It has been said that envy is an illness so deeply ingrained in human nature that if entertained, it becomes a spiritual cancer. Envy is ruthless, cruel and often, intoxicating. I’ve seen many people become drunk on envy and it’s painful to witness. The worst and darkest part of any individual emerges when they are made to feel inferior - either by the direct behavior of an individual or by an implied feeling of not being ‘good enough’. To be specific, as artists, this emotion emerges when we see one of our contemporaries "making it" when we are in fact, still struggling and maybe even failing. I’ve been on the side of failure a great deal of my art career and I've been at that point where it has brought me to my knees. At that weak and trembling moment, we have two options – we can project our anger, hatred and resentment on those we envy OR we can re-calibrate, recognize the symptoms of envy and then let it go and move on to better things.
Envy is the road to ruin. A quote from William Penn sums it up best; "the jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves." When you blame others for your supposed failure you take your behavior, your lack of effort and your unwillingness to grow, out of the equation. You cannot succeed by tearing down others. I find it humorous and a tad disturbing that the overtly envious are fond of the adage, "karma is a bitch." They seem to ignore that their actions and thoughts are destroying and creating their own miserable future. Hating a successful person or someone with something we covet is never going to bring any good fortune to you. If it did, no one would have anything to complain about.
More importantly, living an envious life takes a massive amount of energy. This jealous quest exhausts you creatively and takes your focus off your goals. You stop putting in your own effort and spend all of your time hating, gossiping and feeling less-than. This isn't the sort of behavior a successful entrepreneur engages in. You need to imagine a world where there are no obstacles. Compliment those around you that have succeeded and admire them rather than envy them - their success is the road map to yours. It shouldn't matter if they are in the same genre as you or the same market; we all have unique gifts to bring to the table. There is room for all of us in the realm of success, but only if you believe it. Believe that every day is a blessing and it will be. Believe every day is a curse and it will be. The only route to achieving our dreams is by putting forth a positive effort. If you're spending all your time bashing the success of others there is NO way you’re getting enough accomplished for your own benefit. And remember, Karma works both ways - feeling happy or gleeful that someone failed or got their comeuppance is only bringing that negative crap back to you. Be mindful of where you find your joy.
Spend more time building other’s up and you will set the stage for a successful and fulfilling career. Envious people are unproductive people and in turn, unsuccessful and unhappy. Own who you are. Look at the blessings in your personal life, your history, and your abilities as an artist and know that you have a unique and special gift to give to the world. There is enough anger, jealousy and hatred floating around – don’t be a magnet.
A few tips to stop envy in its tracks:
1. When you see an artist on social media announcing an exhibition or a feature in a magazine - congratulate them. You have no idea how hard they've worked to get there or how long it took. Pay it forward
2. Stop believing there are only a finite amount of opportunities in life. If one door closes look somewhere else. There is success for all of us if we continue to strive for it. Most failure in the art world is the result of close-mindedness – you must reject the urge to be a stubborn fatalist. Give yourself permission to be as creative with your marketing as you are with your art. Think outside of the box. What works for some people will not always work for you. Try to remember that and keep looking!
3. Respect others for who they are and their unique contributions to the art world. We are all different. Be authentic and express your uniqueness. I used to be under the impression that in order to be successful in my genre of painting, I needed a certain background, the right teachers, the right education and the right art materials. My path was different. I own that now. I know that my unique history allows my work to stand out from other academic art. My perceived weaknesses are now my strengths. Honor who you are and you will have no competition.
4. If you choose to be an envious person, realize that you are drinking a very dangerous poison. Eventually, it will become systemic and eventually kill your dreams, talent and reputation. In the event you do find a measure of success, know that your accomplishments will certainly garner the same crumby negativity you dished out. Instead of feeling happy and satisfied, you’ll feel the ramifications of all that darn Karma envious people are so fond of. Again, be mindful of what you say, think, and act on.
Envy will destroy you if you allow him to be the master of your life - he's a sadistic incubus feeding on your potential. And sure, it’s in our human nature to be competitive and envious of others but we can chose not to give in to the depravity. We can allow ourselves a moment to reflect and reassess the situation. We can take a second to turn the tables and feel how terrible it’d be if our success elicited negative, hurtful remarks. Call me an idealist but I still believe there is success for all of us – I haven’t found any evidence to prove otherwise. Take the high road and leave the road to ruin for someone else.