Why Other Peoples' Success Makes Me Feel Bad About Myself

I didn't take this picture, obviously, I just borrowed it from the article- please don't sue me.

A scene from "The Needle" (I didn't take this picture, obviously, I just borrowed it from the article- please don't sue me.)

Here's one: did you hear about the student film that just won the Cinefondation short film award at Cannes? The film is called "The Needle". The filmmaker is called Anahita Ghazvinizadeh, a student at the School of the Art Institute. (No? Here is the article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/movies/talkingpictures/chi-cannes-chicago-film-student-20130524,0,1986199.column)

The green-eyed monster in the corner preparing to indulge in some comfort-eating is me.

An excellent film is a beautiful thing: and the world needs more of them. Women filmmakers are a wonderful thing too: and the world needs more of them.  And if someone is going to win an award at Cannes for a film that they made in Chicago then all the better! I have every reason to be delighted about a film being so highly  regarded. So why is it that whenever I see another filmmaker being successful it takes away a little more of my personal happiness?

The thing is: human society exists because we can rank and quantify our position in comparison to the people around us.  We judge ourselves by how much money we make, how many friends we have, how many "likes" we can get, what kind of car we drive, what neighborhood we live in, what grades we get in school, how many children we have, and how well received our work is by others.

This system of self-evaluating is second nature. As a matter of fact it plays a major part in why we enjoy movies in the first place: because we get to watch the hero go from a position of low power to a position of high power and are allowed to imagine ourselves in the hero's shoes. It works in a movie because we are able to "replace" the hero with ourselves and as a result the hero's successes become our successes.

This is not true in real life.

I can not replace Anahita Ghazvinizadeh with myself and call her successes my own: she is a real person. But at the same time I can't pretend her success doesn't matter. I now have to add her success into my internal self-evaluation-ranking-system and I have to put it above my own. I have to move myself down my internal ladder to make room for her success: and that is a hard pill to swallow.

And we all do it. We all hate on those "perfect" people on Facebook who seem to live fabulous lives. We all secretly love to watch celebrities stumble. We all hate our friends when they are more successful than we are. It's human nature. The important part is recognizing that just because someone else is successful today doesn't prevent us from being successful tomorrow. The important part is remembering to get outside ourselves and to celebrate excellent film when it happens.

Because an excellent film is a beautiful thing: and the world needs more of them.


(And just in case that isn't enough: here is a video of a fashion model doing a pratfall: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNsLUPIRXWY)

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  • I had to laugh about that internal ladder thing truer words were never spoken, thank you for being so candid I can totally relate just maybe not in the film business LoL!!

  • In reply to girlsheep:

    Thanks so much! I knew when I started hating on my friends for being successful that it was time to get over myself and just start appreciating good work when it happens :-)

  • The solution to this problem is two fold:

    1. Realize you are in the ranks of those you envy. Seriously, I'm not directing any indie films so you have me beat!

    2. To be jealous, you have to envy the whole package. Research her life and see if you still want to trade places. Rarely the answer is still yes.

    Good luck!

  • In reply to Jenna Karvunidis:

    So true, so true! These solutions are easy to learn but difficult to master: they have to be learned again each time the problem comes up, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth the effort!

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    I stumbled upon this article while on the same downward spiral of negative self-talk you described. Just being reminded that it's a natural component of seeking self expression through the arts made me feel much better. Thanks for the lifeline!

  • In reply to CM Thiede:

    Glad to hear it was a help! I'm learning that it's best to blab about the stupid, petty, ugly feelings that I have when struggling with negative feelings because it makes it easier to laugh at them for being stupid, petty, and ugly.

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