Comparison is the Thief of Joy

3264 2448 Amy Tallmadge

There are a couple of actresses in Atlanta that I frequently run into around town – at auditions, where we read for the same role; at industry mixers, where they seem so poised and gorgeous; or in class, where I admire their technique. They are extremely pleasant women, a very similar type to me, talented, intelligent…and I couldn’t be more envious of them. From my point of view, their careers are going very well, and though I’m glad for them, I can’t help but be jealous. How many of you have had the same experience? If you haven’t yet, I can almost guarantee, you will!

Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He HAD to have been talking about artists! Of course, I’m joking, but the point remains – why do we do this to ourselves? We know, intellectually, that we are completely different actors, different people, than those that we compare to ourselves. But something inside pokes at us, whispers, “You’re not nearly as good as they are.” How do we handle our own self doubt and stop comparing ourselves to others?

Before we get to that, know that it is a natural human impulse to compare yourself to someone else. It’s part of a survival instinct that served our ancestors very well – if they were more like the rest of their tribe, their chances for survival increased. However, like a lot of human qualities from ancient times, this doesn’t do modern artists much good, though it’s nice to know that we come by this characteristic honestly. You don’t have to beat yourself up for feeling this way.

This leads to the first step – accept that you are comparing yourself to someone. Sounds like a no-brainer, I know, but trust me on this. The next time you feel jealous of another actor, don’t push away those thoughts. Actually say to yourself “I am comparing myself to [the person].” Face it head-on! Maybe it can lead you to exactly why you’re doing it – is he/she doing the kind of work you want to do? Do you think she’s/he’s more attractive than you are? Identifying the source of your jealousy will help you determine how to handle it.

The next steps vary, depending on the source of your impulse for comparison. If you’re jealous of something an actor has that you can work towards, like a level of training or an amazing agent, that can give you a new goal. Let it inspire you instead of eat you up – just be mindful to not expect your results to look exactly like the results of the person you’re admiring.

There are certain things you might envy in others that are out of your control (no matter how much I wish it, I’ll never be as gorgeous as Charlize Theron), but you can manage these feelings. Remember that we all have our place in the business. Just because you may not get cast as “Beautiful Woman the Hero Falls For” doesn’t mean you won’t be cast. The industry is looking for YOU – don’t hide yourself trying to be someone who isn’t authentically you. Let the beautiful people be who they are and see them as your allies and colleagues. They’re not your enemy. You think Melissa McCarthy, Judi Dench, or Steve Buscemi got to superstardom by hating other people? (For the record, I find all of those people beautiful, just not in a conventional sense.)

What if the object of your jealousy is a good friend of yours who is succeeding in ways that you’d like to experience? Try reframing that friend’s achievements as yours – humans have a tendency to make everything about themselves anyway, so why not make it work in our favor? Maybe you helped them rehearse for the audition for the role they booked. Perhaps you wished them well and encouraged them when they were nervous about an upcoming casting call. Their success becomes your success. That may feel a bit self-indulgent, but it’s much more positive than being envious or angry. By the way, if you find it difficult to support your friends, remember that there is room in this industry for everyone – a friend having success doesn’t mean you won’t. In fact, it probably makes it even more likely that you will, too.

Comparing yourself to another person is a fruitless effort – you aren’t that person, and you never will be. And why should you want to be that person anyway? You are pretty amazing and wonderful all on your own. The only comparison an artist should make is to his or her previous work, and even in that context, you still need to be kind to yourself. As for me, I’m going to appreciate those actresses I’ve been jealous of in the past, because they have a lot to teach me. And I suppose Charlize does, too!

Impulsively,

Amy T.