A couple of years ago, I barely followed any filmmakers or photographers on Instagram. The reason being, I was constantly jealous. Every time I saw someone on social media that was doing better than me I was petty and resentful, critiquing their every shoot and saying in my head all the reasons I deserved their success more than them. In short, it wasn't exactly healthy for me and made me a version of myself I wasn't overly pleased with. Then I read the book Steal Like an Artist and everything changed. The book talks about learning from others and how no art is created in a void, you need inspiration from others to succeed. Okay, I thought, let's give this a try. From that point on I started following away. Anyone I wanted to be like I diligently followed and took mental and physical notes of my findings. Things I liked, things I didn't, styles I wanted to emulate, techniques I wanted to learn, etc. I was becoming the collaborative, welcoming artist I always wanted to be and I was happy.
But nothing lasts forever. Especially when it involves confidence in one's career. Slowly my collaborative spirit began to fall away and became replaced with a new feeling. Unlike the initial jealously that involved me sulking saying how I deserved their success, this new form of jealously had a self-loathing component. Rather than being jealous that someone else had been "discovered" instead of me, this new jealously relied on a pinch of self-hate. Why have they gotten recognized instead of me, easy, because they're better than me.
Now when I find myself on social media (which is often) I am in a constant battle. While my peppy collaborative, inspired self is still present (seriously, I'm so inspired by the wonderful humans I follow), I worry about that pesky dark side. Somewhere amongst the inspiration, there is always a part of me that leaves social media full of sadness and self-hate. Why are they doing such incredible things? She's HOW old? What am I doing wrong? Is it just because I'm not good enough? These questions, I know, are futile. I will never have my answers. And if I did they would likely be, these people are not better than me and I am not doing anything wrong.... they are just people who work hard and got their "big break." It's nothing personal.
I fear that it's all a cycle... I feel bad about myself, I mope around, I go back on my phone, scroll, repeat. But that will not make me better. What would make me better is to delete all my apps and to go out into the world and create stuff. Not only then am I avoiding the gross, useless feelings but I am also improving in my career, which is the whole point of all of this anyways. And sure, in theory this recluse, art-focused life sounds like the ideal solution and yet, it's not. Collaboration is essential to success in this field and also jealously just isn't a good look. I don't want to be someone who is so self-conscious in my work that I have to hide from everyone who makes me feel bad about myself.
So where is my middle ground?
I wish I could end this blog post with an answer, but the truth is, I'm not sure of what the answer is. I know that the solution is out there, the right amount of confidence and humility essential to have a creative career, but I am not sure exactly where to find it. I think though, that it starts with doing what makes you happy. If you're happy, you'll likely be happy for other happy people. Maybe you'll still be jealous of their success, but at least you're enjoying your (hopefully temporary) failure. And maybe you'll realize that what you view as a failure is what some other people view as the ultimate success. Remember, while you scroll through Instagram feeling terrible looking at everyone else's great life, someone might be doing the same thing looking at yours. And maybe a little bit of jealously is a good thing, it keeps you moving and motivated. If you suddenly had it all, what would you have to work for?