Recently a friend of mine started a diet. Ok, please stick with me here, I’m going someone I swear.
This particular diet in simple terms is a high fat, very low carb diet. So in his bid to lose weight, my friend has given up carbs completely and switched to almost entirely a high fat diet. He consumes essentially just bacon and mayonnaise for every meal and he has lost twelve pounds and counting. I mean, what even is life at this point? In our frequent conversations about his new diet and newly gained valor for life, he would discuss with me the endless benefits of this particular diet, his weight loss, bountiful energy, great skin, loose clothing, the list went on. As these discussions continued I started to wonder, wait- should I be on this diet?
I mean it does sound kinda great, who doesn’t love bacon? I guess I could lose a few pounds right?
I compared my current diet and exercise plan to my friends and decided yes, I would go on this diet. So I gave up carbs. And a lot of vegetables (who knew vegetables has such a high carb content) and so I committed to my new diet. For twenty-four hours. The second day, I woke up in a daze, my brain fuzzy, feeling tired and weird. I had a strange sense of anxiety and confusion and I lasted until 11am when I found myself on my couch eating a bowl of just brown rice.
A couple of hours later, my brain power and sass now returned and a personal certainty that carb free diets, nay diets in general were definitely not for me, I wondered. Why did I start the diet in the first place? Sure, maybe I wanted to be healthier and eating bacon fourteen times a day and suddenly becoming a size zero didn’t sound too bad either but actually what was going on here?
I reflected and realized the truth was, I was comparing.
I compared myself to my friend and came out feeling that somehow I needed to change because he had. Or because maybe he had found the secret. He knew the thing I didn’t know.
How many times have we done that, scrolled through Instagram and suddenly wondered, wait do I need to cut my hair? Get hair extensions? Or in acting terms, why didn’t I book that? Who reps him? Why does she always seem so happy?
It ruins us, this game we play and let’s be honest, in 2018 it’s a game everyone is playing and most of us are losing. I know some very successful people, some in the industry, some in social media, some with normal jobs. And there bank balance; their IMDb ranking or follower count is not making them happier. That much I am certain of. So how do we avoid this? This constant game of comparison. Well I don’t know for sure really, maybe we can’t, but I can tell you a few ways that I have discovered that have helped me. I hope you read this and remember to not be so hard on yourself, to be grateful for what you have and to love yourself. Oh, and don’t give up carbs, it’s weird and I swear it makes you dumber.
‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ – Theodore Roosevelt
THE COMPARISION GAME & SOCIAL MEDIA
The act of comparing is a cultural phonomeum that’s hard to avoid. We all experience feelings of envy and wanting what someone else has. In 2018, our society now more than ever, is set up to tell you that you don’t have enough, that you need more. This is largely in an effort to sell you something and always with an undertone of you need to change, look different, travel more, be better. We are constantly sold on a notion that in order to be happier, we need to have more. This, of course, is amplified by our social media culture, a culture where we constantly scroll through social media through out our day, viewing an endless highlight reel of our friends, family and a random collection of strangers on the internet. As an actor, this can be even more amplified because the highs and lows for actors and creatives can be so much greater. Often the lives of actors don’t always follow the usual benchmarks, buying the house, getting married and having children, those things often come later for actors and sometimes not at all. It can be easy to look at the lives of your peers and compare ourselves, missing out on booking a job, or not getting signed to that agency, acting can be an endless treadmill of rejection. So, it makes sense that as actors, we would compare, take two things (our life and the lives of those we believe to be doing better than ourselves) and consider the other person to have more, to be more successful than us. Yet, this game of comparison is so detrimental to us because it takes away not only from our current achievements and artistry but because it can make us want less for others.
The sooner we can quit wasting our time wanting for someone else life or experiencing envy over what we perceive a peer to have that we may not, the sooner we can be happy. The key to this is gratitude, simply by recognizing what you already have. In order to stop comparing, it is vital to find gratitude for the things you have already achieved and been given and in doing so, you will start to live in the moment, becoming the most present and authentic version of yourself.
Often in our lives, especially as actors, our perceived failures can actually become our defining moments. The times when we didn’t book the book, we didn’t get that meeting, when things did not go as planned are the times where we grow the most and can reshape our path to lead us in a better direction. A theme in my life, especially in recent years since moving to LA has been missing out on opportunities and things not going the way that I planned, yet something better coming along and working out differently to what I had hoped but ultimately for the better. I think about this a lot and it always reminds me that I need to trust the path I have chosen and continue working hard. Whilst I know this personally to be true for my life, I still struggle with wanting to control outcomes. Actors are gamblers, to pursue something as risky as acting as a career path requires a particular mindset and self assuredness, so to stay on this path, we must look forward and not around at others. When we compare we run the risk of falling in love with perception and hating reality, hating the present moment and what we already have. There is no rule book to becoming an actor or to achieving your creative dreams, what works for some may not work for you and in finding the best path for you, you will likely encounter struggles. It is worthwhile to remember that it is a privilege to simply be able to follow your dreams, something that many people simply cannot do, whether because of circumstance, culture or personal fear.
FOCUS ON YOUR GOALS
A great way to stop comparing is to start doing, start by focusing on your goals. If you want to be in a particular place and are envious of someone around you who might have achieved that, ask yourself, why am I not there? What needs to be done to get there? As actors it can be easy to feel disempowered, you wait for the phone call from your agent, you wait for the casting but there is so much you personally can do. If you’re lucky enough to be a gifted writer, create your own content, whether it is writing a feature film or short digital content. Shoot a short film, start a podcast, go to acting class, start improv, the list of things you can do to live a life not only of creatively but where you actively participate in your own success and the manifestation of your own dreams, is endless. If you are an actor, you made sacrifices and took some pretty solid risks to call yourself that, so in order to fully meet your potential, you need to fully commit. The dangers of the comparison game is that it takes away from us, what we have already been given, what we have already achieved. Comparison truly is the thief of joy; it disempowers us and tells us we are not enough. It can make us envious of others, a scary pattern of not wanting others to succeed or finding others achievements a personal disappointment can develop. If we are unable to love and support our peers and have their joy be our own, then the pursuit of any creative goal seems pointless. The journey to success however it may be paved and wherever it may led, will likely be difficult at times, and so it can be easy to want for more and to believe that if we had the lives of others we might be happier. However, the truth is, in finding happiness and gratitude for what we already have, we can be happy and present, all the time. If you are finding yourself comparing your own life to that of your peers in a way that makes you feel you are not enough, then remember the power you have in your own creative life and busy yourself with hard work. The pursuit of acting as a career should also be the pursuit of personal joy. It should come from having a genuine interest in this world. Comparison kills creativity so stop comparing and start creating.