A Therapist’s Advice for Dealing with Jealousy When You’re Not Working

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Jealousy is an inevitable human experience. Actors certainly experience ebbs and flows of jealousy and envy throughout their careers. Jealousy is the fear that something you have will be taken away, whereas envy is wanting what someone else has that you feel you lack. These feelings are more likely to be present for actors when bookings have been dry and no projects are in the near future.  

If you think about it, acting as a career is like a jealous partner. He demands flexibility and open days. She expects you to call out of work sick for that last-minute audition. He can even give you the silent treatment if you don’t invest in him through headshots and classes. You have to nourish the relationship regardless of whether you know where it’s going. No wonder actors are prone to jealousy!

So how can you make sure feelings of envy don’t overwhelm you when you’re between work? Here are three steps that can help you cope and manage feelings of envy and jealousy when they rear their ugly heads.

1. Acknowledge and accept the feelings.
Acknowledgment and acceptance of how you’re feeling is the first step to unpacking what the jealousy is really about. Be careful not to get stuck beating yourself up with guilt and shame for feeling envious of others—recognizing these feelings is the necessary first step in paving the way to managing and finding meaning within your jealousy.

Additionally, be conscious of not allowing feelings of jealousy to invalidate other positive feelings. For example, envy may surface when an actor you wait tables with books that “Law & Order” role you auditioned for. Sure, you wish you’d landed the role but you can still be happy for her.

READ: How to Cope with ‘Show Shock’ After a Project Ends

2. Explore the meaning underneath the envy.
I think of envy as a surface reaction that’s prompted by deep-seated doubts and fears. Insecurities of “not being talented enough” might be heightened and brought to the surface in response to seeing your coworker’s success, resulting in anxiety.    

Digging a bit deeper and taking the focus away from the other person may lead you to discover that your fears of having not been signed by an agent yet may actually be what’s fueling your anxiety, not the other person’s success. It’s a better use of your mental energy to identify and address your underlying anxieties and insecurities rather than fixating on what the other person has.  

3. Don’t compare...self-care.
Comparing yourself to others is something you want to intentionally avoid, especially when not working, so it may be a good idea to take a break from or severely limit social media.  

By stepping away from comparing yourself to others, you create space to recognize and appreciate your strengths and what makes you unique. When you stop scrolling through other’s “perfect” careers, you’re less likely to overlook what you have to be grateful for and what you value.  

Soon, you’ll start to shift your focus from “here’s what I don’t have” to “here’s what I want more of.” (For example: “I want to take singing lessons to improve my range” rather than, “I could never hit the notes she hit, who am I kidding?”)

This all brings me to the importance of intentionally feeding and nurturing your creativity, particularly when you’re not working. Start writing that short film you’ve been talking about for years. Make plans to hang out with friends who make you feel expansive. If you’re steadily nourishing yourself in these ways, you’ll find envy won’t take hold so easily. (This is especially important toward the end of a project to avoid drowning in post-show blues.)

And always remember you can see a therapist if you find you can’t cope with these feelings on your own. A mental health professional can provide a safe space to have regular check-ins with yourself and maintain a growth-mindset.

When you’re prioritizing self-care between work, it’s much easier to be inspired and gain motivation from envy when it does (inevitably) pop up.  

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Jelisha Gatling
Jelisha Gatling is a licensed marriage and family therapist in New York City. She works with couples helping them to unpack their baggage. When she is not with clients, she is writing and presenting workshops on self-care and relationships, as well as running therapy groups for artists. With a creative arts background having written and produced plays, Jelisha weaves creativity and humor into her therapeutic work.
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