Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Trashing others only hurts you.

   I recently stumbled across this great article on 99u about how trashing others and their work can potentially hold you back on just about every level. It deeply explores what you are in essence doing to yourself psychologically when you insult or bash others. You can read the article here.
   The author states that these types of behaviors can actually trick your own mind into thinking that these same negative things you may say about others are true for yourself. It's a vicious cycle of impossible standards that could end at rock bottom for some.



     This got me thinking... how many of us would be better at our craft if we stopped mindlessly competing, bashing each other, acting like rock stars and just concentrated on making better work together. My entire career up to this point has been riddled with the occasional arrogant and toxic "rock star" personality that just doesn't understand how to treat others.  Most don't even want to be a positive and collaborative creative team member. They act as if no one (even superiors) are their equal. If they are dead wrong you'd never know it, they don't make mistakes. They are perfect and you are not. They are "it" and there is no one even close to their skill or talent level. All should bow before their splendor! This is almost always not the actual case, but it doesn't matter to them. They will let you know how amazing they are and how much you suck as often as humanly possible.




    Maybe they have issues, maybe Mommy and Daddy were jerks with impossible standards, maybe they were outcasts in high school. Whatever the reason there is no excuse. Honestly, who doesn't have to overcome some form of adversity or hasn't been traumatized by someone or something?  It's all relative in my opinion and everyone has a cross or two to bear by the time they are working professionally. Why not acknowledge that truth and focus on the positive? There really is no positive way to spin this type negative of approach to others in any facet of life much less a creative team based work environment like Design/Animation/VFX/Motion Graphics. Most toxic individuals come off as adolescent at best and petty to the point of sabotaging a project at worst. There have been occasions where I've seen this behavior lead to dismissal and other situations where they flourish for a time and "decide" to move on to greener pastures after they've alienated the entire team and in some cases their bosses.



    Often these types of insecure personalities have an almost pathological need to be perceived as "better" than the common rabble. They have an obsession with the markings of status, whether it be financial achievement and elitism or the ever condescending ironic glare of the hipster ilk. This is all well and good for the outsider to see but, I think this rabbit hole goes much deeper then that. Through my own experience and affable nature I've gotten to know quite a few of these types of toxic personalities over the years. They come from all walks of life and hold all sorts of positions. The industry is littered with them. They often leave behind the charred remains of burned bridges in their wake and if your aren't careful you'll be one of the ash piles. That said, I truly believe there are very few people beyond being given at least some consideration, kindness and friendship, even if it's just professional courtesy. Therefore, having made friends/ frenemies with many of these personalities over the years and getting to know them, I've learned a lot. How they think, what drives them... what makes them tick, if you will. When one looks deeper there is this common character trait that has almost become the official brand of a toxic personality. They are almost all, without exception, incredibly insecure, have deep seeded self esteem issues, are full of resentment, and are cripplingly scared of the world. You'd never know it behind that big facade but there is such weakness and vulnerability you almost begin to sympathize for them and make excuses for their behavior. Almost. Someone so unwilling, in their heart of hearts, to accept that they have value is very difficult to see, even if they are a toxic person. It's how they express and deal with these emotions that is so troubling.

   We live in a society and culture that exalts these toxic personalities and in some cases even worships them. We are often told that in order to be successful you must adopt this way of treating others. That's how you climb the ladder. Look no further than popular media and it's portrayal of what success is. Take it a step further and think of how any major business owner or silicone valley start-up CEO is portrayed. It's a shame and it's also a big lie. I would guess that those who get that high through negative means are much fewer and further between then we are led to believe. There is also a huge downside. Most that do this are never happy...ever. Even if they act it, deep down most are miserable and secretly harbor those toxic feelings and have trouble keeping meaningful relationships.
   
    What does all this mean for us? Well for starters, following by example, people with these issues "manufacture" perceived value the only way they have have been taught. They force it on others through intimidation, opulence, ridicule, arrogance and sometimes just plain old negative behavior. I'm not making excuses for this behavior, instead I'm offering some form of rationalization. A type of solace for those of us that do not prefer to pound our chests and often wonder why such negative behavior even exists.

 

  We really do need to realize as an industry and a culture that creative competition and hurting others in order to be perceived as a "rock star" only makes you and everyone else weaker in the long run. It's a race to the bottom that has already begun to destroy Design/Animation/VFX/Motion Graphics and is steadily branching out into all sectors. Insecurity and bashing others is a sickness perpetrated by the perception that we are all competing. It's beyond toxic, it can destroy an industry, a business, an economy, a nation or a person. Instead we need to appreciate others for their contributions and encourage excellence and growth, not emotionally beat it out of them. In the end, it's a lose, lose and you are only hurting yourself. So grab that wacom, pencil or mouse, make some art, excel at your craft, outwardly appreciate other people's work. Find the positive and only criticize when necessary. Ignore those toxic people or try to help them be more positive influences. We creatives, society, and our culture are in desperate need of a more positive way of life. We need strength as a group because when we work together in a positive environment there really is nothing we can't accomplish.

























    We all must shine on...but the light gets brighter when we shine together...


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