This topic regularly finds its way into my mailbox and sparks fervent discussions online, causing my otaku fellows to grit their teeth each time it resurfaces. There are many forms of jealousy, but in the realm of creation, it frequently surfaces as the nagging thought: "Why do people like THAT creator better than me?"
Seeing other creators through rose-tinted glasses
Truth be told, I seldom find myself green with envy towards other creators. Now, claiming so might paint me as arrogant and self-assured. However, it has less to do with confidence and more to do with my innate tendency to underestimate myself. I inherently view other authors through rose-tinted glasses and tend to put them on a pedestal, which, in turn, keeps jealousy at bay.
When I took my first steps towards creating a commercial manga, I revisited all the manga I had read up to that point. I tried to look at them with new eyes, thinking to myself, "There are actual human beings behind these creations." Because I hadn't drawn much manga at that time, I didn't have a clear picture of what it was like to make one. But, as I reread them, I was struck by each author's distinct styles and prowess. I couldn't imagine how they could have even come up with such creative innovations. From the precision in linework to astounding panel layouts, I was in awe.
Since then, I've been living by the mantra, "Every mangaka in this world draws manga better than I do!"
Whether you are a professional with many years of experience or an amateur just getting into the game, it's not unusual to find yourself struck by the brilliance of other creators when they come up with ideas that you'd never think of in a million years. You might think, "How does THAT person do it? And why them?!" But, in the end, what's the point? After all, you'd never think of those ideas, even if you had a million years...
The one time I genuinely envied another author's talent
Despite my holier-than-thou musings, there was a time when I found myself consumed with envy for another author's undeniable talent.
Interestingly, when I was purely a reader, I never felt a trace of jealousy. Yet, once I started creating, I couldn't shake the nagging thought, "Why can't something THIS incredible emerge from my brain?!" So overpowering was my envy that even seeing their work at a bookstore or catching wind of it on the internet would set me on edge.
The work was so compelling that many people in my circle, including friends and acquaintances, would sing praises of this author's work and even create fan art. Each accolade was a small electric shock, a nudge at my own insecurities.
I say this all the time, but let me reiterate it again: it's normal for it to be difficult to create interesting work that other people like, just as it's normal for a work to be praised for being interesting.
So, why the inner turmoil? It was probably due to an underlying dissatisfaction with where I was at as a creator. My admiration, even laced with envy for another's achievements, was just a manifestation of my own deep-seated desire to produce something just as impactful and to be recognized for it.
Confronting your feelings of jealousy
Though it's tempting to air frustrations by questioning, "Is that manga really all that special?" or "Isn't it getting too much praise?", doing so isn't only ungracious—it's emotionally draining for the jealous party. So how should we navigate these feelings?
My first step was to create some distance. I actively muted any mentions of the author and their work, ensuring that I didn't accidentally come across their content. This made my social media feeds eerily quiet for a while, but the calm it brought did wonders for my mental health. After all, it's easy for irrational anger to escalate from, "I don't like this work," to, "I don't like its fans either," so avoiding unnecessary resentment is beneficial in remaining calm despite the situation.
Moreover, if I did come across their work, whether in a bookstore or online, I trained myself to immediately switch off emotionally. Think of it as creating a mental barrier. While this approach might sound a tad dramatic, it boiled down to being like, "Oh, there's that thing I've been avoiding," and then intentionally shutting my emotions down before they blew up.
By pushing myself to treat it as no big deal, I was able to trick myself into thinking that it was... actually no big deal.
Interestingly, by deliberately acknowledging my avoidance, I was able to gain a better understanding of my emotions. It allowed me to admit, "Yes, I’m envious of this thing," and also gave me a chance to learn how to deal with my envy in a more productive manner. Nowadays, I can appreciate that work for what it is, acknowledging its merits and understanding its success.
In our creative journeys, we're bound to grapple with feelings of envy—whether it's seeing a light-hearted comedy get more acclaim than a deeply thought-out epic or witnessing newcomers getting more attention than veterans. When these feelings strike, it's helpful to step back, mute the noise, and observe our own reactions with a detached curiosity.
When you think about it, it's funny how human emotions have a certain charm to them. There might come a time when you can even smile at your own green-eyed monster.
(And, in a candid confession: How I wish I could write an amazing manga, see it become a bestseller, and be showered with adoration...)