Artist Therapy Posts: Where we face the feels all artists struggle with.
Is there anything that burns more than seeing an artist make your dream project before you could? Or win that award? Or land that job? All artists, no matter how good they are, have to deal with jealousy and envy. You will see a peer do something you wish you could, and you will feel a pang of loss deep in your gut. That’s normal. Let me be straight with you: no artist I have ever met — no person really, forget just artists — have been able to stop that first gut reaction. But, what we can do is stop it from obsessing us.
First, let’s define terms that are often used interchangeably (but shouldn’t be):
Jealousy is the fear of losing something we have.
Envy is the desire to have something we don’t, that someone else does.
Most artists actually face envy more often. No one can take away the art you have already created, the awards already won. What affects us is desiring the skills, commissions, accolades, and ideas of other artists. That’s envy.
Let me tell you a little secret. What hurts about jealousy and envy isn’t actually jealousy and envy. It’s insecurity and fear. We are afraid we are not as good as the other artist, and afraid no matter how hard we try, we’ll never be as good as they are. We are afraid that there are a limited number of commissions and jobs in the world, and if another artist got one we wanted, we fear that’s one less opportunity for us. These feelings feel like they exist outside us, and we direct them at other people, but in reality we are struggling with ourselves. These feelings have nothing to do with the other person. We don’t really know the entire picture of what’s going on for another person, we just see the little slice (often the most positive slice) that appears on social media.
Envy and jealousy really have nothing to do with anyone other than us. And that’s the key to diffusing these feelings.
Step 1: Empathy
Realize that you see the success of the other person, but not their struggle. But know that it is there. If it helps, search out a podcast or interview with that person – chances are they will talk about the struggles that they are going through as much, if not more, than the successes. Everyone gets their share of wins and fails. Let their stories of overcoming their fails encourage you to know that you can also get over your fails.
Step 2: Confidence
You defang envy and jealousy by removing the insecurity and fear. And the opposite of insecurity is confidence. Own and accept where you are in your art career and in your life, while planning to keep improving. Try to look back and appreciate how far you’ve come, not only how far you have to go. No matter where you’re at in your art career, you are an artist. No one can take that away from you. You will be a better artist tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Put your head down, make great work, and keep going.
Step 3: Community
Have you ever heard the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats”? What that means is, the success of a member of a community benefits all the members of that community. If someone has achieved a goal, it proves to others that the goal can be achieved. And in an encouraging, supportive community, experts have a greater tendency to turn around and help others on the road behind then. Trailblazers show the way. Specifically in the art world, you can see that successes in art tend to make more opportunities for artists, not less. The more art in a culture, the more that culture depends on art. In the last few hundred years of human history art has moved from something only the very richest could obtain and appreciate to something that anyone can pull up on their phone. Technology is constantly pushing towards greater visual components. Take it from an Art Director, there is more and more need for art – commercially especially – not less.
We are all going to feel envy and jealousy sometimes, and next time you do: Acknowledge it, and let it pass without fear and insecurity. Another’s success does not threaten yours. If you look at it in the right mindset, you’ll see that others’ successes directly help you achieve yours. So go ahead and be a good cheerleader for your peers, and they will happily return the favor.