How to untangle Jealousy from Creativity

Photo by  Artem Bali  on  Unsplash

Photo by Artem Bali on Unsplash

I’ve been reading The Courage to be Disliked and one of the ways this book has been helping me involves how I look at creativity and jealousy. When I look at my own experience as a writer and magician I can point to moments where I have felt jealous and have reacted to that feeling in ways which really hasn’t helped my spiritual practice or my writing. But jealousy is all too easy to feel and respond to.

2018, for me, has been this huge process of coming face to face with the things in my life that serve to destabilize my work, productivity and overall life quality. And since I switched over to creativity as my element to work with that too has brought me face to face the issues that have haunted me.

One of those issues has been the jealousy I have felt at seeing other people succeed (or seem to succeed) while things I’ve tried to do have failed. That jealousy has been a distraction and its lead me down some unhealthy paths for both my work and myself. I have tried to emulate what other people have done, thinking that would somehow work, but it never has. I’ve compared myself to other people and found that it all has done has further reinforced my own insecurities and failings. 2016-2017 was the culmination of such activities and it brought me to a place where I was forced to face not only how I’ve sabotaged myself, but also how my jealousy has kept me from being truly authentic with myself and my creativity.

A lot of my internal work and meditation in 2018 helped me recognize the ways that I was sabotaging my creativity and happiness with my own insecurities but it wasn’t until I read the following exchange in The Courage to be Disliked that I really came face to face with my feelings of jealousy:

Philosopher: The pursuit of superiority it not something that is carried out through competition with other people.

Youth: So when you’re hung up on winning and losing, you lost the ability to make the right choice?

Philosopher: Yes. It clouds your judgement, and all you can see is imminent victory or defeat. Then you turn down the wrong path. It’s only when we take away the lenses of competition and winning and losing that we begin to correct and change ourselves.

— From The Courage to be Disliked

You see, I got hung up on winning and losing, on being recognized for my work and on hitting a certain level of success and the more none of that happened, the more jealous I got and the less creative I felt. It was a vicious circle and its only in hindsight that I see it now. Fortunately a lot of the internal work I’ve already done has helped me immensely with this issue, but recognizing the role of jealousy has also been helpful, because it’s allowed me to look at my current creative work and ask myself if I’m competing or just doing the work because it’s called to me.

So how do you recognize when jealousy has rooted itself in your endeavors?

If you find yourself competing with someone else, focusing on what they are doing and trying to measure yourself against their work, then you’ve let jealousy take root. And the problem is when that happens you aren’t focused on doing you best work anymore. You’re focused on trying to be someone else and having everything they seem to have.

But you’ll never have it, because you aren’t them.

when you’re truly engaged in your creative work of any type, it’s not about other people or you. It’s about doing the work and sharing it with whoever it calls to, but without conditions or expectations. Any recognition a person gives you is a gift and whatever relationship you have with the people that your like your work is also a gift, something earned through their appreciation, but also your appreciation of them and their willingness to share how your work has spoken to them.

Now when I have those moments where jealous rears its head I ask myself why I’m feeling jealous and then I do some breathing meditation work and recenter on the work itself. The breathing meditation helps me work through and dissolve the emotional and energetic tensions I’m feeling around my creativity. It helps me stop comparing myself to someone else and just focus on the work for the value of putting that work out in the world.

By getting some perspective on the jealousy I’m feeling and working through it, I can also see how that jealousy is clouding my judgments and keeping from doing my work. With jealousy of any type, you need to see how its getting in the way in order to untangle it and get back to what matters. Otherwise jealous will continue to cloud your thinking, occupy your creativity and take you down paths that lead you way from genuine interactions with your work and your community.

When I recognize jealousy toward other people, I also remind myself that what I’m really dealing with is my perception of that person. I don’t truly know what’s happening with that person or what they they’re going through. All I’m seeing is the face they are choosing to show to the world and my jealousy is a judgment on both myself and that person and not fair to either of us. It’s my projections and my issues, which are better dealt with through direct engagement and getting clear on what is at the root of jealousy. When you know what the root of your jealousy is you can focus on it, work through it, recognize it and let it go. And after that happens your creativity is sparked because you’re no longer throwing shade on it and holding yourself back from embracing your truest self. Then your creativity will flourish. Mine has since I’ve learned to work through, recognize and let go of my jealousy.