doing work that actually means something to you – if you feel like you want something badly enough, you need to ask yourself if it is because of how it would look in the end or if it’s because it’s something you truly enjoy and would still work on anyway, regardless of the outcome, the statistics, or how other people feel about it.
8. You ruminate over your past mistakes to the point of unhealthy obsession. This is why you feel like you’re defined by your setbacks and unable to overcome them because you’re so consumed and angered by how much they have held you back, causing you to feel like you’re stumbling behind everyone else right now. You think too much about the “should’ve done’s” and not enough about the small, manageable steps you can take to remove yourself from the past and move forward into the future – you need to evaluate yourself based on what you can do now, not what you’ve done before. This is a huge block in your creative path, and only you can remove it, so you can keep going and pursue what fuels your soul in the most natural and unbounded way.
9. When it comes to creating, you expect instantaneous results and superhuman productivity from yourself, which causes you to feel perpetually dissatisfied in a deconstructive way. You are allowed to feel dissatisfied and work on refining your lifestyle if you want to achieve certain goals – this is constructive dissatisfaction, which builds you up and encourages you to keep improving so that you don’t stagnate or end up complacent. However, deconstructive dissatisfaction tears your self-esteem in half, makes you feel guilty for all the things you haven’t accomplished yet, and exhausts you so much that you don’t have energy or the heart to work on improving yourself.
Whenever you feel like the path ahead of you is long, winding, crooked, and with no discernible end in sight, you need to remember that you are allowed to rest, take a sabbatical, recharge and reflect on what you want in life in the most brutally honest way possible, remove yourself from all the doubt and fear, and take some quality time to craft a lifestyle that is in perfect alignment with your beautiful, whole, and wonderful self.