I was listening to another of Jay’s older podcast episodes last week (surprise, surprise), and he had Glennon Doyle on to talk about How to Stop Asking for Permission and Listening to Other People’s Opinions. I highly recommend this episode, especially if you are LGBTQIAP and are having a hard time with the idea of coming out. Even if you aren’t, it’s a wonderful episode! Jay and Glennon discuss several topics that I found relatable.
One such topic was envy. I took a lot of notes, but I’m going to try and summarize what was said. Glennon said that envy is admiration that is holding its breath. She went on to explain what she meant by that. She said nothing hurts more than seeing someone do something that a braver version of yourself was born to do. Meaning that if we were more aware of where this envy is coming from, we wouldn’t envy, but admire.
She then said that we need to begin asking ourselves why we are envious and how can we use that answer to improve ourselves? Because that envy is pointing us toward what we are meant to do. Our purpose.
I thought about this for a while. Generally speaking, I’m not an envious person. However, there are times that I do feel envy. We all do. It’s a human emotion. When do I feel envious? Any time that I see a video on social media where someone is painting a beautiful picture, particularly if they’re using a method I’ve never seen before. This three-dimensional tree painting by Nicolas Abtan is one such example. My envy was especially strong with this one because I love trees.
I took art classes in high school and I occasionally go to Viva Art to learn techniques now. I’m good at painting, but I’m not great. Definitely nowhere near professional. I enjoy painting, for the most part. Sometimes I get stressed, depending on the techniques and/or the level of detail. I’m adding a few samples of my work here to illustrate what I’m talking about. I feel it’s necessary.
In the example of the Culbertson Mansion watercolor, we worked from a photo of the building, in a classroom setting, over the course of a couple of weeks. We began by sketching out the building in pencil and then tracing that with ink. Then, we filled it in with watercolor. This represents about ten hours of work.
In the example of Starry Night Over New Albany, it was a two and a half hour class at Viva Art. We began with a blank black canvas. We were given chalk and instructed to draw the Louisville skyline. I wanted to draw the New Albany skyline instead, so I went rogue. I have enough confidence in my abilities to at least be able to apply the same technique to different buildings.
In the example of New Beginning, I sketched this out in about ten minutes. It’s an idea I had for a future painting and I didn’t want to forget it, so I sketched it. The final painting will be more detailed and take considerably longer.
Culbertson Mansion was sent to a regional art competition and won an honorable mention. A couple of my artworks sold at auction when I was in high school. I was offered an art scholarship for college. I didn’t accept it. Why? Because “art isn’t a practical profession.”
Instead, I started out with the idea of being an occupational therapist. Practical. Then, I decided that wasn’t for me and switched to education, then to informatics.
I ended up just getting a degree in general studies because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I wound up at the library for thirteen years and loved most of them. It was where all of my interests combined. However, it became harrowing and it was time to move on. So, now I’m an insurance broker. Also practical. But I miss creating.
And that is the point of all of this. I’m envious of artists because it’s what I was meant to do if I had been braver all of those years ago, if I had taken the scholarship and risked the “impractical” choice. To verify this revelation, I thought about other forms of creation. I recently switched to a new hair stylist, my dear friend, Adam. He is an artist, but with a different medium.
I’ll digress here a bit to say that I lost a considerable amount of hair a couple of years ago, due to my medication. It has been growing back, but the new growth is very different. Chemo curls is a term I’ve recently learned to define it. Anyway, I had my first cut and style with Adam about a week and a half ago and just from the way he cut it, my hair looks like an intentional style choice, rather than a frizzy mess. Even when all I do is run a brush through it. It has given me such confidence.
To the point, Adam is an artist and I am in absolute admiration of his work. Not envious. So, what is the difference? The difference is that I don’t want to be a hair stylist. I don’t want to work with hair. That was never what I was supposed to do with my life. Hence admiration instead of envy. Glennon is absolutely correct.
Understanding this envy does a couple of things for me. First, it helps me to realize my purpose. If I know that I’m supposed to draw and paint, what are my next steps? To know this, I have to think about what I’m lacking. Patience, skill development, supplies, and time.
I always get upset with myself when I draw or paint something and it doesn’t come out exactly how I wanted. I just give up and tell myself I’m not good enough. Well, of course it didn’t come out how I wanted. I put ten minutes into it. I had put ten hours into Culbertson Mansion and it wasn’t quite up to my standards, either. I need to set aside time each day or each week and practice.
The second thing is that understanding my envy helps me to be less envious in future. Jay said, “You never don’t feel envy, you just entertain it for less time.” That is true. We can’t eliminate any of our human emotions, because we’re human. However, I can recognize when I feel envious and examine why, rather than dwell on the feeling.
Examining why I’m envious of artists has given me a renewed sense of purpose and an action plan for how I can be better. Maybe I’ll monetize it and maybe I won’t, but I’ll be doing it. I took the first steps already. I purchased some sketchbooks, a pencil set, and paint pens. My next step is to examine my weekly schedule and find where I can set aside time specifically for art.
The next time you feel envious, I encourage you to examine why. What is it that this person has or does that causes that feeling of envy? What can you do to achieve that for yourself? The answer isn’t always that you need exactly what they have, either.
Maybe you’re envious of someone with a fancy car, not because of the car itself, but because it signals success to you. What can you do to be more successful in your own eyes?
Maybe you’re envious of someone’s relationship. If it’s because you’re envious of them having a significant other, there are things you can do to put yourself out there more. It could be that you’re envious of their being loved. The solution to that is trying to love yourself more. If you self-hate, you won’t feel loved, even when someone expresses it to you.