How to Compete Against Yourself

How often do we limit the flow of creativity and inspiration because of that darned old element of competition? Many times the areas in which we compete aren’t even worthy of an Olympic event.

For years I have ashamedly competed against a particular individual in everything I do. My housework. My cooking. My use of time. My parenting. My business. My photography. And on and on. I finally figured out recently that the root of my competition was simply acceptance. I’ve never felt fully accepted by her and thus my life at times has been run by this fruitless drive to prove that I was worth something. She’ll never know how much I have allowed that competition to limit my life as I carried that proverbial brick around in my backpack, weighing down my load and blocking my conduit to inspiration and confidence in myself.

Competition has been a two edged sword for me.

At times it has been the very drive needed for me to work hard and seek for ways to innovate.

At other times, it has felt ugly inside.

Ever give up before even trying because of competition?  Overt or not, we may even compete against the intangible and unknown, afraid for acceptance or success before anything has even begun.

One of the most beautiful parts of childhood is the absence of this entire dilimma.

Every child is an artist.  A dancer. A singer. A storyteller. An athlete.

It matters not that the skill level may vary.  The joy that comes in participating and creating is the only motivation needed.

As we grow up we slowly start to make excuses, declare our lack of talents, shy away from trying something we may not be good at in a first attempt, and often have an eye judging how well someone else is might be doing.

A very simple secret to happiness (and creative success) is to find a way to return to the roots of how we started.

Humble. Eager to try. And finding the beauty in every attempt.

The only healthy competition is that against ourself. Saying it outloud sounds cliche’, but I think that’s more because it’s so hard to do sometimes and we guiltily know we’re better off following that simple truth.

So how exactly do we limit the competition to ourself?  Here’s a few thoughts:

1.  Set Proper Goals.

Goals aren’t worth anything if they aren’t measurable and defined.  If we really want to compete against ourself we need to be more precise than “Do better than before” will account for.  Take the time to note the specific area’s where you can improve.  A few I’m working on right now?  Using motion more in my images, and seeking for authentic emotions over staged ones.  Having a very specific goal to work towards in our work means that we actually have something measurable and can see the results of our progress.

2.  Ditch the Bad People!

We all have places we visit or people we interact with who bring out more of that competitive edge in ourselves…(the not pretty edge that makes us feel ugly inside).  Take note of who those people are, or where those places may be, and boycott them!

If you regularly visit a blog that makes you feel like a loser because you’re comparing yourself each time, then stop.  Don’t put yourself through that!  One of the greatest elements of success and happiness is to surround yourself with positive, talented, and supportive people.  Ditch the ones who bring you down and soak up all you can from those that make you feel better about yourself.  Can I repeat that again?  My world started to change immediately as soon as I dumped a fair load of people out of my google reader that weren’t doing me any good.

3.  Celebrate Your Accomplishments.

Every time I accomplish a major personal goal I get to buy a new book on amazon 🙂 !  Its better than chocolate and is much more delightful to celebrate than the unfulfilling cheap feeling that we did better than someone else.  Did you achieve a goal you set for yourself?  Do you see improvement in your work?  Did you go out of your comfort zone and do something hard?  Hooray for you!  Celebrate the accomplishment!  If we acknowledge the tiny steps of triumph it makes competing against yourself worth the fun treats and rewards!  Find a good reward system that works for your personality and implement it into your goal structure.  Or check out this outstanding book for discovering what your personal motivation triggers are.

4.  Get toKnow Your Authentic Self

Its much easier to be happy with our work when we know who we are.

The more comfortable we become with ourselves, the less we feel the need to unneccessarily compete against others.

Two incredible helps for my own “finding my authentic self” journey have been The Artists Way, and Simple Abundance.  Each worthy of several blog posts of their own.  They’ve both changed my life.


Some things are easier said than done.  The road of personal competitiveness has been a life long challenge for me, but the moments where I can truly make it work are always more rewarding.

It really is a beautiful world when we can discover that the race is not against others, but against our personal potential.  And that my friends, can accept many winners.


Brooke Snow is a Lifestyle photographer in Cache Valley, Utah.  She grew up in constant competition with a short pompous boy from school, who always beat her in every type of competition.  Just think of how many years of her life she could have lived more fully if she had paid more attention to her own level of progress as a measure of success!  Some lessons are better learned as early in life as possible, for the returns are greater than we think.

Brooke teaches inspiring online photography classes that bring you confidence in your skills and creativity.

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10 Responses

    1. Oh Belinda… You must read The Artists Way 🙂 And then of course you must write to me and tell me what you think : ) Its one of “those” type of books 🙂

  1. Thanks Brooke,

    “Humble. Eager to try. And finding the beauty in every attempt.” – Very Cool!
    My “The Artist’s Way” is on the way…thanks for the tip.

    Hey…am I the only bloke on here?

  2. You are so right but it can be really difficult to not wish away your own abilities because of all the amazing talent out there. Any more tips on goal setting? I am really rubbish at it! I always feel that my goals turn into never-ending to do lists instead.
    “Every time I accomplish a major personal goal I get to buy a new book on amazon” Love this idea – just need some proper goals first!

    1. Hi Emma! Great questions! Goal setting motivation is different for everyone. I highly recommend the book “Get Motivated!” by Tamara Lowe. It helps each person to see what their own personal motivation DNA is and then you can set goals according to that. I love this idea because what motivates me is going to be different than what motivates someone else. Another goal tip I love is to break the goal down into manageable bite size steps and pieces. “Lose 20 pounds” is too broad. But “exercise for 30 minutes five times this week” seems a little more manageable 🙂 Good luck, my friend!

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