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!)

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