Years ago, I was going through a rough patch with my art career. Other artists were behaving badly. I was dazed and unsure of what was going on. I confided in a friend, who mentioned the matter to her husband, a lawyer. “Be nice to Luann at dinner tonight, dear”, she told him. “She’s had some bites taken out of her lately.” She told him the back story.
Her husband, a person usually brusque and heavy-handed when it came to the tender feelings of artistic types, responded quickly and with passion.
“You tell Luann that lawyers do this to each other all the time!” he told her. “It’s called professional jealousy. It means she’s doing good work.”
I’ve always kept those words in my heart when things get rough with my fellow craftspeople.
Today I was killing a little time and came across Christine Kane’s wonderful blog again. Christine is an artist in the music world. She writes great essays that transfer across all creative endeavors. You can see her writings here:
Christine Kane’s “Be Creative” blog
I read her essay on Jealousy and Envy. In it, a certain paragraph leaped out at me, the one entitled “Mastery”.
Christine wrote, “Whatever career path you’re on, you have the choice to become a master. Not necessarily of the career or the craft or the art. But of you. That’s what keeps me going. If you want to reach, inspire, help, encourage, heal in any way, most likely it’s going to require that you face your own demons in that process. If jealousy comes up, then it’s a teacher for you. That’s all. Let it be. That’s where your biggest treasures will be.”
I’ve never denied being jealous myself of people more talented and creative than I am. I affectionately call that first rush of pure green bile “the lizard brain”. I chalk it up to my inner nature, that ancient instinctive heritage I will always have with me.
But as Christine says, we have choices, too. And this is one aspect of my life with which I think I’ve made good choices.
I used to be consumed with jealousy. Years ago, though, I realized what being jealous did for me.
I realized it let me off the hook.
If someone else was “better than me”, or “doing better than me”, then I didn’t have to try to be the best anymore. I could give up, quit doing what I was doing, and just say, “Oh, well, I wasn’t very good at it anyway…” Or, “Oh, they’ve got it all wrapped up, there’s no room for ME.” I could pick up my toys and go home.
There’s always the temptation, too, of letting jealousy shift your focus. You now have an “enemy” to hate. How delicious! You can now seethe and plot on how to take them down.
What a tremendous waste of our precious creative energy.
Once I realized that, I quite letting jealousy rule my life. I couldn’t banish it completely, of course. But I could make different choices on how I acted on it.
And that’s when I really started making progress in my career as an artist.
I began to focus on doing what I liked just because I liked it, regardless of how “good” I was. It helped me keep starting over, and helped me persevere when things got tough.
And because I kept going and kept starting over, I began to get kinda good at some of those things.
Now that I think about it, that attitude has helped me in all kinds of situations. Another case where learning how to be a better artist has also helped me be a better person.
And now when the green monster raises its ugly head, I savor it. I know it’s going to spur me on to greater heights.
I know somewhere in that mess, that demon still has something to teach me.
Try it yourself! The next time the lizard brain kicks in. Go on, be jealous. Enjoy it.
But only for a minute.
Then get down to work. And figure out how to make that jealousy work for you. Instead of fuming about your object of envy, put that lizard brain to work.
Think how to make it make YOU a better artist.
If only more of us focused on making jealousy work FOR us, instead of focusing on how to take that other person down…..
We might get along better. Or at least have a lot more wonderful art in the world.
p.s. I’m thinking that, after I wrap up the “GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD” series, this might be a good essay in a new “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK” series. In fact, I’ve gone ahead and numbered this one accordingly. There isn’t a MEAN PEOPLE SUCK #1 yet, don’t panic.
8 thoughts on “MEAN PEOPLE SUCK #2: Professional Jealousy”
Your posts always inspire me. This one is no exception. All of us have been visited by the green-eyed monster at some point in our lives – both personally & professionally. Your advice on how to deal with the “lizard brain” is absolutely brilliant. I will take it to heart and hope others will as well. You’re right: “Mean People Suck.” It would behoove all artists to support and nurture each other – and to strive for our best work – rather than to obsess over others’ talents and successes.
Thank you for another fantastic “take” on the life of an artist.
Luanne, you ROCK! This is a concept I have discussed with artist friends over and over. It seems alot of folks are operating from a principle of lack. It’s like there’s this finite amount of success in the worled and if someone else is having some, it takes away from someone else’s. It’s so sad that these folks can’t see that it’s NOT TRUE. We would all be so much farther ahead if we could just learn to celebrate that which is the best in one another and stop trying to measure and compair ourselves to others. When we do this, we not only rob others of their joy, but we cheat ourselves.
A few years ago, I had the priviledge of being able to hear the Dalai Lama speak. The thing I took away from that experience was that we, as human beings are here to fufill our mission and that mission is to help all of humankind move foreward. I am never so happy as when I connect with someone who can love and support me whether I am having success or struggling and allow me to do the same for them. It is this integrity of spirit with which I consciously align myself and am most grateful for.
Thanks for your eloquent post.
What an excellent post. I, too, am guilty of letting jealousy and its twin sister–fear–pull me from my path. Thank you for the encouragement to look beyond such feelings and into the courage it sometimes takes to keep stumbling along, to keep believing, to grow better with every step.
You guys are awesome! Thanks for sharing your comments and stories.
Awhile back, a friend told me, “When stuff happens to you in life, it either makes you bitter, or makes you better.”
We can’t always choose what crosses our path. But we CAN choose how we deal with it.
Likewise, I can’t stop that first lizard brain reaction. But I CAN choose where I go from there.
Sounds like you are all making GREAT choices!
yes!! what an insightful and inspiring post. thank you…