Forgive the slightly cheesy rhyming, but which one are you? Chances are, you’re both. Everyone wants to see our friends, families and colleagues succeed, but what happens when they do really well? What happens when they achieve something that makes us secretly say, “well, I don’t know if they’re all that!” We all sometimes have a hard time congratulating someone who has achieved something that we desire and have yet to achieve.
I’ve had a recent experience with this. A colleague and friend of mine has recently taken charge of her health and her body. She has been transformed. There is a light inside her, her skin is a glow and she carries herself like a woman in charge, capable of anything. I love it, and I have been in awe of her over the last several months. I aspire, but have been in a bit of a quagmire of unfinished business of all kinds and I am not putting myself on the to-do list. This is going to change, because when that twinge of “I am happy for you but wish I was achieving the same for myself,” came up, I knew it was time to take stock.
Being envious of what someone else has or is doing can be a great flashlight into your unrecognized desires. That twinge, whether you call it a green-eyed monster, jealousy, or envy, let it be your teacher. She didn’t take a magic pill, have surgery or have access to anything I don’t have access to, she just did it. There was no reason that I couldn’t follow in her path. So I have set some new goals for myself and will be starting to add myself on the to-do list daily.
Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but that’s a constructive way to approach the twinge of jealousy. What about the haters? I think this is a pretty common situation in the art world. How come so and so got in that show? How did he get in that gallery? She get’s WHAT for a 12×12 inch painting? You know, he doesn’t even have an MFA? And so on. This is a harder situation, and why I believe some artists don’t have very many artist friends. It’s tough to be friends with someone who you know is stabbing you as they pat you on the back. You know the type, the compliment followed up with a jab, the “Good for you! I got into that show a couple of years ago, but you know I’ve really outgrown juried shows. And besides, they never get any decent jurors anymore, but I’m sure it’s a good show for you!”
I’ve had this experience more times than I care to recount, but in brief I’ve learned to recognize them quicker and to insulate myself from the comments. Nothing wilts the bloom of success like a hater disguised as a congratulater. So what’s the moral of the story? Success is not a limited natural resource. It should feel good for everyone to be genuinely happy for a colleague’s good fortune but if you feel that twinge, pay attention. Maybe that feeling will illuminate a little nugget of life that you want for yourself.