A few weeks back we recorded a podcast on “How to Deal with Negative Criticism,” and in response to the episode, saxophonist Adam Larson asked us to follow up with an article on “How to Deal with Comparisons.”
So thank you Adam for suggesting this next post!
Comparisons can be a tough thing to deal with, and they’re arguably one of the biggest reasons we find ourselves unhappy. We’re constantly comparing ourselves with our peers and with those who are better or different, and others are constantly comparing us too. It’s not uncommon to hear things like, “Your the next XYZ” or “You sound just like ABC” from fans or even other musicians.
And sometimes, even when those comparisons are meant as a compliment, they still can be frustrating.
THE FIRST STEP TO DEALING WITH COMPARISONS IS TO STOP MAKING THEM YOURSELF.
It’s easy to think things like “Oh, well he’s doing that because he’s so much better than me,” or worse, “Why is he doing that, I should!”
The fact is, neither of the above are good things to think.
Imagine this scenario: You’re reading your favorite music blog and you see what another artist around your age is doing. In comparison it seems you’re life isn’t quite as exciting. They have a few cool gigs and you begin to feel like you’re not doing enough and maybe even that you’re not good enough. You see posts about other musicians traveling the world, playing with your music heroes, getting awesome endorsements and begin to wonder why you’re not.
How can you be motivated and happy about your career and what you’re doing if you think that way?
If you’re working hard on your music and your business, you shouldn’t think that way. You’re not doing it wrong. Sometimes it just happens differently or more slowly for different people. Why? Because of the word I just used twice in the previous sentence. You’re DIFFERENT.
The sooner you accept that things will happen for you in their own way and at their own pace, the sooner you’ll be able to accept and appreciate your career the way it is. Be happy with what you’ve achieved and do what you can to avoid comparing yourself to your peers!
DEALING WITH COMPARISONS MADE BY OTHERS
A big part of being a performer or artist is creating your “brand,” your identity, and your sound. It’s what makes you different, sets you apart and gives you a place in the industry against countless competitors. Being told that you sound like or look like another artist can make you feel like you’re doing it all wrong.
But the reality is, you’re probably not.
People are wired to make connections and comparisons so that they can better understand and validate their interests. We all do it. Have you ever found yourself thinking that a complete stranger looks like a friend of yours? That’s pretty similar to the comparison someone is making when they tell you that you sound like someone else. It’s typically meant as a compliment and it’s sometimes their way of validating the reasons that they like you.
So whenever you hear someone tell you that you sound like another player, say “thanks“! Even if it’s not exactly what you want to hear, it very likely was meant as a way to compliment your performance.
In the rare case that you’re compared to someone in a way that’s intended as a negative critique, try to find out why the comparison was made and then figure out how you can do it better the next time around (if you feel you agree with the criticism offered). Negative criticism is never easy to deal with regardless of the form it takes (comparison, insult, etc.). If you’re looking for advice on dealing with negative feedback, you can check out our article on how to deal with negative criticism.
So when it comes to comparisons, learn to focus on yourself for who you are and what you’re doing. Don’t focus on yourself in comparison to others. Enjoy music and learn about yourself as you’re doing it. If you keep working at it and loving it, you’ll continue to grow and improve, and everything else comes second to that.
Has anyone ever compared you to another musician? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!
Interested in getting more tips like this? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.