I've been lucky enough to live and breath my photography for five years without interruption. No other job getting in the way and not even a need to do things to 'make money'. No stress, just create, learn, and grow at a natural rate without limitations. Other than my old head not absorbing knowledge like it once did it's been wonderful.
Every so often I catch myself with feelings that I don't like. We all have them. Well, I'd like to think it wasn't just me. I'll see some work that rocks and I'd feel a little jealous. I'd feel I was competing with other photographers, or I'd feel depressed because I just wasn't 'feeling it' with my work for some reason and I was worried I had hit the top of my abilities.
Part of my growth has been my attitude towards pretty much everything.
Something I didn't do enough when I was younger, and should have, is sit alone, with no distractions, and consider why I feel like I do about something. For example, there was a time I was jealous when I saw another photographer just totally rock a shoot with certain models. I was more upset about being jealous than anything. It took me a couple weeks of contemplation to understand just why I was jealous, and why with only certain models. I came to the conclusion that these particular models had become personal friends and, of course, I wanted MY work to be the best they had. A bright light came on and I realized they were friends, and I wanted them to have the best that anyone could give them, not just me. The jealousy instantly vanished. Like I said, I was more upset that I WAS jealous because I knew it was wrong. Figuring out the root of that feeling solved the problem.
Other aspects have changed for me too. When I'd see someone else create something totally awesome, I would allow the inspiration I should have gotten from the work to be dimmed by a kind of regret that I hadn't thought of it. Really? I also knew this was a non-productive emotion. Over time I've been able to learn to love what I find as great and simply admire it. This wasn't a conscious effort to correct other than knowing it was wrong to feel anything other than enjoyment.
How others see my work? Anyone who says they don't care what others think of what we create is fibbing. A true artist creates from the heart to please the eye, mind, and heart. Art stirs the heart. But we all enjoy seeing or hearing that others like what we've created. It's part of our being to be accepted and appreciated. I now do my art more for myself than others. I share, but I'll also sit back and enjoy the creation myself without wondering what others will think of it.
If you have feelings of jealousy or feel you are competing, consider why and try to get over those feelings. Some believe that competition is as important in art as it is in anything else. I'd argue that anything that inhibits the creation process will, in turn, diminish how competitive the creations will be in the business end of art. The two should be mutually exclusive.
Compete with your yesterday. Be. Create. Love.