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Becoming Fully Who You Are

Art show extravaganzaHAD A GREAT DISCUSSION my friend Kyle Steed today. I told him how impressed I've been watching him grow into himself through his work, becoming more fully Kyle every single day.

I was reminded how important it is to focus on becoming fully who we are in a world where it's the default state to compare ourselves to others who are not us.

Seven years ago I wrote In The Valley of the Shadow of Creativity after seeing amazing design work and being bummed rather than inspired by it.

I described the temptation to measure myself unfairly against others and the work they do, judging my own work harshly when I fell short.

Since then I've shifted my mindset in two ways:

1. To celebrate the great work others do, letting it inspire and not deflate me
2. To focus on the unique work I'm able to do, striving to be the best me I can be

That shift in mindset has made all the difference.

Rather than feeling I'm competing with others, I can appreciate, enjoy, celebrate and encourage the work I see them doing. When I take this approach, it encourages me in the process, inspiring me to be my best while enjoying others' success. It's also a net positive, because those who are celebrated are encouraged to do the same for others.

Celebration of others reminds me how unique they are and I am. I then focus on ways to become more true to myself in the work I'm doing. How can I bring my unique experiences into my work? In what ways can I express my personality, thinking and sense of humor in the projects I do for myself and others?

My challenges to you:

1. Let go of your comparisons with others who are not you.
2. Ponder what unique qualities you have and how they can impact your work.
3. Focus on becoming fully who you are.
4. Become the best you possible.


Stop apologizing for who you are - Jeffrey Platts

Reader Comments (13)

Mike, you never fail to inspire me. From the first time I found your sketchtoons and began to believe maybe I could draw a little (as I learned through mimicry), I have constantly been drawn back to your blog and your work - and not just your positive attitude, but if it doesn't sound too flakey, your positive spirit.

You've made me a better designer and a better artist. This post suddenly solidified why you have been such an influence on me - because you are so genuinely you that I do not feel that I have to be the best Dribbbler in the world. I can just be me and we can share sketches and thoughts and just have a good conversation.

I don't think you know just how many folks out here you've helped just by being you.

Thank you.

March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

Hey Mike,
thank you for this post. :) I've recently come to the same conclusion myself, especially after the emergence of dribbble. ;p That site never fails to make me feel inferior.

You do awesome sketchnotes – they are as unique as they can be. It is like sketchnotes = Mike Rohde. One entire niche by yourself. :)

March 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWinnie

Robin, thanks so much for your kind words. It's great to hear these thoughts have been helpful to you and encouraging.

This is a topic I know well, because I struggled with it a long time. It still pops it's ugly head up at times, so at times I have to reset my perspective.

I do hope my encouragements have been helpful to others, since that's my goal here. It's heartwarming and encouraging for me to hear that you think so.


March 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Thanks Winnie! I appreciate your words about sketchnotes - they have seemed to take on a life of their own, haven't they?

Dribble, with regular awesome work being shared could seem intimidating. I try to look at the work and how each person solved a problem in a unique way, being inspired by their creativity.

But I know how deeply the comparison runs - I feel it too, and have to remind myself to enjoy and not compare all the time.

It's definitely a process, becoming who you are. It takes time. :-)

March 23, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Hi Mike, thanks for these wise words. Suffering by comparison with others is definitely something that I struggle with from time to time.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Topley

Thank you for your post. I've been trying this but at some point, I still go back to the idea of comparing myself with others to "gauge where I stand". Then I'll have the feeling that I fall short and started to doubt myself if I should really carry on with this mindset.

Your post give me affirmation that I'm not wrong. But I find this route is kinda tough.

March 23, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlinditt

John - thanks for the note. I figured others out there must be dealing with comparison issues like me, so it made sense to share. Hopefully my words are able to encourage you when the time comes. :-)

Linditt - It's tough to break the comparison mode, so give yourself grace in this - it's a process for sure.

I think there is of course value in comparison, particularly when it inspires you to rise up and be challenged to do better in a positive way. I think there is little value in comparison to beat yourself down.

Hang in there - we're all on this journey together.

March 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde


The web provides a place to be inspired daily if you search with intent and strategy. Rarely, however, do I read something where out loud I say "Wow, wow, wow" as I do so, especially as this very subject matter/stumbling block/point you made is something I too have been playing around with recently myself. In fact, I've just written an article which featured the phrase "Be the best you can be at a factor of ten. That's you at your best!".

I gotta thank you for sharing a topic so close to my soul. I'm pleased I dropped by. I'll be here again.

Best wishes from the UK.


April 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen Austin

Ben, thanks for the kind words and encouragement. Very pleased to hear that I was able to help encourage you to be your best you.

April 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

Mike. This is something that has opened my eyes to an attitude I didn't realise that I had. I thought when I was inspecting others work and getting a bit pent up that I was just 'not there yet' in my own eyes. A kind of indication to keep pushing harder.

I'll be reading this a few times and learning to appreciate other's work for the journey they are on, the skills they have been given and a celebration of what God can do through the hands of men and women.

July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChris Green

Glad the article helped Chris. I think being challenged by others' work is good, just within reason. :-)

July 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterMike Rohde

If I didn't embrace this attitude, of being the best Me I could, and instead strove to become just like everyone else, my daily life would be filled with distress. There are so many superstar designers out there now, comparing yourself to others just brings frustration for most.

I would be happy for now just to grow and learn, share what I do know, and be able to contribute something of meaning to the world and community.

June 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Locke

Still a good read and a great mantra to live by.

June 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTimothy Dorr

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