3 Tips for Letting Go of Jealousy

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3 Tips for Letting Go of Jealousy

Jazz FreddyJealousy exists, especially among improvisers and actors, though no one really wants to talk about it. It’s part of the human experience, much like anger or sadness. But we think it’s too ugly of an emotion to talk about, something we’re not “supposed” to feel, so instead, we deny we feel jealous at all.

Over the years, I have had real problems with jealousy.

When I started improvising in Chicago in the late ’80s and early ’90s, we all wanted to become famous. And some of us actually did

Chris Farley played on a team at the Improv Olympic at the same time I was on a team. He then got a slot on SNL and left for New York. Mike Myers would join our team once in a while, too, before he went off to SNL. Stephanie Weir and I did a brilliant show called Naked, before she got hired for Second City’s Mainstage before going on to Mad TV. I played with Rachel Dratch in Jazz Freddy, and knew Tina Fey back when she was chunky with bad hair, before they both, you guessed it, moved to New York and got on SNL.

And every time someone got something, I wish I could say I was happy for them, but I was not. I secretly hoped they would fail. I really turned being jealous into an art form. I could turn someone else’s success into “I must be doing something wrong.”

But the worst was when my best friend and roommate, Dave Koechner, got hired to become a cast member on Saturday Night Live (years before he moved to L.A. and got parts in Anchorman and The Office). That day, I threw out our television and considered jumping on the ‘L’ tracks to have the Brown Line run me over.

As my friends left Chicago for LA and NY for bigger opportunities, I turned jealousy into bitterness.

Then somewhere in my 30s and 40s, things started to change. My first step was reading a list of all the people I was jealous of to my friend, Eric, one Saturday afternoon in his kitchen in tiny garden apartment, and after reading it, some of the horrible jealousy began to lift.

Along the way I found some other tools that helped me that I want share with you.

3 Tips for Letting Go of Jealousy

1. Admit it
Admit that you are jealous and that there’s nothing wrong with jealousy. Find people you trust — friends, therapist, support groups — where you can admit these jealous feelings without being judged. You want them just to listen to you. Not, “Hey, I am jealous of Tina Fey,” and then they say something like, “Oh, there’s no reason to be.” Or worse, going into some sort of character assassination of the person for an hour. You just want someone to listen to you so you’re not alone with it. Jealousy is energy that needs to be released. If you don’t release it, it turns into an emotional cancer of resentment and bitterness, which does nothing to help you with your creative process.

2. Remember, they might help you in the future
One way to feel less jealous of people who go on to be successful is to remember that someday they may be in a position to help you out in the future. Oh man, this was so so helpful for me because I am one of those selfish people who needs to see what I can get out of something. Improv Nerd has been great with this. I have been jealous of many of our guests at one time or another, and when I realized they not only could help me out but also were willing to help me out, the jealousy started to fade rather quickly.

3. Create, Create, Create
The best medicine I have found for curbing jealous is creating. My jealousy is at an all-time high when I am not performing, writing or improvising. When I’m not creating, I just sit around asking “Where’s my piece of the pie? Is it ever coming?” But when I am in my creative process and writing or doing a show, I lose myself and everyone else’s careers don’t seem to matter so much.

14 replies
  1. jim smetana
    jim smetana says:

    Great Jimmy News–nothing about Urlacher though. Is jealousy the same as envy? I don’t know if I’ve ever had it–like the German measles–but I sure do have a myriad of other character flaws so don’t pin a medal on me just yet

    Say what’s the deal w/ the acting studio at Ashland & Elston? How can they use Oscar (Academy Award) on their signage? Isn’t that a copyrighted image?

    By the way I’m changing my name to Raul–I think it will help me get more pussy. I sure couldn’t be getting any less!

    Best,

    Raul “Jimmy” Smetana

    Reply
  2. Greg Morelli
    Greg Morelli says:

    I’m jealous. Your blog gets more comments than my blog, way more comments, waaaay more comments.

    And you had a radio show on WBEZ. Whereas I only had a radio show on WCPT, which wasn’t really a radio show, since it was brokered time, which was nothing more than the illusion of a radio show, with a very real lawsuit waiting for me, at the end, and a very-very-real court order from a corrupt lawyer who exploited a questionable relationship with an unjust judge to extort even more money from me, when I finally “twilighted the show,” which is a fancy-pants way of saying “ended the show.”

    There, I admitted it. I admitted all of it. But I don’t feel better. I feel silly, like I should’ve known better in the first place.

    Reply
  3. Louis Hirsch
    Louis Hirsch says:

    Jimmy,
    Your ability to state these issues so well makes me jealous. But of course with Improv Nerd and everything else I am jealous of you in a dozen different ways.
    Also did you read Neal Pollacks interview in the AV section of the Onion (last weeks) I think it is good for getting perspective on what success and failure our.
    Best wishes( you talented bastard)
    Your Fiend
    Louis Hirsch

    Reply
  4. Jealous Chic
    Jealous Chic says:

    Thank you! I needed this article. I’ve recently been battling jealousy for the first time. I think the older I’m getting the more I feel the pressure to start having an acting career that “matters”. I can’t even watch one of my friend’s TV shows (and I actually like the show) because I feel like shit after…because of jealousy. I burst out in tears after one episode! I am happy for him so it makes me feel even worse that I feel this way. I’m just trying to focus on my craft and keep working… because if you sit on your ass, of course you’re gonna be jealous! Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  5. Jealous Chic
    Jealous Chic says:

    Thank you! I needed this article. I’ve recently been battling jealousy for the first time. I think the older I’m getting the more I feel the pressure to start having an acting career that “matters”. I can’t even watch one of my friend’s TV shows (and it’s good) because I feel like shit after…because of jealousy. I burst out in tears after one episode! I am happy for him so it makes me feel even worse that I feel this way. I’m just trying to focus on my craft and keep working… because if you sit on your ass, of course you’re gonna be jealous! Thanks for the tips.

    Reply
  6. Allison
    Allison says:

    Your blog entry reminded me how important it is to recognize and talk about our dark sides. And the value of just getting something said, to someone else you trust can begin to transform the pain. It often feels like it is easier to just pretend that those emotions aren’t there, like everything is “just fine”, but the price that we pay for doing that – stuffing and hiding, well, it comes at a significant price. Thank you.

    Reply
  7. Joshua Boden
    Joshua Boden says:

    Great post!
    I just wanted to say that I think it’s ballsy and brave to be so open about these negative feelings. You do some amazing work Jimmy.
    Cheers!

    Reply
  8. Frazer Robb
    Frazer Robb says:

    Great post, Jimmy.

    I’m jealous of improvisers in Chicago, you are all so fucking lucky to be there.

    I sometimes, if I’m completely honest, get a bit jealous of my friends success in stand up despite it being fairly meager success.

    I get jealous of happy couples and men who will never go bald.

    I get jealous sometimes of people that live in a normal country (I’m from Northern Ireland) to the point were I internally howl with rage at what was robbed from me, and us all, by the political violence here that lasted the first 25 years of my life.

    Thank you, Jimmy, that felt pretty good to get out. I don’t normally admit to it.

    Frazer

    Reply
  9. Dee La Belle
    Dee La Belle says:

    Jimmy,
    Your honesty is like a religion to me. It brings me closer to myself and God. What freedom I feel when I read your blogs. You really touch people. (Might be even more important than being rich and famous.) 😉

    Thank you Thank you! Keep the blogs comin’! Dee

    Reply
  10. Mary Balice Nelligan
    Mary Balice Nelligan says:

    Love this, Jimmy! I feel jealousy more often than I like to admit (though I do – just for kicks). If I can follow your advice of create, create, create every time I feel jealous, I should have an impressive body of work by the end of the week. Great post!

    Reply
  11. Mighty K
    Mighty K says:

    I am really glad I stumbled onto this blog. I only just read three entries and I am already feeling better. You really are remarkable. Thank you for sharing and guiding. Also: if Mason says you’re cool – you ARE.

    Reply

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