Do not compare one person with another: it is a hateful thing to do. – St. Teresa of Avila
I think this is one of the hardest of St. Teresa’s 69 maxims. After all, we make comparisons between others every day. Some are not healthy, such as, “Who is my favorite in-law?” Does it matter? Should you form an opinion to justify treating one person better than another? Or worse, use an unfavorable comparison to justify gossiping?
Other times, we are forced to compare to gain the most benefit from limited time. For example:
Who’s on the bestseller list?
Do I read a book by this author or that author?
Does Author A or Author B tell a better story or write the more helpful book?
But it’s not healthy to compare ourselves to others. Why? Because you’re then stepping in a field of emotional land mines, including false pride and discouragement:
That author seems to write a book a day, but I struggle to complete a book a year. I’ll never be as successful as he is.
I have a feeling my publisher isn’t as prestigious as some other publishers. I deserve to be published by the best. Why can’t they see that?
Why did that author get a book contract and I didn’t? Maybe I should give up.
Does that author get better terms than I do on my contracts? It sure looks like it, considering she just bought a new designer handbag. Why can’t I get her contract terms?
Ha! I got a great book deal! That will show them!
I’m so depressed. My best friend got a book deal and I didn’t.
I could be on every bestseller list for years but they will not acknowledge my success. I hate my life.
Well, obviously that panel of judges has no taste, because I didn’t win the contest.
My author friend has no money worries, but my book didn’t even earn out. Life is so unfair!
My writing is so much better than hers. Why didn’t I get that award?
Why does that author get accolades? She’s a lousy writer.
Cultivating a Healthy Attitude
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde
All of us experience negative, prideful, and other unhelpful emotions at times. When you do, acknowledge your feelings, then let them go, giving them to the Lord. Work on being the person and writer you are, fulfilling God’s plan for your life, not someone else’s. One of the most effective ways to reach this goal is to avoid comparing yourself and your career to that of others, even in victory. After all, it takes grace and courage to be a gracious “loser” but much more grace, tact, and kindness to be a gracious victor.
What tips can you offer discouraged authors?
How did you gain your big breakthrough?
When was an enviable situation not all that it seemed?