The Green-eyed Monster
When I was little, I had this storybook about the Green-Eyed Monster. The story told of a little girl who was jealous of her older brother's new bike, and her envy manifested as this fuzzy green monster. The monster told her how unfair her parents were, giving her brother a fancy new bike and making her ride her old tricycle The monster assured her that she deserved a nice bicycle, and that her brother didn't. The monster convinced her to borrow her brother's brand new bike -a bicycle that was much too large for her- whereupon she proceeded to speed down a hill, lose control, and crash it.
I learned a lot from this story as a 6-year-old, and it's eerie just how appropriate this lessen is in my life today. The green-eyed monster is one I still battle with, and it still whispers things in my ear that make me believe the world is unfair. Jealousy is sneaky that way.
Envy is a struggle for a lot of us- Artists and Creatives especially. The very essence of what we do is to create things that we put out into the world to be received and judged and compared. And that's a tough thing to do- it's even tougher when we allow ourselves to become jealous of others.
So what do we do about it? Well, I don't think the key is to suddenly decide you're not going to be jealous ever again. Not only is that kind of detachment difficult for even the most zen artist, but ignoring those initial pangs of envy may keep us from doing some necessary self-reflection.
When we experience those feelings of jealousy, we're being given a clue- a pain in our foot letting us know that there's a metaphorical rock in our shoe. If we choose to ignore the pain, we never get rid of the rock. But if we take the time to bend down, untie our laces, and fish the pebble out, we can put our shoes back on and continue our walk with ease.
Envy can point us in the direction that helps us discover what it is we want out of our lives. It can show us what we feel we're lacking. It can force us to encounter those ugly parts of ourselves that we don't like to acknowledge, but that keep us from being truly happy.
Are we jealous of people who are doing things we wish we could be doing? Take a moment to reflect on what separates you from what you want for yourself- then use your envy as fuel to work toward achieving your goal. I think this is what people mean when they refer to "friendly competition." We don't have to hate someone else for the things they have. More for them rarely mean less for you.
We can transmute jealousy into inspiration, into motivation, and use it to get-sh*t done.
Perhaps we're jealous of the praise a fellow artist receives for their work. Our green-eyed monster proceeds to whisper in our ear...
"I'm way more talented that her! Why is she getting praise for her work, when mine is better? Why is she more successful than I am? Life is so unfair!"
Unfortunately, we have no control over how the world reacts to the things we make. We can only control how we respond to what the world throws at us. And the hard fact of the matter is:
The World Owes You Nothing
No one truly deserves anything. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. When, where, and to whom we were born dictates so much about what our lives can be like.
I don't mean to be a downer here. And I don't mean to say this doesn't suck (because it SUCKS). But I think it's important to accept that the World is under no obligation to reward us for being super-awesomely talented.
Where will we derive our work's absolute value? Is it from the praise of the art community? Is it from the money it generates? Is it from the commercial success we have over other artists?
"Envy... consists in seeing things never in themselves, but only in their relations. If you desire glory, you may envy Napoleon, but Napoleon envied Caesar, Caesar envied Alexander, and Alexander, I daresay, envied Hercules, who never existed."
- Bertrand Russel
Whose approval matters? Who do we let decide whether it is good enough? Whether we are good enough?
I hope, if we are really and truly honest with ourselves, that the value of our work is determined by the Artist.
Only when You are good enough for You, can that Green-Eyed Monster be shown the door.
Is this an easy thing to accept? Well, no. I struggle with this all the time. But it's good to know how to show the Monster who's boss. It's important to remember that we are the only ones with the power to say we're good enough.
How do you deal with the Monster when jealousy strikes?