Jealousy in the Art World

Many people wonder how artists can go into the highly competitive world of art, where every concert could result in people cheering for someone else more than you, and not get killed by their own jealousy. Most artists spend their early years in a religious tradition that teaches them about jealousy, before starting art classes and being further schooled by an art genre. The religions teach us about perspective and the art genres teach us about focus. If you practice these two lessons for just a little bit, you will know how to handle your jealousy in art and in life. These lessons apply to people who have never had nor will ever have anything to do with art.

Perspective is about values. Focus is about what you are doing with your mind and body that is creating obstacles and competition that is not real, but only in your head. So you act on the perception of a competitive threat that was completely created by you, and you burn professional bridges that you will need to survive long-term in the art world.

For perspective, let’s compare yourself to the animals. Imagine how God sees the world–you are just one animal amongst trillions and they are all doing the dumbest things. You are just a speck, and you can’t possibly look bad surrounded by all that stupid animal behavior. You are surrounded by other people specks who are trying to survive in this brutal animal world, where animals are trying to kill you and will never be smart enough to know better and stop. Each person is succeeding not to hurt the others, or outcompete the others, but because the team needs all kinds of different work done to survive–and the team will never have enough safety or time for each person to succeed at everything or for one person to be the best at everything. It is only a matter of logic then, that the best little people specks in the group will be outcompeted daily multiple times at a million different things. No failure of yours is really THAT big of a deal in the middle of all those animals, and no success of anyone else really shines that much in the midst of all that unsafety. So–you end up looking basically fine the way you are, and don’t need to compete with anyone to look ok as you. You don’t need to shine to be acceptable, you are already acceptable as a speck in the middle of all that chaos.

Focus is when you let the larger picture fade out, and you can only see a few people in your vision. You usually pick out the best of that group, and start obsessing. The person starts out the size of a small high heel above you, say one inch, and then you keep insisting that the person is important by competing with them. Everyone else starts feeling it in the air, and thinks that they must be a competitive threat since they sense it in the air. Everyone starts keeping an eye on them and competing with them, and the one inch advantage grows into an actual pedestal, that you keep pushing higher and higher with your competitiveness–while you are still on flat ground in flats. Since everyone is paying attention to them in the troupe or among the artists, the critics sense that people think this person has potential. Really they were and are only one inch better than you, but now, they are getting training opportunities you are not going to get. Forward three years, and they are definitely way better than you because, turns out, they worked hard at their training opportunities and went through some ceiling in their spirituality and now are peaking far above everyone’s expectations. You spent all your energy growing their pedestal up instead of working on your own art, did not improve that much, while the rest of the group improved a normal amount–and so now, you are really behind the rest of the group and pedestal girl.

Focus is not real. Even if that girl is ten feet above you, it still seems like a centimeter from the higher perspective with all the animals around the both of you. Monsters are things you create by believing in them–they are not real. People are real, but not monsters. The competitive threat and the pedestal girl are imaginary monsters you create when you make them real by acting like they are real–and most importantly by thinking too much about them and planning how to outcompete them. Everyone is necessary for the show–if you treat potential divas as talents and not competitive threats, they do not grow into divas. Instead, they become trustworthy friends and members of the troupe. You don’t feel as jealous, because you get around the same applause, and you have a friend with similar experiences who understands you and is more reliable than non-art friends will ever be for you.

If you remember these two lessons about perspective and focus you will not have a jealousy problem in life. You will succeed enough to be too confident and too cool to compete with anyone on anything, and you will be great at making friends who are similar to you. Competitiveness kills happiness AND success. It ruins your peace of mind so that your success doesn’t FEEL happy, and then you lose your motivation to go after more success. Soon you actually fall behind, because you are not pursuing success, and people start making fun of you for being a loser.

So–and this is a paradox–the way to stay ahead of the field and at the top of your game is to not compete with anyone on anything, but to push yourself for more excellence in a way and at a pace that makes you happy. For the formula to work, you have to let other people do the same. Those others will one day be your reliable friends, if you play it cool, and let the cosmos bring them to you. People with reliable friends are always the least jealous.

That is some art wisdom on competition and jealousy. Hope it helps.

Lilly Lekhan, Poet and Founder of The Sweetest Art List

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