A green monster makes an appearance in everyone’s life here and there, and I’m not talking about The Incredible Hulk. I’m referring to the other green monster, which sits on our shoulder and scowls at the friend who just secured a job promotion, or the acquaintance who signed with an agent, or the family member who is going to another national writing event, when you’ve barely made it out of state for the past few years. Even though we’d rather not, we will all come face to face with the green monster’s snarling at some point.
First off, we’re all human, and there’s no shame in admitting you’ve experienced creative jealousy. I may be successful in many areas of my life, but I’m also humble enough to say I’m no stranger to the green monster. While I’m genuinely excited for friends and family members when they experience a windfall, there’s also a small part of me that sometimes feels deflated, as if all my writing progress is worthless and I’m failing, or at the very least, falling behind the pack. And once I have that feeling, jealousy’s green slime slops all over my other endeavors, exasperating my worst fears—that I’ll never reach the goals I’m so ardently striving to accomplish. This negative place is the danger zone, because it’s possible to become so paralyzed by the slime that we give up, don’t try, and stop believing in ourselves.
So, what can we do to prevent this from happening?
Creative jealousy isn’t as simple as I want, you have, me sad. And I would even argue that jealousy has its benefits. That’s because it springs from a source within—there’s a legitimate reason you feel envious, and knowing the answer will lead you to a more concrete plan for yourself. Think of jealousy as a map taking you to the scene of the crime. As the investigating detective, ask yourself:
- Who and what triggered my jealousy?
- What do they have that I want?
- Do I specifically want what they have, or is it the feeling of success I’m after? (Meaning that I don’t want what they have, but I want something positive to come my way).
- Why do I want it so bad?
If you can identify reasons why the green monster has its talons in you, you’re empowered with the knowledge necessary to create a new path, or make deeper grooves into the path you’re already on. If a friend has exactly what you want, ask them how it happened. Engage them in conversation to uncover additional steps you can take to position yourself where they are. Ask advice and listen with your head and heart. This person is your ally, not your enemy.
If it’s the general feeling of success you’re after, then it’s important to first understand if new shoes or books or a night out will soothe your green envy. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of self-care to right yourself. But when it’s something more formidable, like finishing a manuscript that you want most in the world, then your resulting action must be formidable as well. To start, make a list of goals to get you closer to your specific desire. I’m big on list-making, but if you’re a vision board person, start a collage. If you’re a journal writer, make plans that way. Regardless of your method, tackle those small and big goals aggressively. The green monster is a fierce foe, but it can’t hold on if you’re moving. Keep running toward your goals and you’ll be able to shake him off.
Lastly, remember to congratulate the people in your life who trigger your jealousy. When you show genuine enthusiasm for another person’s accomplishments, you open the door a little more to the belief that you’re next in line. After all, if he or she is the recipient of great things, then it’s possible for you as well.
What do you think? Can creative jealousy be a good thing?