If you are a creative person, or you want to be a creative person, then it’s extremely likely that you’ve experienced creative envy at some point. I think of creative envy as being envious of someone else’s creativity—a sentiment of “I wish I was as creative as them.” It’s a thought that I myself have had hundreds of times over the years, and many of my creativity coaching clients deal with it as well. But creative envy isn’t something we should just accept and give in to. Rather, we should learn what to do with creative envy so that it can benefit us rather than make us mad, bitter, or resentful.
What to do with creative envy
Creative envy is common, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a given. And it really doesn’t mean you have to let it run its course and do its damage. (After all, envy can be extremely harmful. It can contribute to depression, anxiety, anger issues, low self-esteem, overwhelm, and stress.)
As you learn what to do with creative envy, you will increase your chances of conquering it for good.
Learn to control your thoughts.
It’s hard to control your thoughts before they happen. Most thoughts come into our minds unbidden (and all too often, unwelcome). The trick is learning what to do with those unhelpful thoughts once they are there.
- Feel guilt or shame about them
- Beat yourself up for feeling them
- Try to ignore them
- Lash out as a way to express them
Or, you can:
- Accept the thought
- Process the feelings surrounding the thought
- Replace that harmful thought with a more productive thought
- Move on
Learning to accept, process, and replace your thoughts takes practice. As you claim power over your thoughts, however, you will find more peace. You can train your brain to think in different, more productive ways that better serve your goals and your happiness.
So, when you think “I wish I was as creative as that person,” don’t beat yourself up for it, and don’t bury the feeling. Instead, take a breath, acknowledge that you feel that way, and try to replace the thought with something else you can believe, like:
- “I am happy that they have found success.”
- “They are very talented.”
- “That is what I want for my life.”
- “I want to try that.”
Such thoughts are more positive and hopeful, plus they are more likely to get you what you actually want.
Use it as motivation.
Creative envy can be extremely harmful, and it can also be very demotivating. If you convince yourself that you aren’t as creative as someone else, you might end up feeling like it isn’t even worth trying. But, if you are able to turn your thoughts into something more positive, then you can use your transformed “envy” as motivation.
Think about the thoughts you can replace your envious thoughts with (“That is what I want for my life” or “I want to try that”). Those are thoughts that are about your future goals, not someone else’s present accomplishments, or your past failures. Those are thoughts you can actually put to good use.
When you see someone else’s success, turn whatever feelings of envy you have into feelings of inspiration and motivation. Use those initial envious feelings as a clue to let you know that this is something that you really care about. Pay attention to that feeling. Use it to help you set your sights on what you want.
Additionally, use another person’s success as a data point to show you that hard things can be done, and are done every day. Your goal may seem impossible to you, but look—someone else did it! That means that it’s possible. Take that to heart and let it make you hopeful, not discouraged.
At the end of the day, creative envy is about comparison. It is about seeing what someone else has done and comparing it to what you have done, and determining that you come up short.
Comparison is a very dangerous mindset, and if you struggle with it, it’s important to break free from it. Here are some thoughts that might help:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
You won’t be happy with what you have if you are constantly thinking about what you don’t have, and comparing it to what other people do have. If you want to be happy, you need to learn to stop comparing.
You only see the best.
When you see someone post or share something that you are envious of, remember: you are just seeing the best side of this. You are seeing the finished product, the thing that has taken hours and days and years of practice to achieve. What you don’t see is the hard work it took to get there, and the failures the person ran into along the way. When you find yourself playing the comparison game, remember that this person had to work for what they have, and if you want it, you will have to work for it too.
Your life is good.
Gratitude makes you happier. Being able to acknowledge what you have and feel grateful for it—being able to see that your life is good, just as it is now—will help you avoid comparison. After all, if you are grateful for what you have, why would you need to look at what someone else has? (I highly recommend starting a gratitude journal if you don’t have one already!)
The last thing to do with creative envy is simply to start creating. The only way you will reach your creative goals and get your creativity to where you want it to be is to actually do the creative work.
I get it: this is easier said than done. Especially if you’re feeling down on yourself because of the creative envy you’re feeling. But I promise—if you can get over those negative feelings as just start doing something, you will feel better.
These tips might help.
Find an outlet. Any outlet.
It might help to have a “go-to” creative activity you do when you are starting to feel creative envy. I highly recommend choosing something that engages both your body and your mind, so that might include playing music, writing by hand, coloring, etc. This will help bring you into the present moment so you can get out of the envious feelings and just create.
Be willing to fail.
One of the biggest drawbacks people experience when starting a creative endeavor is an unwillingness to fail. Why would you start a project that you think you aren’t going to finish, or that you think is going to end badly? Why put yourself through the pain of criticism your creative work might invite?
Because creativity requires failure.
Recognize failure as part of the process. Every creative fails. If I may repeat that: Every. Creative. Fails. You are not going to be perfect at everything you try. Not every creative project is going to pan out the way you want it to. But if you are willing to fail, then you will be more willing to create. And sometimes, that willingness is all it takes to invite the magic.
Shake up your surroundings.
When you’re starting to feel those envious feelings, remove yourself from that environment as quickly as you can. Switch something up, whether it’s the location, the lighting, or the music. Go for a walk. Do some stretches. Turn on your favorite playlist. Go smell a nice-smelling candle. Turn off the lights and meditate. Just do something that engages you in a different way. Send a message to your entire body that you are doing something different, so you can think differently, too. This will make you more open to creating, even when you weren’t feeling it before.
Knowing what to do with creative envy will help you break free from it. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never experience it, but it does mean that you will know how to respond to it in a healthy way. You will be able to disengage from those harmful thoughts and put yourself in a more productive mindset. And you can end up transforming that creative envy into something motivative and personally inspiring.
There’s no need to be envious. You have what you need to live a creative life.
A more creative you is waiting.
Let us help you bring more creativity into your life. Start by taking our free, quick assessment today.