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  • Writer's pictureStephan Bookas

Jealousy, When Will You Let Go?

Freddie Mercury, in a song titled "Jealousy" on Queen's 1978 Jazz album, put it like this:

Queen's Jazz Album Cover

Jealousy, you tripped me up

Jealousy, you brought me down

You bring me sorrow

You cause me pain

Jealousy, when will you let go?

Gotta hold of my possessive mind

Turned me into a jealous kind

How how how oh my jealousy

I wasn't man enough to let you hurt my pride

Now I'm only left with my own jealousy

It's actually a beautiful song worth listening to. But for me the key line is:

"I wasn't man enough to let you hurt my pride"

When I first read that line, eons ago, I thought he got it the wrong way round. Shouldn't it be: "I wasn't man enough AND let you hurt my pride"? As in, I should've manned up and not let jealousy get to me and to my pride?

But no, looking at it now I understand that Freddie had it right all along. To be man (and woman) enough, for him, meant allowing jealousy to hurt his pride.

Allow it in. Accept it. Embrace it. Be hurt by it. Get burned by it.

Have your pride take a beating. Let your ego be bruised. You have too much pride and too much ego anyway as it is.

Be wo-man enough and let jealousy hurt your pride. And you'll be better for it. Or will you?

Freddie's lyrics don't seem to offer an answer. The final lines of the song are:

But now it matters not

If I should live or die

'Cause I'm only left with my own jealousy

Not exactly heartening words.

It's often said that jealousy is a prerequisite to passion and love. I personally find it destructive. Rather than it serving as an engine for passion, for me it serves as a reason for throwing everything to the wind and just letting it all be, once and for all.

Jealousy eats away at your heart. Everyone around you is always better positioned, in a better place, a better location, has more luck, a better job, a better network, a better script, a better film, a better opportunity, a better life. And so on. The list is endless.

This person got the job you didn't get selected for. That person got selected to the festival you only ever got rejected from. You were up for an award but someone else got it. You were on the shortlist but didn't make it to the final selection. You were better suited for a job than someone else but they got it anyway, cause they knew someone who knew someone.

There's a lot of nepotism in the film industry, no doubt about it. If you come across some new face, either in front of or behind the camera, look them up and see who their parents are, their uncles and aunts, their spouses. Chances are they know someone who knows someone.

That's the best leg up in this world. Sure, where you're born has something to do with it. As well as other privileges like wealth, the color of your skin, able-bodiedness and what's between your legs. All that is part of it and I don't want to discount it. I was born with some built-in privilege and I did nothing to deserve that or earn it.

So I do have to remind myself every so often that I'm better positioned than a lot of people. And that there might be a few people out there who are jealous of ME. What? What a ridiculous idea! Jealous of me? Jealous of what?

Well, that depends on the expectations you put upon yourself and your life. The biggest taboo is thinking of yourself as someone. As a somebody. Do you want to be a sucessful and world-famous writer? Actor? Producer? Director? Oh no, don't think in those terms. Take every day as it comes. Work hard and put your head down.

The flip side of that is manifestation. Think of yourself as a somebody and it will come to you. Strut around like you're the greatest person on earth, like you own the world and owe nothing to anyone. And eventually the world will catch up with you (okay, that's a gross oversimplification but it's close enough).

I think the golden path lies somewhere in the middle. Be optimistic, but err on the side of caution, as to where you want to get to, what your innermost dreams are. Be honest with yourself. Don't lie to yourself. If you want to be at the top and world-famous, tell yourself that. If your goal is that you want to make stuff that makes you and your immediate loved ones happy, then be honest about that too.

Sketch of a gradient with Manifestation on one end, Humility on the other end and the Golden Path in the middle

Credit: Joe Pettitt

There's nothing worse than lying to yourself for years and decades, only to wake up one day and find out what you were aiming for is nowhere near where you ended up. And not because you didn't make it but because you were aiming for something else entirely. Something that wasn't even in your heart. Because you were lying to yourself.

Of course, there is danger in constantly aiming too high and having expectations so far beyond reality that reality will never be able to catch up with where you are in your head. To an outsider looking in, in the worst of cases that can come across as delusion. You don't want to end up there. Keep yourself in check and stay realistic. Stay honest.

It's also okay to grow and to change your outlook on life. You may find that what you always wanted to do or be isn't really for you. For instance, for years I wanted to become a self-sufficient cinematographer. That was my aspiration and I wanted for that to manifest itself. And I enjoyed that time, I got to shoot some great films, including features in Germany, one that took us across the globe as well as a feature film in India.

I grew from those experiences, I took a lot from them. But in the end, the jobs weren't coming in. I was asked to shoot more films after the last one, but then either the funding fell apart or there were scheduling conflicts. It never really took off. And at the same time, I was able to direct short films of my own. Often, because I didn't have a cinematographer at hand and because things had to go quickly, I decided to both shoot and direct many of those shorts. I taught myself how and I drew a lot from my experiences in cinematography.

But I found that I no longer wanted to be a cinematographer. Firstly, the offers just weren't there. And then I looked at the prospect of being asked to shoot a film and I guess perhaps the scripts I was getting weren't right. But it just didn't do it for me any longer. I had moved on and my outlook had changed.

Perhaps my ego was bruised. My pride hurt.

So with somewhat of a heavy heart, I stepped away from that particular dream. It's not gone, and for the right script and the right project, I might step up to the challenge again. But I no longer seek it out. It feels distant now. My priorities have changed.

Don't be ashamed if that happens. We can't be static all our lives. We grow, we adapt. If I wrote a novel and that novel did well, would I step away from making films entirely? Perhaps. It might just be as fulfilling, if not more fulfilling than filmmaking and probably a lot less stressful in the long run.

Don't count it out. If I had to care for someone because of a serious illness or disability and could no longer afford the luxury of making films and living the life I'm currently living, would I be able to step away for good?

We grow, we adapt.

There's no shame in it. People talk, they always do. But none of that matters as long as you're true to yourself and aren't lying to yourself.

But I've veered away somewhat from the topic at hand. What has any of this got to do with jealousy?

Well, you can only really be jealous of someone else if you feel they have what you value, but don't have access to it yourself. Or you feel they've taken what you value away from you.

So be clear on what you value and for what reasons. Make sure the jealousy you feel in your heart is justified and not misguided. Don't bury that feeling. Feeling jealous is human nature, plain and simple. In other words and once again: don't lie to yourself.

But then have the awareness to listen to Freddie and be man enough to let it hurt your pride.

Cause if nothing else, you can weaponize that bruised ego and that damaged pride.

I'm not sure who said it first or where I saw it first, years ago, maybe in an inspirational quote calendar. But whenever I feel jealous I turn to this mantra and repeat it to myself over and over again:

Other people’s successes are not your failures.

And say it again:

Other people's successes are not your failures.

And again:

Other people's successes are not your failures.

And if you still feel that sting in your heart, say it again:

Other people's successes are not your failures.

I didn't copy/paste these by the way. I typed them out one by one. It feels good. And the more you say it, the less it hurts.

Because the real demon is the one that has you comparing yourself to others around you. And not even so much around you but in your wider orbit. People you fear because you feel they're more talented than you. People you used to call friends and now consider enemies because of how successful they've become. And you keep comparing your output to the successes they've had. And the promotions they received and the films they've made for Netflix and Amazon and Apple. And the scripts they've sold to the big studios. And the deals they've signed.

And even if all that's true and not just skewed by the conventions of social media and hearsay, you know what? Other people's successes are not your failures.

The mantra also implies something else. Because if you continue that train of thought, if other people's successes indeed aren't your failures, then you should genuinely be happy for them. You should cheer them on, be their champion. Someone you know has had a stroke of luck, done something pretty cool or achieved something you'd like to achieve. That's cool. It's awesome, actually.

Because one day, the day that you're the person other people are jealous of, you might spread the good news and there'll be nothing in return. Just eerie silence and tumbleweeds. You've now alienated all your potential champions, all the people who wanted to see you do well. And everyone else is just silently jealous of you.

The more people you know who arrive at where you're going, the more likely it is they can help show you the way. I know, it's not exactly altruistic thinking, there's a good dose of selfishness involved. But at the end of the day you've still got to look out for yourself. That doesn't mean you can't be genuinely happy for other people's successes, which, as luck would have it, are not your failures.

Here's a proposed answer to Freddie Mercury's conundrum.

When he asks:

Jealousy, when will you let go?

Jealousy replies:

Never. That's on you, buddy.

But once you've learned how to let me hurt your pride

Once you've eased your grip on me,

I won't be able to hold on to you any longer.

I ain't got that kind of power.

That's a terrible song lyric. But it's jealousy being genuine and not lying to itself.

And if I were you, I'd listen.


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