I want to talk about something we don’t tend to want to talk about:
Envy. Jealousy. Comparison.
I know. Words and feelings we have been told to suppress and avoid like the plague, lest we be seen as a flawed individual. Sure, but that doesn’t stop them from existing, does it?
Now, I couldn’t honestly say to you that I enjoy being envious or getting caught up in comparing myself to others. I don’t, and I doubt many people do. But I have – over time – found a way to make it work for me, and although it’s still a challenge I face (and one somewhat inevitable in this showbiz industry), I am grateful for on the other side.
I have many a talented friend. I’m sure we all do. The kind of dizzying talent that leaves you properly floored and breathless. I have worked with some insane people – be it on a sparkly, big-budget film set, or in the austere, sweaty rehearsal rooms at drama school. And like in any profession, working with people further along than you is inspiring, motivating, enlightening, and a whole lot of other wonderful words ending in -ing. But it can also be disillusioning and frustrating too, especially when you are sincerely hustling your booty off.
I’ve seen my peers cast in shows, productions, and series that genuinely make my eyes water; shows, productions, and series that are so in line with the work I want to be doing, I can’t help but feel that sucker punch to the belly.
When I was starting out, I could get pretty overwhelmed by such occurrences. I knew I worked as hard as these people, showed up as often as these people, knew roughly the same contacts as these people. Etc, etc, etc… But the thing is, that endless and draining spiral of self-pity doesn’t help, and comparisons (at least in this instance) don’t actually matter. They were supposed to get that role or series or agent and that has nothing to do with me. Good for them.
Realising this, I started practising wholeheartedly congratulating others on their success. Yes, at first it could feel a little fake and forced, but over time I truly began to experience immense pride in seeing others (and especially my peers) succeed. I would (and still continue to) send an excited email or text to them, or shout out about it on Twitter, or delight in informing random members of society like a proud parent, “I know them!” Because nothing is taken from me when others succeed; there is more than enough cake to go around. As entrepreneur Steve Mehr says, “You get what you focus on. So focus on what you want.”
A second epiphany came whilst training at drama school. What I hadn’t realised until then was how grateful I should be for being surrounded by these Amazonian talents. When I thought of the alternative – being immersed in classes and an industry with those playing it safe and mediocre – well, needless to say that flip-flopped my perspective pretty quick smart, and it’s a thought I come back to often. When, for instance, a friend gets cast as the lead in a MA-HOO-SIVE US Netflix series, or another gets flown to Montenegro for a film shoot, I can choose to see this as a gift, inspiration to take action, instead of being consumed by passive bitterness. It isn’t relevant that at the time of these announcements I was studying how to accurately portray a poison dart frog, or fathom the world of Howard Barker respectively, I can be the best damn poison dart frog or student of Barker possibly possible.
Maybe for you that looks like sending that scary email you’ve been procrastinating getting out there, or writing that period drama scene you want to shoot with your friends. The specifics aren’t important, the increased sense of drive is.
So I humbly offer two suggestions for when you find the green-eyed monster lurking: 1) celebrate their win like a crazy cat, knowing you are no less of a person or actor because of it; and 2) thank the Universe for this reminder to set your own bar higher, then get right back to the hustle!