To Compare or Not to Compare, That is the Question.

I am ready.

Everything is under control.

I love this piece.

I played it in a competition last year.

I played it in a master class last semester.

I played it in a recital last week.

I will nail this one.

I launched the piece and right after I played the thirteenth bar, I did not know what comes next.

I felt a bit afraid to tell my teacher that I had a memory lapse. The first thing I said to him was, “I don’t get it.” “Get what?” “I just don’t get why I had memory slip. Everyone could play without memory slip. It should not have happened. I know that piece really well! It was not my first time playing that piece.” He replied, “How many times have you performed it? Three times? Four times? I went to the ‘X’ International Piano Competition during the break. People who did really well, I could tell that they have been practicing hard and have performed their pieces hundreds, or maybe a thousand times! I am not making it up, maybe they have been playing them for years, and you are confused because you had a memory lapse when you performed that piece for the… fourth time?”

I once watched a more experienced pianist performed a piece I was practicing at that time. She played beautifully. I told her how I admire her and how I keep telling myself that I will not be able to do as well as her. She responded, “Here is the key young lady, if you spend 1/3 of your day with your instrument, how is it possible that the instrument does not love you back? Oh ...and I am twice your age."

A couple of years ago, I met a girl in a competition. We are at the same age and I could not help myself from comparing her playing to mine. She had a minor memory lapse but she recovered quickly. Her performance was outstanding while mine was not. I played safe. I only played the notes. I did not even try to make the piece musical because I was too scared. I talked to her afterward and apparently, she practiced six hours a day and performed her first concerto when she was eleven.

I realized that I was creating heartbreaks by comparing myself to other people instead of letting them inspire and motivate me to do better. It is hard to not to compare yourself to others, but ‘if your mind insists on comparing yourself to someone who is more advanced or more experienced, at least try to avoid comparing your worst moments to their best moments.’

Some people can secure a place in an orchestra while others are too nervous to play in tune.

Some people can deliver great performance while others struggle to memorize the piece.

Some people can compose beautiful melodies in five minutes while others take hours to do it.

Some people can sight-read a piece of music while others need hours to practice it.

It is not that they are different. They are just a few steps ahead. Maybe they had an early start or maybe they did the hard work. Some of us just need a bit (or quite a lot) of work to do and it is not always rainbows and butterflies!

Next time when you compare yourself to others, get totally depressed thinking that you would never be as good as him or her, please go ask yourself, “Have I practiced as much as he did? Have I performed as much as she did? Have I been doing this as long as they have been? Have I put as much effort as they did?” If you have not even done as much as they did, who are you to compare yourself to people who clearly have been working way harder than you?