“Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Buddha.
So why do we constantly compare ourselves to others? There is some comfort in being surrounded by people like us — same city, similar interests, even matching income levels. Then someone “does better” — lands a killer job, takes that dream trip to Bali, buys a condo or gets engaged… and things feel like they change.
Why does this matter? The truth is, it doesn’t. Our peer group is the ultimate reflection of ourselves, and it is natural to feel we are not going fast enough, doing well enough, or are not talented enough when we see people surpass us in any area of life. Comparison for this reason is the ego at its most unhealthy and destructive.
Comparing makes us forget our own good fortune and the fact that there is enough for everyone. The good news is that we can overcome comparison and the illusion of competition it creates. And jealousy can have an upside! Here is how:
- You can decide to use your energy productively by focusing on what you have, not on what others have. Also – if you envy someone ask yourself, would you want the less desirable parts of their lives too? Probably not. When I can’t sleep, am waiting in line or my subway is delayed I love to think of things that I am grateful for in my life in that present moment. Lately it has been the warmer sunny days my dog and I relish for walks, the fact my sister joined my business and we get to talk everyday, that it’s Silicon Valley season (HBO), reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Why Not Me? plus the new Yogi tea I just discovered. There is so much good in your life when you look for it!
- Remember, life is unpredictable — one day someone else is ahead, another day you will be ahead. Only compare yourself with yourself. What area of your life are you doing something that would make the one-year-ago-you proud?
- Congratulate others — their success does not take away from yours. You can even learn from others’ achievements. Success for others, when perceived correctly, shows us that getting what we want is possible for anyone. I had a friend Carolyn whose body was transformed with a barre workout — her colleague Kate joined the same studio benefited from months of research! Kate used her envy to drive curiosity and openness (not bitchiness) and now they workout together. Talk about a win-win.
- Foster perspective. Good fortune in one area of someone’s life does not necessarily translate to all areas of their life. We don’t know what is really going on with people, ever. The truth can surprise us. At the height of Katy Perry’s professional success she confessed in her following album that she had suicidal thoughts at the time because of her divorce. This is why comparison makes no sense — it is selective, exaggerated and unreal.
A few years ago, a friend of mine was seething with jealousy over a colleague’s recent promotion and how she seemingly “had it all”. At every opportunity she would rant about it, so much so that it was becoming destructive. Her friends didn’t want to be around her and her work performance began to wane.
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She later found out that her colleague had a son who suffers from a very serious illness. The perspective gained from reflecting on the good health of her own child changed her whole attitude. She never spoke ill of her colleague again, only approached her from a place of love and her work life has become far more harmonious. She even heard, from her manager, how that same colleague spoke very highly of her! She felt like an idiot.
Use the comparison trigger of envy to your advantage. What does it tell you? Maybe something is missing in your life and it is time for you to go for it. Remember, the universe is abundant and wants you to have all that you want. You block the flow of opportunity, creation and miracles when you focus on other people and resent their accomplishments. Use your energy to think of ways to become your best and highest self.
Claim your joy by kicking comparison to the curb and focusing on what matters: you!
How do you manage feelings of envy? I love hearing your answers below.