Allow me for a moment to talk about something petty, because I believe that we can all relate. At least every now and then, I take a little envy trip.

It seems the frustration of comparing our work or career to others, or at least how we perceive others, is an inevitable part of being a creator. In the age of social media, I guess it’s probably true no matter what your line of work. There can be a tendency to compare numbers sure. How many followers, likes, that kind of thing. But there’s an older, fuzzier type of measuring up that has to do with who’s working with who, how much work are they getting, how much they’re selling… that kind of stuff.

On a normal day, I believe in the general advice that none of this is very helpful and don’t pay it much mind. If I pay attention to my Instagram numbers, for example, I’m more focused on keeping score with myself than anybody else. After all, it can be helpful in a certain way to have a loose set of data on what work connects best with my audience. But getting online can still switch on the competitive side of me with thoughts like “why isn’t that company hiring me?” or “I would have been great for that job” or simply (sadly) “really, people are making a fuss over this?”

And that gets me asking: how can I make this negative emotion into something that is productive, or at least in some way instructive?

Along those lines, I’ve come up with a set of questions to ask myself whenever I get the envy pang. Instead of just indulging in a thoroughly unproductive impulse, why not make it into something actionable?

Question one: Do I like the work?

The meat of this is, if I like the work, it’s a sign post to improve either my own work or my business strategy (or both). If I don’t like the work, I need to remind myself that there is more than one aesthetic and audience out there and I need to keep my mind on what I find engaging.

Question two: Do I have a relationship with the client or venue?

This one is purely about promotion and marketing and, well, there might be some extra steps along the way, but they all lead to the same place.

And in the end, it all boils down to one question that doesn’t really need a flow chart:

Does this work/marketing strategy/crowdfunding campaign/etc. fit with how I want to represent myself? If yes, allocate those resources and do it. If no, cheers to their success, because they’re filling a need that I’m not even interested in.

Some additional reading from past articles that I think are relevant here:

How to accept that many people like stuff that you don’t, and that’s ok
How you can use inspiration from other artists to help shape your own voice