Community over competition is a trendy concept, and while your initial response might be to roll your eyes at this overstated, seemingly woo-woo phrase, it has shifted my way of thinking and made me a much happier person. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good competition. I am a naturally competitive person. I think the feeling is primal, and an innate emotion that makes civilization thrive and do really great things.
But competition can also make you miserable. It can make you feel like you have to keep to yourself and operate on your own out of fear that you’ll lose business or create competition. Oh man, this is such a lie. There was a time that competition consumed me. I would feel threatened every time I saw another photographer succeeding, as if their success equalled my failure. What a sad, shallow way of thinking.
When I started photography as a career years ago, I remember feeling inadequate and seeing other photographers posting incredible work. I was jealous. I felt threatened. And I felt defeated, most of the time, thinking that I’d never be able to compete with them.
My thinking shifted when I developed confidence in myself, and realized that I didn’t have to define my own success based on someone else’s. I realized that I have my very own talents and God-given abilities that are unique. And my fellow talented friends and colleagues have theirs, too. It’s what makes us special, and the reason that there are a ton of photographers, bakers, artists, designers, makeup artists, builders, and hair stylists all working simultaneously with one another. You have something that only you can bring to your field. And that is just really stinking cool.
There’s enough work to go around
I could leave that line all by itself and it would say all that needs to be said. You don’t want all the clients in the world. You would be miserable. You would be overworked, and there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to take them all. Aside from that, your personality, technique, or price-point might not mesh with someone specifically. And that is ok. Send that person to your friend that you know could provide them with exactly what they want and need.
Your beginning shouldn’t be compared to someone else’s middle or end
This is another woo-woo statement that I just really love. You are walking at a different time and pace than the person across town. You’re on a different mile in your journey, and if you’re comparing yourself at your beginning, to where another person is in their middle, you’re never going to get any further along. Keep walking. You’ll get to where you want to be.
Choosing community makes you happier
You are not going to feel overwhelming competition with the people that are a part of your community. The two just won’t exist together. If you’re scrolling through Instagram lamenting over all the people who are doing things that you want to do, rather than letting jealousy creep in, leave a quick comment of encouragement. Tell them that they’re awesome and you love their work. Reach out to someone else in your field and ask them if they want to meet up. I promise it will change your perspective completely.
You can share your thoughts with people that get it
Having friends that you can relate to is so important to your sanity. They know your struggles, understand camera settings, and don’t get bored when you talk about curves, HSL sliders, lenses, and Photoshop. Spare your husband or your mom, and find someone that you can talk business with. You’ll feel refreshed, and it’s legitimately equal to a therapy session, in my opinion. Good friends that you can relate to are life-giving. You might not work in a corporate job, but you still have colleagues. Make friends with them.
Do I still get jealous occasionally? Of course. I’m human. But I refuse to let it consume me. I choose to encourage my friends that are killing it in their businesses. Because when they succeed I don’t fail. When they succeed, I realize that we’re both doing what we love, supporting our families, and providing a unique experience for our clients. And when you retrain your brain to see that as community and not competition, you succeed even more, and find a lot more contentment along the way.
Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. -Ecclesiastes 4:7-10