I read this article today, which got some really mixed feelings from readers and the people that it targeted. The topic of this article is the feeling of inadequacy that one feels when we continually try to stack up our own lives against others. These "others" can be direct competitors, friends, family members, or strangers. Well, actually in a sense they are all competitors when we compare ourselves to them.
The author has some good points. It is true that the internet provides the perfect backdrop to showcase a well-edited life, business, style and home. Note I said well-edited. We get to pick and choose what people see and they do not see. Call it censorship, call it curating; it is indeed artificial. Those of us who make a living out of this so-called censorship very well understand what we are doing. We understand that readers do not want to spend time looking at pictures of our dirty dishes, and we understand that customers do not want to see the dusty basement that their 200 dollar dress was dug out of. It is indeed artifice, and it takes talent and creativity to devise.
I understand the panicking that ensues when we view the success of others and our lives don't look as organized, aesthetically pleasing, harmonious, creative, or even meaningful. Everyone else appears to have better clothes, a tidier house, a more perfect party in their sunlit fairy tale garden. There are sellers with more sales, better photos, more publicity, better blogs, more followers et all. It is painful to pay attention and painful not to. Whatever it is you envy, there is someone who looks like they are doing it better.
But somehow I can't fault people for this type of artifice. Some have it built into their DNA to seek out beauty and improve upon it by transposing their view of it onto a canvas; that canvas could be cotton, it could be a jpg, it could be layers in Photoshop, it could be the film of a Holga, a set of organic paper notecards. Trivialize this sort of craftiness all you want, but you can't judge what is and is not creativity. Competition is also built into our DNA too; we are proud of our achievements and individuality so we feel the need to validate ourselves through the approval of others. Everybody feels inadequate when they see someone else doing something better, even the people who are the best at what they do. Life is short, we want to do everything, be everyone and be remembered for something. So yes, when other people envy our lives we are usually secretly pleased. When we do something really well and get recognized for it, we feel good. People are born with primarily selfish motivations in spite of our ability to preform tremendous acts of altruism.
I can't fault people, including myself for struggling with jealousy either. It's biological motivation to thrive. It's an intellectual form of Darwinism. However, it's no more than this, really. Jealousy is an urge, an impulse, and a feeling that can be contained (dare I say controlled?). It is too easy to LET yourself feel like shit over the success of others. It takes practice and a lot of retraining, and there are days when you relapse worse than Whitney Houston. But there are some things you can do to help (at least this is what works for me)! For example:
- Unplug from everything for as long as your schedule permits to focus on something else you enjoy. Get off of Twitter, don't look at other people's Etsy shops, and don't read any blogs. Don't turn on your TV, don't read a fashion magazine. Go grab a book, a coffee, go get a pedicure, take your kids or dog to the park or just go for a walk! Do something that does not force you to be creative, but that is relaxing.
- Spend some time with your husband, best friend or mom doing something you love that's non-competitive.
- Remind yourself of all the reasons you are lucky. Sounds obvious, but if you do it often enough it really does work!
- If your house really is filthy, go clean it. If you haven't been to the gym in six months, actually go. Stop making excuses and procrastinating, and you'll feel a lot better.
- Put your head down and just work. Focus on your own product, your own personal taste, and your own gut instinct. Stop peeking around so much and remember that you started your hobby/ Etsy store/ product line because you enjoyed it. Be weird, be outlandish, and be yourself. Just don't get pissed when you find other people starting to copy YOU!
- Go do something nice for someone else!
Basically, when you feel yourself getting into a jealous rut, distract yourself from those kind of thoughts. Eventually it won't just be a band-aid for those feelings, you will actually feel them a lot less. I hope this wasn't offensive to anyone or made no sense at all. I just felt like chatting since I mostly just post pretty pictures. And in the spirit of an editing-free world, here is a mildly unflattering picture of me in my pajamas while writing this post: