Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Insecure Writers - Green-Eyed Motivator

ENVY. We've all been there. From the "I wish I'd thought of that!" to the "If that crap can get published, I know mine can!" We've all felt envy, but how many of us have used it as a motivational tool?  I read a couple articles that suggest it could be a very power one, if you know how to use it right. 

"Use envy?" I hear you ask. "But envy's a nasty, horrible, negative emotion that we can't even admit to having, or we would be shunned by all our friends and no one would ever buy our books!" Not so. The writer of the article Why Envy Motivates Us suggests there are two kinds of envy: benign and malignant. The article goes on to state:

We tend to feel malicious envy towards another person if we think their success is undeserved. This is the type that makes us want to strike out at the other person and bring them down a peg or two. However when another's success feels deserved to us, we tend to feel a benign envy: one that isn't destructive but instead motivates. 

Sound familiar? "If that crap can get published, I know mine can!" is malignant envy, the destructive kind. You might think it's good that you'll show them by getting published, but often emotion isn't enough to motivate. "I wish I'd thought of that" can actually be more motivational. Use it as a challenge. So, they thought of something good? So what? Analyze their idea, figure out what made it so successful for them. Then use their strategy for yourself. As the writer of Competition Getting You Down? Why Envy is Your Biggest Motivator states: 

Whenever you come upon something great that you wish you’d done yourself, you have two choices. Live in the small minded world of jealousy and resentment, or be the phoenix and evolve. When you skulk around in the places where others shine, you’re like that cockroach scavenging for a crumb. People step on cockroaches. What you should be doing is taking notes. Why not use someone else’s great idea as a springboard for your own creation?
Instead of shriveling up with resentment, we can use the success of others to inspire our own. I've experienced both types of envy in my life - the benign and the malignant. Thankfully, a lot of the envy has been benign and it has motivated me.

My decision to attend The Savannah College of Art and Design was inspired by benign envy. I knew a SCAD student and she always seemed to have more fun, more interesting projects, and more enthusiasm for her major than I did. I had gotten burnt out, jaded, and disgusted with college. I was sick of the whole thing, and ready to give up, but when I spoke to her, I realized I wanted what she had. I wasn't out for the count yet. I just needed a different setting, new challenges, and brighter opportunities. I wanted SCAD. But I hadn't even realized it was an option before. When I discovered it was, there was no stopping me.

Ariel, Me, and Celly eating outside O-House
With my family supporting me, I put together a portfolio, gathered financial resources, and applied. I was accepted in one try, and by the end of the following year, I had become a SCAD student. I moved to Savannah where I lived for two years, having the time of my life. I learned from professional illustrators, completed awesome projects, and met amazingly talented and wonderful people who became lifelong friends. I felt creative and alive again. I felt like I was truly where I was meant to be. And most of all, I appreciated it more because of how hard I worked to get there.

I used my envy of my friend's situation to catapult myself out of my own discouragement and into better circumstances. Since my years at SCAD, I've realized I can do anything I put my mind to. Sometimes it just takes another person presenting me with the challenge that says "I did this. Can you?" I've always been competitive, so the motivator for me is rising to those unspoken challenges and beating them.

Have you ever used envy as a motivator? What's yours?


  1. Awesome post! It could be the companion piece to my own IWSG post today.

  2. Most people term that kind of envy as "inspiration." Makes it sound nicer :). It's all in the semantics. Good points though. Sounds like your school experience was great.

  3. I love the way you look at it. Yes, I have used envy to motivate myself to work harder.

  4. What a great post! I love the way you expressed envy as a motivator. Followed you over from IWSG. :)

  5. it's a powerful thing. Thanks!


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