Opinion: Don't Let Someone Else's Little Green Monster Get in the Way of Your Talent

Filed under: Opinions

Jealous much? Illustration by Dori Hartley

Talent is one of those things you're either born with or without.

And, when you have it, if you develop and use it skillfully, two things almost always happen:
You become admired for your skills and you inspire jealousy.

Inspiring jealousy isn't really something people aspire to do, especially those of us who genuinely appreciate the gifts we have to share. Creative people need to create. We don't do it to shove it in the faces of those who cannot create in the same capacity we do. We do it because it's part of who we are. Talent just happens.

When I was a kid, I was a really good artist. I was "that kid" -- the one who would draw in her book all day and all night, the one who all the teachers ooohed and aaahed over. I was also the kid all the other kids hated. And, because I had my head in my sketchpad most of the time, doing what came naturally, I was less prone to talking. That made the kids say things like, "Oh, Dori's such a snob. She's thinks she's better than all of us."

No. No, I didn't. I didn't think any such thing. I only thought of how I loved the color magenta and how it went so well with cerulean blue and jet black, as I applied those wonderfully smelly magic markers to the page. I wasn't thinking about being mean or snotty. I was just getting into my art.

However, the green monster manifestation of jealousy doesn't always look like a group of 10-year-old mean girls. Sometimes, it looks like a little brother who finds himself so unable to compete with the attention his big sister's talent gets, he chooses the opposite path: negative attention.

Stealing, getting into fights at school, running away, drugs.

This is what my talent inspired. Because I was good at what I did, I unconsciously set the bar so high in my household that my younger sibling didn't feel he stood a chance at being recognized for anything he could do.

And so, he rebelled. He didn't do it intentionally. He did it naturally. It was his only choice. "Dori" was too big to deal with, even if "Dori" was just doing what came naturally.

Then it got worse: I discovered I was multi-talented. I could write stories and poems. I began to write songs and play the piano. I even formed a rock band and became the lead singer, belting out my own music and lyrics. Where to go from there? Acting, of course. I nailed a couple of swanky roles in film and theater productions. And I played a very important role in the creation of the theatrical cult known as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

And, all the while, as my popularity grew, so did the situations of polarized jealousy and admiration. As hundreds of people literally worshiped me for my abilities, so were there hundreds of people who found constant fault with who I was -- simply because I utilized what I was born with -- my talent, the singular thing that made me happy to be me.

A few weeks ago, while I was creating an illustration for ParentDish, my daughter and her friends were running in and out of my office area, on their way to raid the fridge. One of the girls stopped and noticed the nearly completed drawing on my screen. She and the other girls gathered around to look at it.

My first impulse was to instantly shut the computer down. It's a knee-jerk reaction that was programmed into me: "Don't show off, don't show off, don't show off! Someone will feel hurt because of your talent! Someone will love what you do and that will make another person mad."

And, of course, the person I cared about most was my daughter.

I just couldn't have her standing there with all of her friends hovering over me, gasping with excitement over how much they loved my artwork. I was afraid -- deathly afraid -- she, too, would get jealous, and perhaps mad at me for doing what I do. I couldn't have that, so I diverted the attention away from me, closed the window I was working within, and asked my kid to show her friends the cool new dance dress that she recently bought.

I know I should be proud of my abilities, and I am. But experience has taught me that people react really intensely to me, and that worries me.

I rely upon being talented to pay the bills. I just don't ever want it to affect my child in a negative way.

And, then, something awesome happened, just the other day.

I was working on some art on my computer, as my child's tutor was preparing to leave our house when, once again, it happened. The tutor saw my artwork and started gawking. Before I could hem and haw my way out of being complimented, my happy, confident daughter stepped in, put her arm around me and said to the tutor, "My mom is a writer and illustrator for AOL. Isn't she great?"

My kid was proud of me! She wasn't threatened. She was secure enough with who she was that she didn't feel any of the jealousy that has followed me throughout my life.

I was shocked and relieved. She accepted me for who I am. She gave me the gift of her confidence and her encouraging support. She wasn't competing, nor was she perturbed.

She showed me her greatest talent in that moment: the ability to give unconditional love.

And it was a masterpiece.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.