How Jealousy Kills Your Creative Freedom

"Jealousy is always a mask for fear." —Julia Cameron

Get ready, it's about to get emotional in here. And that's a little weird, right? I mean, this is an indie film blog. But even though we typically don't talk much about the emotional toll of being a filmmaker, it doesn't mean that filmmakers don't struggle with things that weaken their passion and damage their confidence. I came across a really interesting video by photographer Sean Tucker in which he talks about a rarely discussed problem that affects people not only in the indie film community but pretty much in every creative community, "creative jealousy," and how it can actually be the very thing that keeps you from doing what you love.

Embarrassing honesty time: I used to be a ridiculously jealous person back in college. I didn't feel it when it came to most things, like relationships, possessions, and experiences, but when it came to creative stuff, damn, I was the green-eyed monster herself. I wanted to be the best—not in like, the entire world, but at least the best in the room, but going to a school with a film department that was bursting at the seams with eager and talented students, 99.9999999% of the time I wasn't. Not even close.

Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to learn from those who were far better than I was at writing, directing, editing, or whatever, I experienced this strange feeling of loss. It felt almost like being stolen from: the distrust in and anger toward the one who made me feel "unsafe," the fear of never feeling "safe" again. Now, replace "safe" with "good enough" and boom, that was my issue.

"The biggest lie that jealousy tells us is that we have no choice but to be jealous. Perversely, jealousy strips us of our will to act when action is the key to freedom."

"Damn, V. This is heavy and personal and I'm starting to feel kind of unsafe, myself."

Yeah, that part's done, honey. Let's get back to Tucker's video which brings it all home. He quotes a book by author Julia Cameron called The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativityand I think it provides the key to eventually unlocking that part of ourselves that keeps us jealous.

Jealousy is always a mask for fear—fear that we aren't able to get what we want, frustration that somebody else seems to be getting what is rightfully ours even if we're too frightened to reach for it. At its root, jealousy is a stingy emotion, it doesn't allow for the abundance and multiplicity of the universe. Jealousy tells us that there is room for only one: one poet, one painter, one whatever you dream of being. The biggest lie that jealousy tells us is that we have no choice but to be jealous. Perversely, jealousy strips us of our will to act when action is the key to freedom.

It's difficult to be jealous and creative at the same time. I think at least for me, I've had to choose one or the other. Luckily, as I got older I started taking emotional intelligence and maturity a little more seriously—I mean, you kind of have to in order to have the job I have. As a writer, people tell me how much I suck at what I do all the time, so unless I want to go full 12-year-old sociopathic internet troll on some angry rando, then I need to take my emotional vitamins, kids.

And you should, too. Don't let jealousy keep you from making films, because it will. It will keep you from taking chances, making connections, and feeling good about what you're doing creatively.

Whatever it is that makes you feel confident about your abilities as a creative, do it. Unless, of course, it's trolling me on the internet.     

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Your Comment


Thanks V. I appreciate the honesty and transparency of this post. Something I`m sure we battle with to greater or lesser degree and is surely difficult talk about openly. Kudos.

October 2, 2017 at 11:13PM, Edited October 2, 11:13PM

Daniel Custard

A very good article! It's an odd thing with jealousy. Often it's towards someone who is so different from you and who actually does things you'd never do yourself but nonetheless you want to be like him or rather, have the money, power and fame. A heavily introvert guy like me, for example, could never ever do the things James Cameron did and does. Someone who wants to tell some unique, captivating story without relying on pure spectacle will have a hard time going the route to fame like Steven Spielberg or Michael Bay went. It's often like: I'm jealous of people who climbed the Himalaya and I want to do the same but by loudmouthing how I would do it better without ever leaving my couch.

October 3, 2017 at 6:39AM, Edited October 3, 6:43AM


A really good honest article. I do believe to an extent that too much respect can work the same way.
I think the biggest fear of all is being absolutely alone in your craft, not particularly knowing how to measure yourself from one day to the other or what the future will bring, but still trying to get on with it.

October 3, 2017 at 10:41AM

Saied M.

Good video, and a brave article to put out in the world. Thanks V.

October 3, 2017 at 12:04PM

Bryan Howell
Screenwriter, corporate videographer, and indie filmmaker

This is a really interesting subject and one I've struggled with a lot. I think the advice of the video is very good although what I'd add is that it's really important to take the emotion of jealousy back to its base root - vulnerability.

Jealousy gets a bad rap but it's a very natural emotion that stems from our fear that someone else will take our parents attention away from us and we will be abandoned and subsequently die if we don't kill our rival right this instant! A very faint possibility when we are a two year old but maybe not quite so likely as a forty two year old filmmaker, grinding our teeth in the back row of our friends premiere screening.

Trying to nice it out in the comments section or turn the shame extinguisher on it won't work for long, those methods are what have kept it alive all these years in the first place.

What I find works for me is to really admit my jealousy, and most importantly how it makes me feel, to someone who cares about me outside of my creative endeavours. This act of honesty to a real live person usually reconnects me pretty quickly to the feeling of vulnerability that all that anger is trying to avoid.

It's an unpleasant feeling not because we are unpleasant people for thinking negative things towards someone else and their success, it's because when all eyes are on someone else we are remembering how it felt to believe we might literally cease to exist.

Showing someone this vulnerability allows us to be regarded in the way we really want to be, not for the things we make but just for being us, alive in the world. And best of all it un-hitches creativity from our need to be seen and loved and this is what frees us up to play and make our unique little marks just for the pure joy of it again.

A great article, thank you so much!

October 3, 2017 at 5:30PM, Edited October 3, 5:33PM

Paul fern
Film maker

Thank you for this--great topic to think about. Future articles and resources regarding emotional intelligence and the arts would be highly appreciated.

October 3, 2017 at 10:22PM

Samuel Neff
DP / Editor

I guess most of the creative people are jealous too...
I am..

Nice video. Thanks.

October 4, 2017 at 7:25AM, Edited October 4, 7:25AM

Sameir Ali
Director of Photography

I like the article and it is very honest and i can relate to a lot

October 7, 2017 at 6:45PM, Edited October 7, 6:45PM


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