Saturday, June 18, 2011

I Refuse To Compare and Despair

Be who you areThis  morning, this interesting post from a lovely art blog showed up in my reader -- how to cure yourself of artist's block in one week (hopefully).  Tara, the blogger, listed three culprits behind her current case of artist's block, with the number one reason being "looking at too many other people's work" and number three being "not wanting to produce anything that isn't a 'work of art'" (you've got to click through for number two! ;)).

I can totally, absolutely, 100% relate to this.  It is easy for me to go from looking at and appreciating others' art to comparing my art to what I'm viewing.  That leads to me say, "Hmph, everyone's already doing the same thing as me, and doing it better, so why bother."  Of course that mindset is not helpful for anyone, neither myself nor the people who may one day enjoy my art -- if I put in the time and work now.

And of course in thinking this way I'm forgetting the number one reason why I love making art -- because it heals me.  It makes me come alive. It makes me feel connected to my self, to God, and to other people.  It makes my heart sing.

I'm not sure if this is something I've really written much about yet.  Art-making has been a revelation for me.  No other activity has allowed me to lose myself so completely, yet in so healthy a way, as making art.  What's more, making art has freed me from the hold that bulimia had on me.  As you know, I've been fighting against a binge/purge compulsion for the past year or more (prior to which I was still fighting the same urge, but more restrictive with my food and more excessive with my exercise).  Nothing has been able to help me climb out of the whole that compulsion was burying me in -- not Overeaters Anonymous, not prayer, not a diet/exercise program, not blogging, not hooping, and certainly not writing (writing, in fact, triggered even more of this compulsive behavior).

Then I decided to take one of Suzi Blu's online art classes.  And . . . my inner world exploded.  I began the course tentatively, but then discovered that I actually could make nice looking things . . . and then I couldn't get enough.  I threw myself into making art with reckless abandon.  I finally discovered what flow means to hoopers, something I'd heard so much about but had never truly experienced.  What's more, I found that when making art, all eating disordered thoughts fled.  I had absolutely no desire to binge.  It was nothing short of amazing, a gift from God.

So when I start telling myself "Why bother?" or getting down on myself because my art is not fine art or "real art" (whatever that means), I'm robbing myself of this miraculous gift.  I'm putting the chains back on.  I'm retreating from life rather than living it.

And I compare myself in other areas of life, too.  I bemoan my blog's traffic, wanting it to be much higher but never seeming able to get it there.  I think "Why bother?" when I read my favorite authors' books, and decide I shouldn't write because everyone else is so much better.  I compare my level of faith, my communication skills, my dogs' naughtiness, my pregnancy eating habits -- and that's all without even mentioning physical comparison, a thought-demon which seems to prey on every women in the western world.

Enough is enough.  If I look, it's so easy to recognize how harmful comparison is.  So I'm done.  I'm sick of it.  When I compare, the only thing that happens is that I give in to despair -- and usually throw myself right back into the clutches of disordered eating again.  No more.

No more comparing.  No more sizing each other up.  Who's with me?

(A side note on commenting — I’ve changed the security settings because I was getting a massive amount of spam comments.  If you have trouble commenting with the current settings, please email me at escagnel04 (at) yahoo (dot) com and let me know what’s not working for you.  Thanks!)


  1. Beth thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your thoughts. I read your blog post (and plan to read further later! and thanks for the mention also!) and was very moved by what you wrote. The thought that being able to access and unleash your creativity could help you so much and mean so much to you in a big life sense made me feel inspired, no, more than that. I can't put my finger on what it was but it was a big feeling!

    You make an excellent point about the key thing about making art being what it does for YOU - it can be all to easy to get caught up in 'is it finished? can I sell it? will anyone like it?' thoughts. I really wish you huge love and miracles in your progress. :)



    (Ps. There's obviously something about Suzi Blu's classes; a painting I did in the class I took has become something that seems to really touch people; I don't paint like that any more but I think in some ways it was a big turning point for me too.)

  2. Thanks, Tara! I really appreciate your thoughtful words, and that you came by! And of course thank you for the inspiration and deep thoughts! :D

  3. Beth, what a beautiful post! I am totally with you on this. And I think art should really be about who you are, no one else... whatever you are meant to share, you should :) Wonderful work following your instincts to do what you were created to, and to love others as you do!


    rachel @ alive in the fire

  4. I agree 100 percent.

    What's interesting is that I was currently at a trade show for work with hundreds of different vendors--all of the artsy variety. I was talking with a couple of the "smaller" companies and they were talking about how they had no clue what was popular or "right" because they paid no attention to the "big" boys in the industry. They knew they couldn't compete, for one, but also because they wanted to be original and not influenced by what they thought they "should" be doing.

    Because they refused to compare and go with the crowd, their art came completely from within, was original and stood out to me above the "big" boys. My point is that true art--and also true character and beauty-- is a personal expression that defies comparison. We're all original and should celebrate that ;)

  5. That's so interesting -- and refreshing and just plain cool -- that the smaller companies deliberately chose to do that!

  6. Art, by definition almost, is for it's own sake of being. That's the beauty of it. Beauty beyond description or comparison. It is probably a normal "hump" you have reached in your artistic journey. Then you recognize, learn and move on. This seems like a milestone!

    And art is infusing your life with lessons! Lovely!

  7. Beautiful insights, my sister, and beautiful artwork to go along with it. :)

    I'm with you. I decided a few months back that when I read someone else's blog, poem, novel, whatever, when I watch someone else's hoop videos, when I look at other people's Etsy shops, I'm going to do it for the sake of enjoying their creations and perhaps sparking my own imagination, but I'm not going to allow myself to compare my level of skill, expertise or artistry with theirs. It does me no good and it doesn't benefit the world for me to cultivate that kind of critical mindset.

    I was looking through my footage yesterday from Saturday's hoop jam, seeking out highlights so I could edit an hour and 43 minutes of video down to 5 minutes or less. I expected to find a few good moments interspersed with long stretches of "same old same old" hooping. What I saw instead was over 50 moments of progress I wanted to showcase. 50! Yes, some of them were the same move done more than once, but still, it was wonderful to see that I'd used up half a notepad jotting down the moves I liked and where they occurred in the video timeline.

    The Bible says that as we think in our hearts, so are we. It also tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I think cultivating an attitude of seeking out the positive in ourselves is vital to living out both of these scriptures. When we do encounter something we know isn't pleasing to God or ourselves, we need to acknowledge it, ask God's forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and move on, trying not to repeat whatever it was. What we don't need to do is compare ourselves to others, beat ourselves up, or wallow in self-pitying defeatism. I'm so glad you've taken a stand for living positive. :)


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King