7 Ways To Deal With Jealousy as an Actor
Welcome! I see you’ve chosen the most self-worth-challenging-inevitably-comparative-I-am-my-work profession on the planet. And what’s that? Sometimes you get jealous??? How DARE you! You’ll never make it!
That was my impression of your inner monologue. How did I do? Yes, thank you, I’m very good at impressions. Now let’s get that voice to tone it down a bit.
Table of Contents
- A Quick Note on Managing Expectations
- Take Care of Yourself, You Deserve it
- Approach the Monster with Mindfulness
- Stand on the Shoulders of Giants
- Ditch the Outcomes, Love the Process
- Jealousy is a Treasure Map
- Break Glass in Case of Emergency
What’s the Problem?
The Oxford dictionary defines “jealousy” as—I’m kidding, I’m not a monster. For me, jealousy is seeing someone else’s success and feeling either inadequacy (“they’re better than me”, “I suck” etc.), or resentment (“they don’t deserve that, I should have that, I’m being treated unfairly”). Often both at the same time! Ah, the wonders of the human condition.
As actors, it’s no surprise that we’re particularly vulnerable to jealousy. Social media, film, TV, commercials [SR, a choir of actors sing: “I could have done that”] constantly barrage us with examples of our peer’s successes.
Point is, it can feel like everywhere we look, we’re being reminded of the myriad ways we just don’t measure up. And that’s stupid. So here are 7 techniques I use to remind myself that it’s stupid, that we’re all awesome, and that jealousy is like LSD: a little can be quite useful, but too much, and you’re having a panic attack. No? Just me?
A Quick Note on Managing Expectations
Before we get started, I want to touch on what you can expect from this article. The goal here is not “to never get jealous again.” Jealousy is a normal, natural and even healthy part of being human. What I’d really like your focus to be, is to develop the muscle that allows you to move through these uncomfortable feelings with grace, and not get stuck in them. Remember: it’s a muscle. Give yourself some time! You won’t read any article once and be “healed”. It’s a constant process.
Remember those shoddy trolleys at Coles when you were a kid? The ones that would keep going to the right for some reason? Well that’s your mind. It has this lousy path it knows, and it’s your job to keep gently guiding it back to centre. The amazing thing is: you can actually re-wire your brain, and change your default patterns! Which is crazy, because I’ve never seen anyone fix those god forsaken trolleys. Which means it might actually be easier to heal your negative thinking patterns than to fix a Coles shopping cart. And if that’s not inspiring, I just don’t know what is.
Enough Foreplay, Gimme the Good Stuff
No more edging, here’s the list. There’s no order here, take and pick what works for you! However, I will encourage you to start on ‘Take Care of Yourself, You Deserve It’. I can absolutely guarantee it will make you a mentally stronger, healthier human being. So let that one run in the background like an overeager extra in a Marvel film, and then try some of these other approaches at the same time.
1. Take Care of Yourself, You Deserve it
Sleep, diet and exercise. It may seem over-simplistic and mildly irritating, but it works. I know when you’re feeling low, it can seem like there’s something deeply wrong, but let’s just hold up before we take a pick-axe to our trauma-mines. Sometimes you really are just tired, or hungry, or need to move around a bit. And no matter what, a bit of self care will, at the very least, give you extra strength to face the green-eyed monster.
Things to Try:
– Sleep 7.5+ hours for several nights in a row, and see how you feel.
– Go for a 10 minute walk/run with your favourite tunes.
– At the end of your shower, turn the tap to cold and see how long you can handle it. Oh boy, what a rush.
– Eat something that makes you feel good after you’re done eating. You know what I’m talking about.
What have you got to lose? Do these out of spite to prove me wrong. Imagine how good it would feel to be right and then destroy me on the internet. That could be you! [reverse psychology intensifies]
I say several nights, because your body might feel more tired after the first couple. It’s just catching up on some sleep debt, and is a [good sign you need to persist]
2. Approach the Monster with Mindfulness
You might hate this, but: let yourself feel the jealousy. You can’t always think your way out of a problem. Often, resisting negative emotions can prolong and intensify them. Think of it like Devil’s Snare in Harry Potter: the more you resist it, the more it constricts you.
So, if you’re up for it, give yourself permission to run an experiment:
1. Set a timer on your phone for 5 minutes.
2. Take a seat, relax, close your eyes, and breathe. Don’t worry about deepening the breath, just let it appear as it comes.
3. Let your attention move toward the jealousy. Give it 100% of your focus.
4. Notice that, like any emotion, it’s just a pattern of energy. Become actively interested in any physical sensations that arise. Where do you feel it? In the gut, behind the chest? Does the sensation change over time? Let yourself surrender to it completely.
5. Once the timer is up, come back to the room and open your eyes.
How do you feel? It’s OK if nothing has changed, just notice that too. After running this experiment many times, I’ve found that no emotion, positive or negative, can survive very long under the light of our awareness. That the best way past it, is through it.
3. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants
Here’s a quick one that helps me a lot. Watch some inspiring stuff! Brené Brown will be like the mother you already have, but actually listen to. Watch two minutes of her, or anyone that inspires you, and see how you feel.
For those resisting the woo-woo self-help cult: I get it! I don’t want Tony Robbins to absorb my life force either. But just drop the defence mechanisms for Daddy and give it a go.
4. Ditch the Outcomes, Love the Process
This one’s long, so here’s the TL;DR: focusing on outcomes leads to jealousy and comparison. Focusing on your process leads to constant improvement and self-satisfaction.
I remember seeing an Indie theatre show on a Sydney stage which shall remain nameless, and thinking: “God, if I could just get on stage here, I’d know I was good enough. I’d have proof that I have some talent.” 6 months later I got on that stage. I felt good for about 0.3 seconds, forgot about it, and started worrying about whether or not I could do it. Then I saw a play on another Sydney stage which shall ALSO remain nameless, and I thought “oh no it’s this one, if I get on stage here, then I’d know I was ‘good enough’.” You see where this is going – I was never satisfied.
It’s a cycle I’ve fallen into not just in my career, but in my life. “What’s the next thing??” This is outcome-based thinking. As soon as you achieve something, you get a sexy little dopamine hit, and then you look for the next one. It can be effective in short bursts, but my god does it make you susceptible to jealousy. All you’re ever thinking about is getting the next audition, the next role – why them? Why not me? You’re a crack-addict with a ring light, shooting external validation into your veins. Spoiler alert: It’ll never be enough.
Let’s look at a different approach. One that requires no external validation. One that you have more control over. And, ironically (maybe, I still don’t know if I understand irony), one that will give you more effective results in the long term. Enter process-based thinking.
The process refers to your daily habits, and is within your control. Whether or not you work on your acting today is within your control: You could do a 5 minute vocal warmup, read a script, improvise with a friend – blah blah, you already know. With the process, there is only one goal: build a system and improve it incrementally. Start small. Want to start meditating? Meditate for one minute a day for a week. No goal is too small! Do it consistently enough that it becomes a habit. It’s now part of your system! Crank it up to 2 minutes, then 5 minutes, and then 4 hours. Congratulations, you are now a monk.
I promise you, that if you start small, work on the things you know are important, and sloooooowly increase the load, you will become amazing. Because you’re moving in the right direction and getting better every day! And, here’s the kicker: those elusive outcomes will start coming your way, as a happy by-product of your new focus!
All you ever have is the doing of the thing. The present moment. The goals, the plateaus, they’ll keep shifting. But the process? That’s why you started acting in the first place! Because it’s fun to pretend with your friends. And no matter how successful you get, that’s all it’ll ever be. Those moments where you’re having fun pretending.
Great Article: Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead
Best Book: Atomic Habits
If you can talk to a friend, or partner, and feel safe to do so, I recommend communicating your jealousy. I knoooow, it can feel really gross to admit your insecurities. It takes a lot of courage. But in my experience, I often feel about 50% better the second I stop holding in the jealousy. Not only that, but I find that these conversations usually bring me closer to whoever I’m sharing my feelings with!
But “hold up a minute Mr. Internet Article Man”, I hear you say. “What if the one I’m jealous of is my partner, or friend?” Well played, stranger. God knows actors love to date each other. It’s a community more incestuous than a Medieval royal family. Alas, my recommendation is the same: Even if you’re close to someone you’re jealous of, I recommend telling them directly. This one takes extra-hot-peri-peri-marinade courage, but can bring about a profound sense of relief. I’ve done this several times, with partners and friends, and here’s what I’ve found:
1. I’m almost always comparing myself to an illusion. For example, I’ll see someone as full of confidence. Once I tell them I’ve been feeling jealous, they reveal all the same neuroses I thought were unique to me.
2. The other person often ends up revealing that they are jealous of me, for qualities or skills that I’ve been taking for granted! Which is always a beautiful reminder that we tend to see only what we think we lack, when we get stuck in comparison.
So give it a crack! Because what’s the alternative? A slowly growing, and festering resentment. And resentment is the worst feeling. Because then you’ll start to hate yourself for getting resentful. Which will make you feel more inadequate. Which will make you more resentful. This will continue until the earth explodes.
For more mental health tips check out Dr Mark Seton’s advice.
6. Jealousy is a Treasure Map
Another lightning round. We can actually practice gratitude for our jealousy, and use it as a treasure map to our most desired qualities and highest-held values. This is because we only get jealous when we recognise our realised potential in others.Which means you already have those qualities you’re jealous of, otherwise you wouldn’t get triggered!
So rejoice in your jealousy! It’s showing you what you care about, and guiding you toward the person you truly want to be.
7. Break Glass in Case of Emergency
This is one I use when I’m feeling particularly low. I’m not sure why, but it can give me a bit of extra strength when I need it.
Sometimes I really don’t like myself – it happens. It’s OK. People will tell you you need to like yourself all the time – screw those people. They’re less than you are and have no self worth (see? We’re already making jokes about it). We all fall into negative patterns from time to time, so here’s a reminder when you’re feeling particularly yucky: The world deserves your best.
This little reminder helps me take the attention off myself. Think of it like this: When you’re at your best, the world is a better place. You connect. You brighten other people’s lives. So even if you’re not vibing yourself, the world still wants the best of you.
At the end of the day, acting is an art of service. We go on stage to give a performance. It’s not about us! It’s about telling stories, it’s about reminding people how connected we all are – in grief, in joy, humour, sorrow, love and pain. And honestly I think the world could use some of that, now more than ever.
Wow, what a rant. Here’s the point: When we get stuck hating on ourselves and jealous of others, we become quite withdrawn. So this is a little slap in face to remind you not to live there, because the world wants you to succeed.
And that’s it! I sincerely hope some of these ideas and techniques can help you when you’re feeling stuck. Jealousy is a demon that can drain us of energy, make us question our passion, and turn us against each other. And we don’t need that smack right now, because we’re all in this together. I want every single one of you to succeed, and become the best you can possibly be. So get out there, and show the world what’s burning inside you! And if you need a little extra boost, this page will always be here. I got you bby.
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