What we can learn from jealousy

We all feel like a loser sometimes. At least, I do.
Just the other day, I saw a couple of colleagues running an art retreat in France for an organisation that also approached me once. “Am I doing everything I can?” I asked myself. An obvious FOMO moment. And the answer is: no, I am far from getting everything out of life. And it’s not even possible.

Making choices

Again and again, you make choices about what suits you and what doesn’t. Scrolling the internet, you process a constant stream of possibilities of what you can do with your life. I sometimes want 100 things at once and then I remind myself that I only have one life, and cannot fill it with all the things ten different people do. Or as I once posted on my blog: just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Dissecting thoughts

If you feel a stab of jealousy (or you feel like a loser), ask yourself what lies beneath that feeling.
Why do I want to give a retreat? “Because so many illustrators do!”. But as my mother used to say to me once, “Just because everyone else jumps in the ditch, you don’t have to jump in” (a typical Dutch saying). So, not a valid reason. I ask myself “why?” a few times, and if the main reason is that I would be very happy teaching an art retreat, then it is valid. 
Similarly, I was a tad jealous of an illustrator who was making a picture book for a British publisher. I kept asking myself ‘why’ until I found out that that is what I do really want for myself. 
Ask yourself ‘why’ a few times and you’ll have a lot clearer what lies beneath those ‘must-do’s’.

Feeding the ego

When we feel jealousy, it is often our ego demanding attention. Having to earn more money when we don’t need that much at all, making a book for a publisher because then we are a ‘proper’ illustrator, or wanting 100,000 followers on social media, for example. In many cases, it is looking for outside validation. That is very natural for us humans, but it doesn’t necessarily make you happier, even after getting that validation. There will always be another something else that you then have to achieve. In other words, impossible to do and not good for your mental well-being either.

Core values

What helps me further is looking at my core values, which I talked about last month in my newsletter. When I think I need to do something (in addition to “why?”) I check against my core values to see if it really is something that suits me and belongs to me, and not to my validation-seeking ego.
But sleeping on it overnight often does wonders too. In the morning, I suddenly demand much less from myself. And if I want to keep that feeling longer, I don’t scroll on social media for a day. This is how I try to stay on track.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. This is good advice. Thanks for sharing. I love the illustration. That is me right now scrolling away! I’m glad you interrupted my feed with some sense and honesty!

  2. This is a brilliant point well made, and something that isn’t talked about much. Every experience is a potential learning opportunity, if we are open to it. Bravo, can’t wait to read more of your work