Welcome back Rebooters! We’re with you for Season 5 of Creative Reboot and we’ll be back every fortnight after today for the next six months or so – woohoo!
Today we’re tackling the green eyed monster – jealousy! It’s not talked about much but we’d put money on every creative and every business owner – hell, every human – experiencing it at some point.
Actually, that’s the first point we wanted to emphasise – it’s normal to experience jealousy and envy, we all feel it. Anyone who says they never feel it is probably lying. No one loves admitting to it, especially professionally or in a creative capacity, but it often stems from comparison and an element of insecurity.
It could be that you’re having a bad day, or a wobble financially, or you just don’t love whatever it is you’ve recently created, or a client hasn’t responded how you expected. It could be a chance comment from a peer, or a deliberate dive into social media and feeling like the whole world is doing better than you are.
But when we’re in that mental state, we tend to look at people who are three, four or even ten steps ahead of us, and compare ourselves negatively instead of looking for inspiration. We forget there are people who are where we used to be, who are probably looking at us in the same way. And it can get a bit cyclical!
Once jealousy kicks in it can be hard to switch off, but it’s important to recognise it – and remember it’s not necessarily telling you the whole truth.
Imposter syndrome & jealousy
Is there a link between the two? The insecurity, the feeling that everyone is doing better than you are, the unevidenced but strong conviction that you’re not good enough – they certainly sound similar.
They’re not the same, but perhaps more closely linked than we thought before we started discussing this on the podcast. Diving a bit deeper into that is evidence, biased evidence, and not believing in yourself. But crucially, with jealousy, you look at someone else’s evidence, and turning that into evidence that you can’t do it – which is bollocks, as we so aptly put it.
Jealousy can be hardest to bear when you see someone else who’s at the same level as you, but is getting (at least in your perception, in the moment of jealousy), more prestige, clients, recognition than you are. It’s even worse when the person who’s getting the accolades is actually mediocre. The world is full of average/mediocre people telling the world they are brilliant, and the world takes them at face value – so in some ways this can be a lesson to be better at shining your own light.
We’re not entirely sure which comes first – the jealousy or the imposter syndrome – but we do know they can follow each other in a chicken and egg fashion.
Two extremes, and what you show vs what you feel
We genuinely wonder sometimes if jealousy and confidence are hormonal, as at times we’re creatively paralysed, convinced everyone else is doing better than us, and questioning what the hell we’re even doing. Other times we’re flying on our own success and feeling better than ever. There doesn’t appear to be much of a middle ground, which can be stressful in its own way.
Back in the early days of Instagram, before stories and people being a bit more open about the realities, watching everyone else’s highlight reels was exhausting. But then you’d add your own happy, sparky post about the fabulousness of everything, and then put your phone down and cry on the sofa.
And while that sounds like a cliche in itself, it’s true that comparing your everyday to other people’s highlight reels is a surefire way to make yourself feel shit, and yes, probably spark jealousy too.
Remember every single day that life is not one long highlight reel, and that what you see – especially on social media – is not the entirety of someone else’s experience.
What am I doing wrong?
Ah, the fun question that jealousy often inspires – because especially in creative business, it’s a feeling that usually comes from looking at others’ work and presence and marketing. It can be so easy to make ourselves feel like we’re the ones at fault.
Carla expands a bit on working on her personal jealousy in her early to mid 20s – that fun period of life where everyone you know your age gets engaged, married, buys a house and has a baby or three in quick succession. At one point she was going to ten or fifteen weddings each year, and with every invitation and announcement came a stab of what initially felt like jealousy.
But knowing she didn’t want to be engaged or married, nor have babies, and that she was excited for her friends, she poked the feeling to figure out what it was actually telling her. Looking past the surface feeling of “there goes another one, what’s wrong with me?” which is more of a social conditioning reaction than anything else, it turned out jealousy was giving her clear signals that she was frustrated that she hadn’t yet figured out exactly what she wanted to do with her businesses, life… and camera.
Your success is defined by you
You’ll probably be familiar with the feeling that people are telling you what success looks like or should look like from all directions. Have you ever delved in a bit deeper to discover that actually, success defined like that isn’t what you want from your life or business at all?
Jealousy can tell you you’re jealous of success, but not necessarily wanting that blueprint of success – and that can be helpful, even while it’s uncomfortable.
We talk a little about how jealousy is squashed when you’re a child – you’re not supposed to talk about it or air it when you feel it, and that’s definitely emphasised as children and teenagers, whether you’re feeling it about a new toy or a boy in your sixth form, your sister being allowed to do stuff you’re not or your boyfriend having a much cooler first car than you.
Jealousy, for all of us, is something we experience in our personal lives before we do in our professional and creative lives, and we can learn a lot from those early examples and how we dealt with them and what we took away from them.
How to deal with jealousy and weird brains
Recognising it first is important – and then acknowledging that’s what you’re feeling, without shame or judgement or repressing it. Sometimes we try to pretend to ourselves that we’re not feeling jealous, and then we end up getting angry with ourselves, or piling unfair expectations on ourselves, or being really hard on ourselves. And turning it inwards is not actually helpful in dealing with it.
Once you’ve clocked it, label it as external – make a distinction in your brain that this is not you failing, this is a reaction to something you’ve seen. Someone else doing something doesn’t stop you doing the thing. Their success does not preclude yours, and we have to remind ourselves of these things we know extra hard when jealousy bites.
Why our brains see someone doing something and assume we will fail at the same thing is a mystery we can’t solve, I’m afraid – but we can tackle it by recognising it is external and not truth.
Self development and jealous feelings
Sarah poses the question of whether professional or creative jealousy can actually help you improve yourself in some way. We think it can, if you use it as a map or signpost to give you insight into what is missing or needs changing on your own path. If you can work out why it’s making you feel jealous, you’re halfway to fixing it.
Feelings of inadequacy often accompany feelings of jealousy, but on another day you can look at the same things which triggered those and feel nothing except confidence in yourself and your work, so as we said – brains are weird.
In terms of concrete advice, it is absolutely ok to block or temporarily unfollow anyone whose social profiles are making you feel bad. There are tools where you can mute or snooze, like blocking but without them being aware, or ending the connection, and these are lifelines for your sanity when jealousy is nagging at your confidence and wearing away your resilience.
And you are allowed to set your own boundaries about what you want to be in your daily scrollings online – you have control over that and you can choose to have social media feeds which are full of things which make you feel good, instead. In fact, that is a much better, nicer and happier way to use socials on the whole all the time!
A note about social media
Social media pops up a LOT in discussions about jealousy, and in this episode too. And that’s because it’s super relevant. Twenty odd years ago, you might have been part of a professional society or association, and a few times a year you might catch up with or correspond with peers about your industry/profession/practice. You hopefully would still have had friends in your field, and been able to discuss the good and bad of your work with them, and you would have seen the marketing efforts of the people local to you doing similar work.
But you wouldn’t have had near-constant exposure to every single person in the world who does what you do, at every single level possible. You wouldn’t have it beamed to a device in your hand 24/7, ready for whenever you were feeling less than brilliant about your own work.
And that makes all the difference – it’s a natural human impulse to compare, it’s why the expression “keeping up with the Joneses” exists. And you can’t keep up with the Joneses of the entire world – that way madness lies.
Figuring out what you actually want, what success and happiness looks like for you, and pursuing that – that’s a good route to knocking jealous feelings on the head.
Recognising that you can’t control when it happens to you is important, as is learning to deal with it so you don’t wallow, or let it take over and get to the point of causing unpleasantness.
Listen in for a “hold my beer” analogy that got wonderfully out of hand – we’re still not entirely sure it makes sense, but it made us smile so it made the final cut of the episode!
As always, let us know what you think, your experiences, and your thoughts on the even-stickier-than-expected topic of jealousy – and we’ll see you next time!