I was at a craft show a couple of months ago. I was all prepared. I worked really hard to make lots of stuff to sell, and they all looked really cute. I sold lots of the same things at the previous show so I was hopeful that people would go crazy for my stuff again. And…
People would come by and look at my stuff. They would tell me my stuff looked great and how much they liked them. But I ended up making a very small sales at the show. Meanwhile, my neighbors were having a great show. People were buying things from them left and right. And it was one of the other vendors’ very first show, too.
I was happy for them. They had great crafts and deserved success. And I was jealous. I was jealous of their success and felt very insecure. I felt like all of my hard work was wasted. It was an extremely busy month for me, and all that time and resources returning poor results was very discouraging. I couldn’t quite figure out what went wrong. Is this how it’s going to be forever?
The answer is, no, of course it won’t be like that forever. Because no one, not even a super-duper psychic, could tell you what’s going to happen 100%. I’ve done a handful of shows now to know there are many factors that determine if it’s going to be a successful show. But even if you do all the homework, you don’t always know for sure how it’s going to go.
In a moment, I could intellectually understand that it happens. It could be hit or miss, and I missed. People were going out of their way to tell me they liked my stuff, and some people did buy stuff from me. Just because not everyone wanted to buy from me, it doesn’t mean my work is bad. And there were other vendors who had beautiful things, and their sales weren’t going so well either.
When you see other creative people being successful (i.e. making more money than you, or at least you think they do.), it’s a very natural human reaction to feel jealousy. It’s OK to have positive or negative emotional reactions to anything. It’s important, though, that you notice it when you start creating stories that may not be true. Especially unhelpful ones that will make you feel small and keep you focusing on what other people are doing rather than what you can do to grow.
You can be happy for them and maybe learn a thing or two about what they’re doing – attractive display, their interaction with customers, how they price their products etc. etc. But don’t put any more subjective judgements or beat yourself up about why it didn’t go well for you.
When you see other people being more successful, in this scenario at a craft show, the only observable fact you have is that they had more customers buying from them than you did during the time you were there. That’s it. The rest of the story is made up in your head. Some of it might be true, but you don’t know that.
The truth is, you’re only seeing a snapshot of their life at any given moment. Social media is a great example of that. People, including myself, tend to curate what they share on social media. Especially as a business or brand, you have to curate what you share. And it creates an illusion that everyone is doing so well and happy and successful all the time when in reality that’s simply not true.
We all have ups and downs. What you may not be seeing is the problems they are having with their families. Or many unreturned emails and phone calls from art directors. Or first 5 years of their career where nobody knew who they were. Maybe they only sleep 4 hours a night and feeling grumpy all the time! Who knows what people are struggling with?? I’m all about being a real human being on the internet, but I’m still thoughtful about sharing only relevant contents.
Like I said, we all have these emotionss, and it’s OK to have them. But how can you manage them when it’s doing more harm?
When I feel jealousy, it’s often accompanied by a little bit of sadness and envy. Sadness because I put in a lot of time and energy into something, and it didn’t work the way I had hoped. So it’s a combination of sadness, disappointment, and a little bit of loss. Envy because I wish I had what I perceive the others have. I’m saying “perceive” because I don’t really know for a fact if they have what I think they have.
What’s at the core, though? It is the fear that I’m not good enough. There I said it. The big, scary monster that lives in many of us. The fear and self-doubt creep in as soon as you see a sign that things might not be going as well as you’d hoped. It hurts. Somehow you’re drawing a conclusion internally that “being unsuccessful” equals “being unworthy”, which is totally a separate thing.
So, what do you do to fight it?
My somewhat Yoda-like answer is “don’t fight it” but accept it and be OK with it.
Or more like be OK with you feeling jealousy and all the other “negative” feelings. It’s kind of like looking at all the emotions as tiny individual you inside – oh, like the movie Inside Out, which did a great job of portraying how all emotions, even the negative ones, have their purposes for human growth and development.
So when a part of you is hurting, blaming yourself or being hard on yourself for having these feelings are counterproductive. This could be emotionally intense for some, but you could imagine yourself as a child or a younger person and try to be compassionate and kind to yourself when you’re having these reactions. If it’s too much, you can also imagine talking to your best friend who is being hard on themselves for something they didn’t have control over. Do you want to belittle them and tell them to snap out of it, or do you want to give them a hug and tell them you’re sorry things didn’t work out as they’d hoped?
To me, that’s the first step of getting over it. See it for what it is. It’s not good or bad. Cut yourself some slack. Be kind to yourself. You’ll find that once you give it some space, rather than ignoring it or trying to shame it out of your mind, it’ll quiet its voice eventually, and you won’t be thinking about it as much.
I’m getting better at this as I get older. I’m constantly learning from my life experience, and meditation or some kind of practice to be present also helps me. I used to be an avid meditator. Going to a 10-day silent meditation retreat in 2014 was one of the best things I did for my personal development. It did many things a few years of therapy couldn’t do! I don’t sit and meditate for two hours a day any more, but when I notice my anxiety or stress building up, I zero in on the sensation of my breath going in and out of my nose. Focusing on that tiny area of my body for just a split second can bring me down to the calmness just like that. It’s pretty magical and super empowering.
Other tools and resources to work with jealousy and other unhelpful thoughts:
1) I wrote this blog post about not comparing yourself with others on the internet a while ago. Give it a read if you haven’t yet.
2) I love this book Your Illustrated Guide to Becoming One with the Universe by Yumi Sakugawa! I love her beautiful art and her message of compassion and kindness to self.
3) Keep praises and encouragements other people have written to you, and look at them when you need a little boost. Sometimes you need to look at the version of you that other people see to be able to recognize it for yourself. Isn’t it funny how that happens?
4) Ask yourself: Is this helping me become a better artist/business person/who I want to be? Your answer is probably “no.” You only have 24 hours a day like the rest of us. Do more of what helps you achieve your goals and less of what holds you back.
5) Seek a professional help. I’m a big fan of therapy. I’ve worked with a couple of amazing therapists who changed my life. When your emotional ups and downs are causing you to have problems in your health, relationships, and work – or even if you just need an on-going support to maintain your emotional wellbeing, working with a trained professional is a huge help. It’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re not afraid to ask for what you need.
Now go out there and do your thing!! I know you can 🙂