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The Green-Eyed Motivator

June 15, 2011

Like many artists still working to establish themselves enough so that they needn’t do anything else besides their art, I have a day job that supports me.  I don’t mind this too much–it’s not a terrible job, I like it well enough, and I’m pretty much able to come and go as I please or need.  Things had been going pretty smoothly there until not-too-recently when a new employee was hired part-time.  This employee is female and also an actor.  She’s my height, my complexion, my hair color–though she has a better haircut–and my weight.  Alright: maybe she’s thinner.  She puts in less hours than me at our place of business and appears to be out at more auditions, callbacks, rehearsals than I am.  The little interaction I’ve had with her have shown her to be a nice, focused, relaxed girl.

So of course I hate her.

In an industry that encourages a certain degree of competitiveness, jealousy is an easy emotion to fall back on.  It’s always lurking there ready to rear its ugly head when someone else gets the audition appointment we wanted, the role we wanted, the award we had worked harder for that should have been ours.  That jealousy is a legitimate human emotion is a fact that any production of Othello will attest to.  It is very real, and we have to accept that this piece of ourselves exists.  However, there is a danger in this emotion that lies in its intense ability to fester and the skill it has in distorting our perception of reality.  Suddenly we cannot define ourselves by what good we had done previously that caused growth in our lives or our career.  We only see what we have not done, what we do not have.  Already face to face with potential rejection every working day, when an actor functions from this mindset we are effectively doing everyone else’s job for them by telling ourselves we are not good enough.  So how do we ride out the occasional wave of jealousy, and not drown in its undertow?

The last time I saw my female co-actor co-worker I tried something new.  She had just left to go to a rehearsal, and I was wallowing in a general state of misery, jealousy, and self-pity, when I thought I’d write down all of the things she had that I was envious of just so I could really understand what was going on inside me.  Upon reviewing the list I was surprised by how easy and attainable everything on it appeared.  I realized the list consisted of things I truly wanted, and that I could also actually accomplish them, several items with great immediacy (like the haircut).  What I recognized too was the work she was putting into specific areas of her career that I was not.  In truth, I should have taken comfort in her success because it meant that the work does pay off.  She was the proof I needed to see to believe in the steps I need to take.

As with all emotions, we should treat jealousy as an opportunity to learn about ourselves.  We all know that “people come into our lives for a reason,” and that “we are led to those who help us most to grow.”   What the object of my jealousy offered me was a reminder of what was important to me (which I sometimes forget on purpose), what I should be doing to get there, and that success was actually a possible product of those actions.  So I would like to thank her for a moment for being just a little more driven than me, a little thinner, and with a better haircut, because she is helping drive me to be a better version of myself.

And when I get there, I will totally eclipse her.  And her bangs.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Stars in the Eyes permalink
    June 15, 2011 8:18 am

    This is very easy to relate to, and unfortunately a big part of the business so thanks for giving a positive twist to it. The harder thing I guess is, when someone isn’t putting more work in than you, but is just plain lucky and gets what you want so badly. I wonder what a good way is to deal with that?

    • The Reflective Artist permalink
      June 15, 2011 9:43 pm

      That is such a great question, and I have to say that in order to stream line this post I had to avoid addressing it. Generally those moments of “luck occurring to people who aren’t putting as much work in as we are” happen outside of our realm of control. That’s why it’s luck. It doesn’t pay to waste too much time fretting over those instances because we can’t necessarily change them–as they happened outside of our control to begin with. And look at it this way: luck happens to everyone in different ways. If yours hasn’t come along yet, it will. You just have to keep putting yourself out there, and be available to it. Further, imagine if you weren’t putting any work in and were only getting things through luck. It would be great initially, but at some point you might question whether or not you actually deserved that break. If you’re putting the work in, you don’t ever have to question it.

  2. June 15, 2011 12:13 pm

    LOVE this post, and love that you created an action step to combat it, and then learned from it. I’m inspired!

    • The Reflective Artist permalink
      June 15, 2011 9:44 pm

      Thanks, my Idealistic comrade-in-blogging!

  3. June 15, 2011 4:01 pm

    Great post! I have totally been motivated to work harder by jealousy and my own competitive nature — I say, whatever works! 😉

  4. June 15, 2011 4:03 pm

    P.S. Don’t think I didn’t catch that Wicked reference! 🙂

    • The Reflective Artist permalink
      June 15, 2011 9:45 pm

      That was all for you and the Idealistic Actor. 🙂

  5. June 16, 2011 5:56 am

    I really like this article, it’s very honest and something we all are probably thinking at some point, but not exactly willing to admit that.

  6. The Restless Dramaturg permalink
    June 21, 2011 10:35 am

    This is so relatable not only in the artsitic fields but life in general. I know so many people in all walks of life who have to battle with jealousy. But to quote Baz Lerman, “the race is long, and in the end it’s only with yourself.” I make an active effort not to compare myself to my friends and co-workers. It’s not easy, but in the long run in makes for a much happier existence.

  7. June 22, 2011 2:10 pm

    1. I loved the Wicked reference 😉
    2. I have several friends who are versions of me, and so I constantly struggle with this! It helps me to think about things in my life that maybe they haven’t achieved. And also to take a break and focus on positive things in my life that have nothing to do with theater/performing/career. I constantly remind myself that life as a performer isn’t a race, it’s a journey!
    Thanks for this post!

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