What’s wrong with me?

woman outdoors in chair, overlooking peaceful valley

Kelly loves to create. But she has a full calendar and most of her time is spoken for. Between social commitments, a challenging work schedule, and time spent volunteering, she seldom has the opportunity to wind down and unleash her creative spirit. Then the entire planet went on lockdown and Kelly suddenly found herself with days upon days of free time at home. While Kelly is understandably concerned about the future and about the health of friends, she has considered this time to be a gift. She has never been more creative. Kelly is energized, productive, and is posting new creations on social media daily. 

Then there’s Brenda. Brenda also has a full schedule, normally, and she would love to spend this unexpected free time creating. But for some reason, Brenda’s mojo is in the dumpster. She finds herself binge-watching Netflix and has already mowed through all the Cheetos and ice cream that she was able to score during her last (mask-wearing) grocery run. She wants to create, but somehow it all feels like too much. Brenda gets online and sees all the gorgeous work that Kelly is blissfully creating. She feels guilty. Then she wonders, “What’s wrong with me? Why am I so empty and tired?”

What’s wrong with me?

Someday, when the history books write about the Age of the Internet, I think the subtitle will be “What’s wrong with me?” We humans are masters at comparing ourselves to others and now that we have the internet, we have SO many more humans to compare ourselves to. It might be Kelly and her chipper artistic productivity. Or it could be any number of other things we beat ourselves up about as we scroll through other peoples’ carefully presented versions of their realities. Even during an unprecedented and potentially terrifying world pandemic, we still play the game with our insecurity, wondering why we aren’t measuring up. 

Nothing’s wrong with you

The problem isn’t you. Or the pandemic. It’s comparison. Kelly has her own pile of stuff to deal with. (Maybe she has a phobia of Cheetos. Or is staying busy to drown out the fear that her job won’t be there when this is over.) We all have a pile of “stuff” inside our heads and we never know what is going on with anyone else’s pile of “stuff”. It would be most unfair to even guess! Your own personal pile of stuff that is real and it’s important. If it’s also making you feel unmotivated and empty, it can be pretty disheartening. But even though it’s real, it can change and most importantly, it will pass. 

Comparison is not your friend

Comparison is always an insidious enemy. But I’ve noticed that it’s become a significant factor in our interactions during this epidemic. We’re in uncharted territory right now. We’re looking to each other to know what to do. What should we be doing right now? Is there any news? What does this awful situation look like for you? What’s normal? What will the new normal be? We’re desperate for reassurance that everything’s going to be okay and we’re eager for connection to help us ease our way through this unprecedented time. It’s making us all feel a bit uneasy and easily overwhelmed.

But because our normal routines and social interactions are disturbed, we are even more likely to be blindsided by unproductive or even toxic emotional patterns around us. Comparison sneaks its way in as you check in the mirror and wonder, “Has everyone else already rearranged all their closets and am I the only one who hasn’t showered yet?” (No, trust me, we’re all winging it right now. Nothing is “normal”.)

Rest and Renew

First, give yourself permission to take it easy. This pandemic has come at a time when many of us were already feeling a bit overwhelmed and over-compared. Take this time to turn inward and rest. As the old saying goes, “This, too, shall pass.” 

As you start to feel better, you might feel comfortable with journaling, sketching, or doing some simple crafts. Do what feels good. Maybe it will just be freeform stuff at first, with no expectations. Consider doing some coloring books, Zentangles, or maybe even some color mixing and simple canes. (You can always use simple skinner blend canes.)

You’ll start to get the itch to create once again. Give it time. We will all need to process, and in a way, mourn our old reality. The healing properties of your crafts can help lead you through it. But please be careful to avoid comparing yourself to others. And if you’re like Kelly, above, please have patience for the Brendas of the world. They’re having a rough time right now. Be a friend. We’ll get through this!

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Polymer Clay Love is a celebration of the creative people, art, and community of polymer clay. It is curated by Ginger Davis Allman and is a community project from:

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