It’s rough out there. I get it. Standing out in a crowded field—whether you are starting an online business, producing new media, or writing a college application essay—takes creativity and courage and authenticity.
These are the precise talents that disappear the instant you start looking around and comparing yourself to others. How do you measure up? If you come up short in your estimation, you will start to second-guess yourself. You may decide to stop what you’re doing—just give up to save yourself the embarrassment of failure.
But who decides the criteria for success?
Try not to get caught up in the imitation game. You are not your competitors, but remember, they are not you. You don’t have the same resources, gifts, experiences, or challenges as they do. You may be in a different market, phase of business development, or stage of life. You may have a great team or no team at all. You may have more money and influence and position, or you may have more heart and a terrific creative vision.
Your secret sauce is made up of your unique gifts, your unique purpose, and your unique contributions.
Trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Share what you genuinely think. Do what you honestly believe is right and important. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
However, being authentic does not guarantee that you’ll be successful. Or that you won’t make mistakes.
If you do fail, it’s not the end of the world. When I screw up, I often think of professional athletes who review tapes of their games to look at precisely what they did right and wrong, and to figure out how to improve. (At least most of us don’t also have critics and fans weighing in on our performance!) Be open to discovering what didn’t work, even if it was your favorite piece or your signature move. Try to figure out what to do differently next time, and put those lessons learned into practice. You might be on to your next big thing!
In business and in life, your best bet is to be your best self.
What does your best self look like? How do you bring that person to the table? Let us know in the comments below.
Kristen Golden is the owner of Fortune Cookie Wisdom, an apparel line of t-shirts featuring inspirational fortune cookie messages. After a career in anti-violence work, she created this company to amuse, inspire, and connect people.