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Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others

Martha Graham on the Hidden Danger of Comparing Yourself to Others

Agnes de Mille had just achieved the greatest success of her career, but right now the only thing she felt was confusion.

She was a dancer and a choreographer. Early in her career, de Mille had created the choreography for a ballet called Three Virgins and a Devil. She thought it was good work, but nobody made much of it.

A few years later, de Mille choreographed a ballet named Rodeo. Again, she thought her work was solid, but it resulted in little commercial fame.

Then, in 1943, de Mille choreographed Oklahoma!, a musical show from Rodgers and Hammerstein that enjoyed nearly instant success. In the coming years, Oklahoma! would run for an incredible 2,212 performances, both around the nation and abroad. In 1955, the film version won an Academy Award.

But the success of Oklahoma! confused her. She thought that her work on Oklahoma! was only average compared to some of her other creations. She later said, “After the opening of Oklahoma!, I suddenly had unexpected, flamboyant success for a work I thought was only fairly good, after years of neglect for work I thought was fine. I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. I talked to Martha.”

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Martha was Martha Graham, perhaps the most influential dance choreographer of the 20th century. (Although not as well-known by the general public, Graham has been compared to other creative geniuses like Pablo Picasso or Frank Lloyd Wright.)

During their conversation, de Mille told Graham about her frustration. “I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be.” [1]

Graham responded by saying,

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”

The Uselessness of Judging Yourself

For nearly two years, I have been publishing articles every Monday and Thursday on JamesClear.com. Some days the words come easier than others, and there have been plenty of times when I have felt a smaller version of what Agnes de Mille felt.

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“I thought this was a good article. Why don’t people seem to enjoy it?” Or, I’ll feel like I mailed it in on a piece only to see it become the most popular post of the month. Regardless of the outcome, I’ve realized one thing: we are often terrible judges of our own work.

Martha Graham’s advice takes this concept a step further by explaining that not only are you a bad judge of your own work, it is not your job to judge your own work. It is not your place to compare it to others. It is not your responsibility to figure out how valuable it is or how useful it can be. It is not your job to tell yourself, “No.”

Instead, your responsibility is to create. Your job is share what you have to offer from where you are right now. To quote Pema Chodron, the Buddhist teacher, your job is to “come as you are.” (And then find your inner Sisu and keep coming.)

There are people in nearly every field of work who make each day a work of art by the way they do their craft. In other words, nearly everyone is an artist in one way or another. And every artist will judge their work. The key is to not let your self-judgment keep you from doing your thing. Professionals produce, even when it isn’t easy.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper

In grade school, I remember my teacher passing out an assignment and telling each student to “keep your eyes on your own paper.”

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Perhaps she was simply trying to teach 8-year-olds to not cheat, but hidden within that phrase is also a deeper message about what really matters. It doesn’t make a difference what the person next to you writes down for his answer. This is your race to run. It’s your assignment to complete. It’s your answer to create. How your paper compares to someone else’s is not the point. The point is to fill the paper with your work.

The same can be said of your work today. No matter what you spend your days doing, every morning you wake up and have a blank piece of paper to work with. You get to put your name at the top and fill it with your work.

If what you write on your paper doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations … it is no concern of yours. The way someone else perceives what you do is a result of their own experiences (which you can’t control), their own tastes and preferences (which you can’t predict), and their own expectations (which you don’t set). If your choices don’t match their expectations that is their concern, not yours.

Your concern is to do the work, not to judge it. Your concern is to fall in love with the process, not to grade the outcome. Keep your eyes on your own paper.

This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

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Sources

1. Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham by Agnes De Mille. pg. 264.

Thanks to Paul Jun for pointing me to the story of Agnes de Mille and Martha Graham.

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Published on October 7, 2019

4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

4 Types of Toxic People and How to Deal with Them

Can a person really be toxic? Well, a toxic person does not refer to those who are affected by the virus or toxic. To be precise, toxic people are those who are very unsupportive, abusive and unhealthy in nature. Their behavior is filled with venom and you will not feel any sort of gentle breeze in their words.

In this article, you will learn how to spot out a toxic person, and what you can do to deal with them.

Signs of Toxic People

To make it more obvious, I have added some signs of toxic people below.

Manipulative Behavior And Fabricated Mind

Toxic people are unable to deal with the bitter truth firmly. If you are going to blurt out their fabrications with proof, they will try to change the whole matter with their manipulative behavior. They will titillate you with sensitive words or they will try to frighten you to get rid of the problems.

Inhuman And Merciless in Nature

We know that sharing our thoughts with friends will keep us in good mental state. But, if you are not getting fruitful outcomes, you have to understand that you are spending time with toxic friends.

Toxic people do not know how to put themselves in other’s shoes. They just put on a mask of simplicity. But, in reality, they don’t have feelings for you. Therefore, you should stop sharing your valuable time with them as you will get nothing except annoyance and silence.

Hypocrisy at Its Best in Their Nature

Toxic people have a great hunger for respect, adoration, and fidelity. After dignifying them with these valuable elements, you will get nothing; you will be cheated, manipulated and criticized by them. And, if you are not willing to listen to them, you will be controlled by guilt-tripping.

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Emotional Outburst And Pathological Excuses

Toxic people always want to see themselves in the positive end. Therefore, to get their job done, they always have an emotional outburst and emotional excuse to make an impulsive impression upon you.

We do mistakes and it is our duty to accept those mistakes. But, toxic people have their own rules, they have a tendency to present themselves rationally even after committing a mistake. If someone tries to expose themselves with facts, they show no embarrassment and use emotional excuses as a shield.

Play with Your Emotion And Gradually Erode It

Toxic people always try to condescend you with critical jokes and when you try to elicit your thoughts, they just burst out laughing. Teasing becomes an important element in your relationship with toxic person. They even give you backhanded compliments to belittle you.

Thus, using their toxic mindset, they just gradually diminish your abilities as well as intelligence. And you will have nothing left in your hand other than putting up with these things to maintain the silence.

Well, you probably might have not seen all these signs in one person as there are different types of toxic people roaming around you.

4 Types of Toxic People

To understand it better, I’m mentioning the different types of toxic people here.

1. Conversational Narcissist

There are some toxic people who do not know how to give importance to others. They will talk about themselves but never ask you about your condition; they will only recall you when they need you or they are facing some sort of problems.

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2. Emotional Vampires

These vampires do not suck your blood but dissipate your emotion. They always talk negatively about everyone and compel you to think in the same pattern that they follow. They mask themselves in such a way in front of you that you gradually start giving importance to them. But, ultimately, you will not get any positive outcome from them.

3. Monsters with Green eyes

As discussed earlier, toxic people will give you backhanded compliments. Basically, these are called monsters with green eyes. These monsters feel happy when you feel sad. Therefore, they will always try to belittle your achievements, intelligence, and strengths. Along with it, they give compliments with some negativity in it.

4. Black-Eyed Cats

These cats always do mew-mew and try to control everything around them. They love to be pampered but, they do not like if someone goes against them.

If you are in a relationship with such persons, you will be nagged until you are giving them complete satisfaction. In a nutshell, it must be said that you have to align yourself with them if you want to live with them. But, ultimately, you will lose your mental, conversational and emotional freedom.

How to Deal with Toxic People

Living with problems is more convenient than living with toxic people. But, toxic people are parasites and therefore, you will see these monsters rambling around you wherever you go.

However, if you know how to deal with them, it would be very helpful for you and your life would be much easier to live. We have added some tips to assist you, just check these out.

Get Rid of Intermittent Reinforcement

We are very optimistic in nature and over the time, this optimism has reached to such a level that we can happily put up with the ‘close losses’ instead of trying to catch the ‘near wins’.

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B.F Skinner once did an experiment with three rats. He put them in different cages attached with levers. The lever delivered food when it was pressed. In the 1st cage, the lever always delivered food when the rat pressed it. In case of the 2nd cage, food was never delivered by the lever even after pressing it, therefore, the rat understood the lesson and never tried to get food. But, in the third cage, the lever delivered food randomly and as a result, the rat was completely hooked and fixated. He constantly pushed it but didn’t get the food always.

Well, this is called intermittent relationship and the same thing happens in human relationships where toxic people give you intermittent reinforcement and your heart gets pumped up with optimism. As a result, you will be hooked and your life will be fixated at some point with toxic people.

You should learn to move on without them and live your life happily because random happiness cannot bring permanent relief.

Never Make Too Many Allowances And Pardons

Well, sympathetic attitude is very good and it is also a fact that sometimes toxic people suffer from genuine depression, physical as well as mental illness. But, you have to set a boundary and you cannot allow people to get away with anything so easily.

If you make too many allowances as well as pardons, it would not be good for you in the long-term. Yes, there are some people who are facing extreme hardships and they are not even toxic in nature. But, all you can do is show some genuine compassion keeping yourself within the boundaries.

Always Try to Ignore Their Toxic Traps

Demotivational words are the primary weapon that they frequently use in their implications to detract you. Along with this, they throw words in such a way that you start feeling guilty. Well, you must understand that these are just toxic traps and you should not step on it.

Always remember that you will have full access to freedom if you stop taking things personally. They not only do this with you but also with everyone. You just have to keep in mind that these toxic words are not based on truth but on their own mental reproduction. So, you just have to ignore this and focus on your work.

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Show Them Your Beautiful Smile Not the Curves on Your Forehead

Toxic people have an aptitude to attack mentally, mock disgracefully and diminish shamefully. But, you will not be affected if you don’t surrender yourself. Show them that you are not getting belittled or insulted.

We all have our problems and we also know that we are capable of solving these problems. Therefore, the matter entirely depends upon us and if we don’t allow these vampires to enter into our life or play with our emotions, they cannot suck our happiness. So, I’d suggest you show your beautiful smile when they buzz around you.

Don’t Suppress Yourself

Toxic people will intimidate, bully, pass guilt, and forcefully take money from you to get their job done. They know very well that they are doing wrong and at the same time, they are acquainted with the concept that we are incapable of doing anything against them.

Most of the time, we keep ourselves quiet until someone speaks up. And because of this suppressive mindset, we are gradually being dragged into their mind games.

Well, we have to change this concept as it infuses courage into them. We need to obstruct them with firm minds and make them realize the negative consequences of their behavior.[1] If they are upsetting you, just tell them directly. Your direct statement might open a new gate of opportunity that will allow you to help them if they are suffering from genuine problems.

So, why are you still tolerating these toxic people? Follow the tips mentioned above and deal with them in the right way.

Featured photo credit: Devin Avery via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Tips for Grooming: Change Your Fixed Negative Belief

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