A friend of mine recently shared the following story with me and it really struck me. I knew instantly that it was a story I wanted to share and a conversation I wanted to continue. So, in the words of my friend, Sarah, I give you her experience.
"There's an artist, that lives by me, also named Sarah, who is a working fabric artist. Also by us there is a wood worker named David. He makes the most gorgeous wooden spoons, utensils, even hair picks. He has been so supportive of my art. Yesterday he even bought a piece. Last night at the fire they were both there and they started talking about art shows and such and David's significant other chimes in and says, "...and Sarah creates these amazing paintings!" David agreed. The other Sarah steams back into her own work. This morning my husband mentioned it. How supportive and encouraging David is and how Sarah seems threatened by me being an artist. My husband was right. Sadly, I've lived most of my life like the other Sarah, threatened by others in my field. But last year I turned over a new leaf and now I'm a David. That's the most wonderful feeling. Knowing that rising tides lifts all boats, that it feels better to encourage than to stifle."
The first thing that hit me about this story is that I know exactly how it feels to be an "other Sarah", to feel threatened by, and there for unenthusiastic about, another artist. I've been there and I shamefully return there more often than I would like. But how awesome is it when we choose to be "a David"?! How good does it feel when we fall under the Rising Tide Society's banner flag of "Community Over Competition"?! Just like my friend stated, "...it feels better to encourage than to stifle."
So, what causes us to behave in one way or the other? While this is definitely a choice, our emotions take part in it, so it's less clear than it could be. Since it's hard to overcome emotions in the moment, we have to continually train ourselves out of this. To do that, we need to recognize the root of the problem.
Here's the core determining factor: Self confidence.
When we are confident in our selves, our work, and our value, we don't feel threatened by the work of others. We can acknowledge their awesomeness because we are secure in our own awesomeness. We can cheer and support others because we know that their success doesn't detract from our own.
I talked about Napoleon Hill's Formula for Self Confidence last month, which has really made a huge impact on me, and I encourage you to give it a try. However, cultivating confidence grows from knowing who you are and being convinced of your value. Surprisingly, not many people take the time to truly seek out who they are, what they stand for and believe in. There is a large measure of confidence that comes from just this knowledge because when you know who you are, you also know who you are not. Then when you see others doing things that are undeniably awesome, but "not you", you can stand back and applaud instead of feel threatened. This also eliminates the question that maybe you should be doing what they're doing... (which is different from the, "I want to try that!" thought. The former is born from jealousy and the latter from curiosity).
When you know who you are not, you can think, "Go you! That's not for me."
Recognizing your own worth and value is admittedly a little harder. This isn't about being egotistical or narcissistic, both of which derive from fear. This is about acknowledging to yourself that you have an intrinsic value, just as you are. The need for improvement is a human condition, but that does not mean that you are worth any less.
Author and self-help goddess, Jen Sincero brilliantly put it this way:
"You are a badass. You were one when you came screaming onto this planet and you are one now. The Universe wouldn't have bothered with you otherwise. You can't screw up so majorly that your badassery disappears. It's who you are. It's who you always will be. It's not up for negotiation."
So, as you cultivate your confidence, be aware of how you feel towards others and trace those feelings back to the source and battle the problem there. If you feel threatened, why is that, exactly? Is it because you don't think your work is as good? Why do you think that? Keep asking yourself questions until you get to the core of the matter. -THIS MIGHT SOUND FOOLISH- but truly, ask yourself the questions. When you get down to something deep and that you don't want to admit, even to yourself, you've found the source. Being aware of the cause also arms you with the power to eliminate it, so don't be afraid, just face it head on.