Why the Creative Success of Others Can Upset You

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If you read last week’s post, you may have gathered that I haven’t been in my peak creative form for a little while. (Though, I can confidently report that the trend is shifting and I am getting back into my usual groove! Yay!) During my sub-optimal time, I found myself ‘muting’ every creator I follow on social media because seeing other creator’s work made my mental state even worse. Which then led me to vehemently ask Why?

And a new blog post was born.

You’re not alone.

I know I am not the only person that has scrolled through social media or looked through magazines and articles only to become upset when I see other people living awesome lives. If you’re reading this, you have probably felt the same. This is a huge problem in our ever-connected world. Though, over the last two years, I hadn’t had much of an issue with it. I was able to feel genuine excitement and happiness for everyone around me doing cool things.

Until I temporarily lost excitement for my own life.

I knew this feeling well. I had felt it before, and the only way I got out of it in the past was doing a whole bunch of internal work and self-care. If you find yourself in the same social sadness spiral I have a few reasons that could explain it. It doesn’t matter how much success you ever get in life, you will continue to resent others for their successes if you don’t figure out the real reason behind your discomfort.

Here are 4 reasons why the success of others may upset you:

1. You’re Caught in A Comparison Trap

Do you ever look at the work of an artist getting attention and think I’m so much better than them! Why do they have this success and I don’t?!

I find it helpful to compare myself to other artists when I am ready to grow, but when I feel stubborn and think what I am doing now should be good enough, then I’m more apt to get upset. Being creatively successful takes a lot of work, and sometimes we just don’t have the energy to push any harder than we have already. When this happens, take a step away and find a way to recharge. Until you do, you’re likely going to continue to resent every artist you encounter that appears to be more successful than you.

If you can’t stop yourself from scrolling, try to ask questions. Instead of saying “I should have that success!” You should ask yourself how they did it. Don’t question whether they deserve it or not. Evaluate how it happened. What actions did they do? What can you learn?

Don’t compare to establish your place in a hierarchy. Compare to learn.

2. You’re just in a rough place and need to disconnect.

Being in a rough place could mean:

  1. Going through stressful non-creative life changes.
  2. Not having confidence in your abilities or having low self-worth.
  3. Suffering through bouts of anxiety, depression, or other mental issues.
  4. Not taking care of your body (nutrition, sleep, exercise)
  5. Dealing with chronic health issues.
  6. And so on…

My junior year of college, I went through a breakup and then immediately entered into a codependent relationship that brought out the worst in me. I was depressed, I dropped out of school, I had no direction. I was seeing all of my fears become reality. I couldn’t find any sort of safety in my head–and then I would get on social media and everything got worse. I was seeing what appeared to be happy lives laid before me. Smiles. Graduations. Engagements. Success. There was one friend in particular that got to me. She was a creative person like me. She went to a school for design, then got into modeling, traveling the world, while also working on creative projects. She was(and still is!) beautiful, accomplished, successful, and seeing this ripped the flesh right off my bones. While she was living a life I dreamed about, I sat in my drab apartment, went to my 9-5 dental lab job, and cried over the fact that I still had back acne and barely made enough money to pay my bills.

Some people might look at my current presence on social media and feel the same internal agony. I get it, and I don’t fault you for that at all. Unfollow me. Mute me. Lock your social apps. That was my first step. After that, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree, saw a counselor, started going to the gym, and made a bunch of other small positive changes in my life.

It’s hard to feel joy for others when you are in these rough places.

If you are having a hard time (or if you know you often suffer from mental issues), please consider going to sessions with a therapist/counselor. There is absolutely no shame in talking to a professional. I believe that taking care of your mental health should be the same as taking care of your body.

3. You don’t find value or fulfillment in what you are doing now.

If you are the type of person that needs to find meaning in what you do, and feel depleted by a lack of fulfillment, then it’s time to find a new way to spend your energy and find the fulfillment you need.

What do you find meaningful? Can you volunteer somewhere? Can you join a community of like minded people? Can you start a new hobby, or put time into your existing passion you let collect dust? If you are making art now, but feel stagnant, can you try a new medium or style to shake things up?

After I quit working at the dental lab, I took a couple of months to recharge and during that time an opportunity to teach art classes at a senior center fell in my lap. It was something I didn’t know I needed, but I was able to find fulfillment in hearing my students tell me they find joy in practicing art. I didn’t make a bunch of money or anything, but I felt this bundle of light start to form in my heart. I also found myself gushing over every piece of art I saw. Highly skilled or incredibly rudimentary, I had nothing but positive thoughts and words for my students. (This is also why I spend a lot of time mentoring and sharing posts like this with my following. Seeing you find inspiration and courage to create fulfills me more than art sales do.)

When you find fulfillment in what you do, the need to compare gets weaker. The need to find traditional ‘success’ (wealth and recognition) also gets weaker, and the negative reaction to seeing other people find success becomes less intense. So, what fulfills you?

4. they have what you want and it hurts to be reminded You don’t have it.

Or rather, it looks like they have what you want–but do they actually? I have to speak about the illusory aspect of social media, and even the broader media world involving TV, books, movies, ect..

There are always multiple ways to look at a story, a life, or a career. Whenever I talk about branding to my consulting clients, I encourage them to tell a story to the world, but it won’t be 100% of who they are. We can’t show that to everyone–it would be overwhelming and even detrimental to some relationships. What you see presented to you is rarely the complete truth. Always keep that in mind when you compare yourself to others. You may just be comparing yourself to fiction.

But, let’s say what you are seeing is real. Why do you want what you see? What does that “thing” mean to you? Does success mean happiness? Do more sales mean bills get paid? What do you think will happen when you get the thing you think you want? 

When I was upset looking at my former classmate’s life, I can say with 100% confidence that I still would have been miserable if I magically had the same life overnight. I didn’t actually want her life–I wanted the happiness I thought that life would bring.

The things we want are often a symbol with a deeper meaning. What is it that you actually want? What does success, beauty, money, or talent really mean to you?

Instead of trying to get the things that others have with the hope you will then get the thing you are actually craving is a trap. Instead, cut out the middle man. Skip the symbol and go straight for what you really want.

Happiness, safety, contentment, freedom, simplicity, fulfillment, love, faith.

I know. I know. Easier said than done. It’s a struggle, and I won’t lie about that, but when you fully realize what you actually seek in life, the resentment towards others for having success falls away.

More Tips to Prevent Getting Upset by the Success of Other Creators

I’m going to repeat some of the advice from above. You can do any or all of these things. Honestly, this list is for general well-being and not just how to avoid getting upset by scrolling through social media. I’m all about that self-improvement mindset.

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others for the sake of defining your place in a hierarchy. Someone will always be more talented and successful than you so there is plenty of fuel to get upset if that’s what you’re looking for.
  2. Remove your triggers. Social media connects us to people we don’t know well. And social media isn’t exactly real. Spend less time on social apps.
  3. Be kind to yourself. Feeling upset often results in internalized shame for not being ‘good enough’. Stop wasting time and energy on being mean to yourself. Say nice things. Treat yourself like a best friend.
  4. Practice gratitude. We can easily lose sight of the things we already have when we are intently focused on the things we don’t have. Take time each day to write out a list of what you have that you are grateful for. Starting with the most basic. Food, shelter, clothes, etc.. Every night, I run through my gratitude list before bed.
  5. Figure out what you actually need in life. Not just want. What we want isn’t always good for us.
  6. Confide in a person you trust. Share your deep thoughts with a close friend, or a counselor.
  7. Focus on acts that recharge you.
  8. Find work that fulfills you.
  9. Move and nourish your body.

***

This topic is important to me. I have wasted a lot of time and energy wallowing in my lack of success over the years, and I robbed myself of opportunities for joy in the process. If you find yourself struggling with this, I hope this post was helpful.

Do you have any tips to add to the list? What do you do when you experience this?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

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2 thoughts on “Why the Creative Success of Others Can Upset You”

  1. Hi Kelly,
    I avidly read your blog weekly as you seem to possess the innate talent to express my inner thoughts and feelings. Your insights help me clarify and normalise my journey as an artist. I just wanted to make sure that you know how helpful they are.
    With gratitude.

    1. Rita, thank you so much for the kind words! It fills me with joy to know that I can help you on your journey.

      Thank you!

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