MEAN PEOPLE SUCK #2a: Professional Jealousy Part Deux

Tatjana – Submitted Aug 31, 2007

I have lost more friends to jealousy than to any other disease.
(quote from Robert Genn’s “Painter’s Keys” website Painter’s Keys archives “Evaluating Art” clickbacks.)

I came across the quote above while browsing through Robert Genn’s newsletter archives. It was so true, it made me almost cry.

There’s something no one will tell you, when you start your journey pursuing your art.

It can get lonely out there.

I don’t believe in the “perfect relationship” anymore. I don’t believe in perfect marriages, perfect families, or perfect friendships. I think we do the best we can, until we learn to do better.

In a perfect world, relationships stretch and grow, accommodating all kinds of stress and obstacles. In reality, I believe sometimes a relationship is “good enough”, until it reaches a crisis that cannot be dealt with.

Jealousy is a big one in friendships.

As you grow in your art and begin to achieve success–whether it’s financial rewards, or professional recognition, whatever–you will lose friends along the way. I am not saying you will lose all your friends. But you may lose some, including some that will surprise and dismay you.

The mentor relationship is especially delicate. I’ve found incredibly generous people who helped me tremendously along the way. Until, that is, I began to surge ahead. I didn’t get ahead by stepping on them–far from it! My greatest sin has been encouraging them to come further on their own journey than they were ready to go.

But the damage is still there.

Outshine your teacher, and it’s the rare person who won’t resent you for it. (Remember, it’s okay to feel resentment–it’s how you act on it that can preserve or wreck that relationship!) It’s astounding how badly some people will choose to act….

I think this tendency is why I get almost obsessive about remembering to thank people. I try to always give credit to people who have shared techniques, insights, support. It’s my way of trying to divert any jealousy they might accrue.

But it only helps to a certain extent. What I’ve found is, you cannot control how another person thinks, feels, acts. They truly have their own journey.

If jealousy raises its ugly green-eyed head in their life, you cannot stop that. If they choose NOT to use that to further their own work, you cannot control that. If they began to engage in passive-aggressive behaviors that undermine your friendship, you will find it difficult to turn that dynamic around.

You will know your gut feeling is right when these friends start saying things like, “Oh, you’re just too sensitive.” Which is another way of saying, “I totally deny your right to HAVE feelings.”

I have frequently referred to a little book called THE NIBBLE THEORY by Kaleel Jamison. Here is an entry from my old blog about this delightful little book: THE NIBBLE THEORY: A Big Little Book

If you are a truly independent artist/person who can operate fully without a rich support system of family, friends and peers, you will not need this book.

But for the rest of us, who feel real physical pain at how wrong a friendship can go, you need to read this book. It will help. It will explain.

And in the end, it will help you with your art. Because you will be able to recognize the ways a good friendship can–and SHOULD–support you in making your art. (Hint: It doesn’t have to be the big stuff, either!)

One of the most powerful things anyone ever said about my art was from my sister, who says she knows nothing about art and not much about my world. But when I was having a total lack of confidence in my work, and hesitant to enter it in a exhibition where its chances of acceptance were slim, Susan said something I’ve never forgotten.

“Your job is not to judge what you make. Your job is to make it, and get it out into the world. Others can judge it once it’s out there, but you can’t hold it back by judging it beforehand.”

Talk about channeling Martha Graham! It was an astounding thing for a self-confirmed non-artist to say.

Because Martha Graham said:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening
That is translated through you into action,
And because there is only one of you in all of time
This expression is unique.
And if you block it,
It will never exist through any other medium,
And be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is,
Nor how valuable, or how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,
to stay open and aware to the urges that motivate you.

I know for some people there will always be conflict: How much art to give up for the sake of friendship. How much friendship to give up for the sake of art.

I still struggle with this.

In the end, I realize I am the only person responsible for my art–I am the only one who can bring it into the world, just as I am the only mother my children will ever have.

My children come first. My art comes first. Friendships have to align themselves somewhere around these non-negotiables.

But I still try to be aware of the different loads my various friendships can handle–and which loads they can’t.

It’s worth a try. It’s part of me to try! But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make me feel like a failed human being anymore.

Just a human being who tried–and failed.

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28 Comments

Filed under art, business, courage, creativity, envy, jealousy, life, mentoring

28 responses to “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK #2a: Professional Jealousy Part Deux

  1. Hoh

    “Your job is not to judge what you make. Your job is to make it, and get it out into the world. Others can judge it once it’s out there, but you can’t hold it back by judging it beforehand.”

    Fantastic quote!

    Very nice blog!

    Cindy

  2. Luann, this is so timely and so right on…I hardly know what to say. You are a wise woman!

  3. I thought I was the one who had problem – lack of people skill – so that I lost my friends due to jealousy. Guess not. It happens to good, composed people too.

    Nice post and fantastic quotes.

    Thanks.

    Kate

  4. musicwork

    Thank you for this post – your thoughts are very timely for me today – both the thoughts on jealousy and the Martha quote (which I think I will print out in lare letters and stick on the fridge).

    It can be such a slog in the arts (probably in all areas of endeavour) to reach a point where you feel you are being recognised for your achievements. In one of the fields I work in there are few others, and so over the last 12 months I have been passing quite prestigious work opportunities on to others who I know have a lot of talent, but haven’t done anything like the ground work and hard yards I had done when the same opportunities were offered to me in the past.

    While on balance I don’t begrudge them this at all (the benefits a network of similarly skilled people brings me means it is a win-win situation… and anyway, they are friends and colleagues, and I want to support them and contribute to their lives) I am sometimes bemused at an apparent lack of awareness of how LUCKY they are!

    This is very self-absorbed thinking on my part, and very ungenerous… so yesterday I started to think about people in MY professional life who have supported and believed in me, and offered me opportunities that helped me raise the profile and substance of my work to a higher level. Who took a chance with me, and who continue to support me.

    There were a lot. A whole lot. Including a number of quite ‘prestigious’ opportunities. So it was a good reminder of how everything should be in balance, and how resenting or trying to control the success of others doesn’t ultimately serve your own purpose anyway.

    And nor is it a very healthy or nourishing way to live a life!

    Great blog – I shall be back to read more.

  5. I really enjoyed reading this post. The Nibble Theory sounds like a must read. Thanks for the thought provoking topic.

  6. I’m so glad this has shed a light for others! It took a loooong time (and a lot of good counsel from friends) for me to figure some of it out.

    Musicwork, a friend just pointed out to me recently that we cannot expect reciprocity–or even much gratitude–when we help others to a next step. It’s human nature, she points out, to take what’s given us AS a “given”. If we get thanked, or a good deed returned, that’s a blessing–but NOT the natural order of things. She’s right–when I let go of that, it settles down.

    I’ve learned not everyone is ready for that help, either! I’ve been embarrassed professionally by referring others to GREAT opportunities–only to have them blow it by not “showing up”. Then *I* look bad as the person who referred them!

    In hindsight, they simply weren’t ready. I knew they had what it takes. But they weren’t at that place mentally, spiritually, professionally. One gallery owner says not to worry–if I make the introduction, he can handle it from there, come what may. So I will continue to pass opportunities on to others, but will try to let go of the outcome, too.

    I realize I cannot help others take shortcuts on their journey. I may have a good word for someone at just the right time. But they still have to make their own way, just as we did. I put the “good words” out there, as many people did for me. Sometimes I heard them; but sometimes I couldn’t “hear” them until years later. So it is with those I speak to now.

    That’s why I now put more effort into writing and blogging with my insights. That way, people who are ready to take their next step can do it in their own time–by reading something here, and deciding FOR THEMSELVES if they are ready to act on something I’ve said. It is now my turn to sometimes be heard, and sometimes not. Hey! Just like a mom! :^)

    And even if they cannot hear what I am saying now, at least my words will hang around for them to find later.

  7. Pingback: digital thoughts » Blog Archive » Mean People Suck!

  8. Luann, I love your work and have been watching your success from afar with awe and inspiration.

    This topic is very timely and I must pick up the book to read and refer. I am constantly bewildered by the jealousies that occur frequently and it is a common topic I explore with my husband every day -he experiences this, too.

    I know I can be shy, I know that I’m an introvert, but sheesh! I thought for the longest time I had the problem.

    I get jazzed and passionate about my artistic friends who are on the edge of success and applaud them along the way. I encourage those who show the slightest amount of drive within the creative field -because it’s what I know. I check in with them to see how their projects are going and I learn that for whatever reason, the project is in stasis and they refrain from exploring it or other creative endeavors further. In my excitement and fevered creative high, I’ll show them what I’ve been working on and in return, it’s “Oh, that’s nice.”

    When the reciprocity doesn’t flow back again, it hurts. I stop and begin to rationalize for them believing that they may be having a bad day, a week, or a month. When they never say a word, never offer up a kudo, or show the slightest encouragement, it’s damaging. Heh, in many cases, I hear, “You’re soo talented! What can’t you do? I hate you!” Yikes!

    I’m not asking for approval with each and every sketch or endeavor, I would like to be treated as a human being that creates for personal satisfaction as well as art for the enjoyment by others. Moreover, the fact that I don’t need approval is also a problem (for others) because I know I can reach my lofty goals and I’m not ‘starved’ for permission.

    As I talk with my husband about the evolution of my blog, I’m including the challenges that I face in my daily creative and business life. Just because I thrive on being creative doesn’t mean that I don’t get tripped up once in awhile. I’m hoping that by showing some of the grit will bring those mean spirited people back to Earth and realize that I am human after all.

  9. The quote floating in my head this week is “Change what you want or change what you do.”
    We may not be able to change our friends’ hearts or their way of doing things.
    We can change our expectations.
    We can change who we share our art with.
    We can let them know how we want NOT to be treated–but be prepared for the consequences if they are unable or unwilling to change.
    There are simply people I don’t share much of my art with anymore.
    And when you find someone you can share your art with–rejoice! :^)

  10. Brilliant and perfectly articulated. Thank you.

  11. Agreed, Luann. I was remiss by leaving out that those who refuse to rejoice in my successes have made room for those who do.

  12. Wonderful!
    I’ve had a few–a very few–people come back to our friendship. Enough to keep me hoping!
    But for the most part, the ones I’ve had to chose to leave behind, I haven’t missed as much as I thought I would–if that’s any consolation.

  13. Wonderful article I could totally relate. Wish I wasn’t so sensitive and had a little more support from others.

  14. Marie

    After reading your blog, I was compelled to write you and thank you. I felt like I was reading my own diary (if I kept one). Your logic and insight were like a balm to me.

    The Jealousy, Part Deaux, was amazing. I lost a good friend to jealousy a few years ago. It was such a sad thing to watch, and as much as I tried to downplay my success around her, it didn’t make any difference. I now have a network that I practically built from scratch, and I keep learning lessons about who to let in, especially when I put on those rose coloured glasses and endow them with traits I only wish they had. The bump back down to the ground of reality can be painful.
    I’ve also found that friends who have ambitions that are not exactly the same as mine seem to last the longest.

    Due to my sucess and desire to help, I’ve become a mentor to some, and have yet to feel the green monster raise it’s ugly head. I’m more likely to think, “Hey, I can do that, too!” or “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” It actually inspires me, so the teaching and mentoring continue. I can learn from them, too. I also bend over backwards to give credit where it’s due, because what goes around comes around. I don’t expect it, I just hope for it.

    DG’s response about helping the wrong people, or perhaps in the wrong way, also hit a chord and I find that what she said, quote: “In hindsight, they simply weren’t ready. I knew they had what it takes. But they weren’t at that place mentally, spiritually, professionally.”
    was dead on accurate. The ambitions I have for myself seldom match those of others. Projecting these hopes and dreams onto other talented individuals often leads to disappointment for me, or resentment in them. Some don’t have the “professionalism” it takes. Not everyone really believes they are true artists with something to offer, or they don’t have the time or inclination to see where it can take them. DG’s remark about changing expectations has been my mantra for the past two years. I also had to learn to recognize when they were holding me back because I “need to be needed.” This is a balancing act to remain independent creatively, but no woman is an island when it comes to wanting like-minded others in her life.

    Thanks for writing this. It made me feel so much better about some things!!

    Marie

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  16. This is a fantastic article and relates to other areas not just work.

  17. JV

    Following up on what Paperspoons said, it relates not just to art but to other fields too. As a programmer who ‘gets it’ (the art & science of programming) i get that all the time.. Living with it.
    Thats partly how i stumbled upon your article.. :)

  18. JV, you are spot on. The person who first used the term “professional jealousy” to me was a lawyer!

    Oh, and just for the record, DG is me–Luann Udell. For some reason, I used that as my ID when I set up WordPress. My bad! I’ll go back and see if I can correct that now.

  19. gophergirl

    This really resonates at the moment. It has recently become very apparent that I have been outshining my mentor for quite some time now and surpassed him; he openly admits it, he knows it, and knows that I know it. But I thought he was a friend as well, and naively assumed that he would be happy for my recent creative breakthrough. I wanted to share that success with him, and have always been at pains to give him due credit, and to also recognise his own work enthusiastically (it’s excellent, so I can truthfully do so). I’m getting passive-aggressive behaviour in turn, a complete change in attitude, a certain coldness, and a subtle but distinctive psychological pushing me away, and it really hurts. I’ve been the victim of jealousy for much of my life, but I really thought I had found a true friend. Guess I was wrong. It really hurts.

  20. Unfortunately, jealousy is part of our human nature. We ALL succumb to its call at some point, especially when we are feeling vulnerable. It’s recognizing it for what it is, and working through it, that makes us a better person.

    I hope your mentor works his way through this and balance is restored. It can happen!

    Sometimes people criticize me for keeping my mouth shut when things are obviously out of whack. But I prefer to keep that bell unrung. If and when that person gets through their stuck jealous place, the angry, resentful words I MIGHT HAVE SAID will not stand between us.

  21. Pingback: P.S. More on the Shadow Artist Thing « Luann Udell

  22. I have some serious website envy, but I’m using it as motivation to bring my game up. It’s a reflection of how I perceive my shortcomings. The other has no idea.

  23. Luann,

    Just wanted to say I loved this post. I actually made a post on my blog yesterday about jealousy– great minds and all that. :) What are the odds?

    I think you are right on about naming certain situations that cause jealousy to arise between people. Thanks for being so specific– it really helped me to identify some dangerous patterns in friendships even now and start thinking about how to address things down the line.

    I wasn’t aware of Martha Graham before, but I will sure look her up and read some of her stuff now. Thanks!

    Until the next day our “posts cross”–

    Michele Mollkoy

    http://themoxyprojectblog.com/

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  25. Angela

    I feel very blessed having found your blog today. Being faithful to creating is important and from my own experience, I have found it incredibly toxic to stay in relationships with people whose resentment and/or jealousy is forever lurking in the background. It has been a hard thing to ‘ditch’ such people, but somewhere somehow I have recently had the courage to do it, and remain hopeful a new tribe is waiting in the wings. Personally, I have deep-set fears of putting my work out into the public arena. I have been drawing for five years and very few people have seen the work, let alone, heard me speak of it. They are very personal and the feeling (threat) of it being judged by others is a barrier I am needing to go through. Thank you so much for your wise and inspiring articles. You are wonderful!

  26. Angela, thank you for letting me know my words are still so helpful.

    Much of our fear of making our art public comes from these people who cannot celebrate it with us.

    But the world needs our beautiful work.

    You must fight as fiercely for it as you would for anything else that is vitally important to you.

    Not everyone will like it–that’s their choice.

    But there’s never an excuse for the bad behavior of folks who resent us for making it, or those who are jealous that we can. Know that when people are behaving badly, it’s because of what’s in THEIR heart, not yours.

    My hospice work is teaching me that people need to feel they have created a legacy of some kind, by the work–ALL the work–they do. They want to feel that the world has been a better place for their being in it.

    And in the end, they realize it is love.

    So….if you love what you do, get it out into the world, girlfriend! There’s nobody else who can make the artwork that is in your heart. Just you.

  27. There must be something in the soup out here because I’ve been reading so. very. many. blog posts like this lately. They do make me sad.

    I am glad your sister said what she did. Your work and your writing are top-notch and you shouldn’t doubt yourself. I think those who NEVER doubt themselves are lying to us.

    Chin up! :-)

  28. Pingback: Emerging Leaders, Professional Jealousy and our need for Global Education, Creativity and Excellence | Entrepreneur the Arts

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