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The Envy Map: Your GPS to Greater Creativity

Creativity coach Jennifer Mills Kerr provides her top tips on the creative life.

Eric Maisel
Creativity Coaches on Creativity
Source: Eric Maisel

The more that creatives are hyper-aware of the success of others, including their peers from art school, conservatory, or graduate school, the more likely they are to experience envy and the harder it will be for them to do their own creative work.

Envy is a great silencer, perhaps third in order after anxiety and self-censorship, and understanding its place in your life is of real importance. In today’s post, creativity coach Jennifer Mills Kerr elaborates on this theme.

Jennifer explained:

As artists, we are all too familiar with envy. The feeling can seep into our bones without our realizing it. And even after it arrives, we often deny its existence. But why not honor it? Why not use it to expand creativity?

1. Listen

First, you must find envy’s hiding place. Begin by listening to your body. Where do you feel its sensation? In your stomach? Your head? How does it feel? Heavy? Hot?

Pay attention to thoughts that appear. They may indicate defeat: I’m never going to get into that gallery. Or resentment: Why would that book get on the bestseller list? Acknowledge whatever comes without judgement.

2. Tend to Your Feelings

After listening to envy, ask yourself what you need. A nap? Writing in a journal? Calling a friend? Think of yourself as a parent, cradling a crying child. Self-care is vital for your artistic projects to thrive.

3. Accept What Comes

While we may polarize life into light and dark, creative expression includes every variation of color. Envy is a natural feeling. Acceptance allows for flow and expansion, essential tools for greater creativity.

4. Focus on the Envy Trigger

When do you feel envious? Is there a particular artist you react to? Do you know why? You can write in your journal, meditate, or take a walk to explore your feelings.

For example, a certain well-known author might get to you. Ask yourself why. Thoughts may arise, such as:

  • He thinks it’s so easy.
  • He makes all that money.
  • He doesn’t even write well.

Then ask yourself: Why do I care?

5. Discover Your Soft Spot

Your soft spot is a place of tenderness, a place where your creative self feels inferior. Let’s return to our example. Say that the author in question's wealth gets to you the most. Now your job is to vent about that, and in any way you like, by ranting, pacing, running, or scribbling on the page. In this case, you will come to something like: I’m working so hard to pay the bills and that guy has all this money!

6. Ask Questions

Now you’re doing some healthy research. Some good questions:

  • If you weren’t experiencing financial struggles, would that author get to you?
  • Do financial struggles signify artistic inadequacy?
  • Are you assuming you are less because he makes more?

Look for any assumptions you’re making. Very often, these are false beliefs.

7. Affirm the Positive

If you’re assuming your creative self isn’t good enough, how can she create, dance, or produce? Instead, nourish your creativity with positive and loving thoughts. “I am enough” is one of my favorites.

8. Consider Your Choices

Envy not only guides us into greater self-care, it also reveals practical steps. Thanks to your reaction to that well-known author, you know that finances are a priority. Perhaps you decide to shift your artistic work into a more profitable venue. You could get part-time work to reduce stress. Collaborating with another artist also could reduce your financial burden.

Whatever choice you make, you recognize that you have them, which empowers you to take a more positive course of action.

Honoring envy may be new territory for you. However, with awareness, kindness, and curiosity, you can become familiar with its rocky terrain and enjoy expanded creativity in your life.

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