Ahh, envy! The Green Eyed Monster! I’ve experienced it many times, and it usually involves a lens. Lens envy. Not to be confused with the Freudian envy involving a body part. We experience envy all the time and it’s not a bad thing, it’s a natural part of who we are as humans but don’t confuse envy with jealousy.
Let’s ask Wikipedia for the definition of both:
Jealousy is an emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, particularly in reference to a human connection.
Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that “occurs when a person lacks another’s (perceived) superior quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.”
Both jealousy and envy are natural emotions. Small amounts of jealousy can actually keep a relationship together or inspire attentive actions. Envy can motivate action. Both emotions come from primal instincts that serve to protect our families, our possessions and ourselves.
Envy on the other hand is about coveting something you don’t have. The person you envy has what you want. This leads to self sabotage becauset he more unfair you think the situation is, the more you will find ways to demean the person you envy. Then instead of working to achieve more, you justify the reasons for staying in an inferior situation.
Let’s face it, now that almost every artist and their creative brother are online showing off their handiwork, it’s easier than ever to become jealous of …
- their photos/artwork/writing/music
- their sales
- their really cool website
- the hundreds of comments on their blog
- hearing about all of their recent exhibitions and gushing publicity
- not to mention their legions of fawning friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook
I mean, sometimes it’s enough to make you want to crawl back into your creative little hole and hibernate until the coming zombie apocalypse.
Why is it so easy for us to experience envy? Think about it: as artists we spend our time creating art, photographic images, paintings, whatever your creative medium is, straight from our soul. It exposes us so much that even our deepest emotions can come through and that leaves us open and exposed to criticism and makes us vulnerable. So when we see things that other people have, or that they have been honored with some acclamation or award, we occasionally see that green eyed monster rear its head.
I‘ve had those moments where I’ve said to myself, “I should be the one recognized for that. How did they get the breaks and I didn’t?”
“I have been making those types of images for years. How come I’m not the one who is famous for those ideas?”
If you have had similar thoughts, these are great questions to ask – yourself.
Can we learn by embracing this monster? Absolutely!
To help me tame the Green Eyed Monster, I whip out these 8 techniques. They lead me out of the clouds of jealousy and envy and back home, to self-acceptance:
1. Get more information.
Most of the time we envy one quality about a person, and we presume the rest of his/her qualities are as perfect as the one we want. That’s usually not the case. Do some research on the person you want to temporarily destroy and you will find that he/she have their own set of problems and weaknesses. My point: you don’t have the full story. Once you realize none of us are perfect, you’ll feel better.
2. Compliment them.
“WHAT?!? You can’t be serious, right?” Wasn’t that your first thought? Actually I am serious. I have tried it numerous times and it works. It gives you the ability to recognize their talents and that’s being gracious. I usually get a great compliment in return too, which is a great ego boost as well.
3. Find one thing that you do better than him/her.
I believe that if you don’t succeed at first … you keep trying… and that failure teaches us about success.
Remember, they didn’t wake up one day with all this success, they had to earn it. Recognize their hard work and look back on your self and your life for the last few years and remember your successes. You are where you are today because you made changes and moved along. There has to be one thing that you have done better than anyone else, otherwise you wouldn’t be in the position you are.
4. Put the boxing gloves away.
His/Her success doesn’t take away from yours. One person’s success doesn’t rob another of success. In fact, success can often breed success.
5. Learn from them.
Your frienemy is doing something right if he/she has your attention. There is a reason you are threatened. So, get out your scribbling pad and take some notes.
6. Go to the core.
Whenever I’m scheming to take down some chick who could (in my head anyway) destroy me with her success, or start in with the self-loathing because I don’t do something as well as my cousin’s best friend’s fiancé, I know that it’s time to go back mentally to where I found myself. Repeating the affirmation, “Only you can create your own happiness.”
7. Re-find yourself.
Give yourself a pep talk. Pump yourself up. Remember the many great talents you do have. Maybe sketch out some goals for yourself. What do you need to do to be able to go forward with more confidence? What specific actions will allow you to believe in yourself a tad more?
8. Do your best.
The ultimate weapon against jealousy and envy is simply to do your best. Because that’s all you really can do. They may be farther ahead in their careers than you, talk faster, and sell more prints or canvases, but the only thing that matters is that you have done the best job that you can do. Then you can breathe a sigh of relief and feel some satisfaction.
One of my favorite books is Don Miguel Ruiz’s, “The Four Agreements” and one of those Agreements is “Always Do Your Best.” He writes:
“Just do your best–in any circumstance in your life. It doesn’t matter if you are sick or tired, if you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself. And if you don’t judge yourself there is no way you are going to suffer from guilt, blame, and self-punishment. By always doing your best, you will break a big spell that you have been under.”
If we embrace our emotions, whatever they are, we can learn from them. They are there to teach us and help us make major life decisions. Envy can open up doors you never saw or were afraid to walk through before. Jealousy can lead you to treasure things and people you might have taken for granted.
Remember; mild jealousy and covetousness is actually a route to improved capabilities. It’s called creative envy. It’s part of aspiring! The pressure can be channeled to new skills that take artists to a higher level, both economically and as evolved beings. There’s always something left to give. The camp of artistic altruism is full of brotherhood and sisterhood. It’s a cool place.
Questions or comments? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dawn Sanborn is a photographer, teacher, life coach, mom, horse lover, goatherd, entrepreneur and all around Renaissance woman. She’s got an obsession with food photos but splits her photographic passions into many categories. She lives on a farm in SE Minnesota with her extended family of humans and dozens of animals.