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.) During my sub-optimal time, I found myself ‘muting’ every creator I follow on social media because seeing other creators’ work made my mental state even worse. Which then led me to vehemently ask why does their creative success upset me?
Did another artist’s creative success put you in a bad mood?
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 was able to feel genuine excitement and happiness for everyone around me doing cool things. And then I temporarily lost excitement for my own life and art.
I know this feeling well. I have felt it before, and the only way I got out of it in the past was by 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 creative 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:
- Going through stressful non-creative life changes.
- Not having confidence in your abilities or having low self-worth.
- Suffering through bouts of anxiety, depression, or other mental issues.
- Not taking care of your body (nutrition, sleep, exercise)
- Dealing with chronic health issues.
The list goes on, but you get the point. The first example has hit me multiple times in my creative journey. For example, during my junior year of college, I went through a breakup and hated going to school. I was depressed, decided to drop out of school, and had no direction. I couldn’t find any sort of safety in my head–and then I would get on social media and everything got worse.
What appeared to be happy lives were laid before me. Smiles. Graduations. Engagements. Success. There was one high school classmate on Facebook that really got to me. She was a creative person like me and 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, and 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.
It was a dark time, but those times never last.
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 or 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 online. 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’ like 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, etc.. 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 middleman. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Figure out what you actually need in life. Not just want. What we want isn’t always good for us.
- Confide in a person you trust. Share your deep thoughts with a close friend, or a counselor.
- Focus on acts that recharge you.
- Find work that fulfills you.
- 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.
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.
P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.