Our Envy Of Others Can Be Used As A Tool
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
Jealousy is a human emotion — we can’t necessarily rid ourselves of it
I’ve spent the last 7 years reading self help books, articles, watching YouTube videos and consuming podcast after podcast in the hopes of getting rid an emotion. Envy of others has been a personal issue of mine ever since I was in high school. It rooted itself when I began to wonder why some guys “got the girl” while I sat around, never getting attention from anyone I was interested in.
Then my jealousy began to fester and grow more troublesome. In college I was jealous of those who knew more people, those who had more impact on what went on in campus culture. I wanted to be like them so much, I did my best to shun all the unique attributes that made me who I was. Needless to say, adopting this mindset didn’t lead to much progress.
I had come to the realization that my envy of others may never go away. It’s an emotion at the end of the day, so I decided to take the time to understand it for what it was. “Is there any way I can use jealousy to my advantage?” In fact, I’ve now found a way to leverage my jealousy in a productive fashion. Considering it’s a part of who I am as a person, I can’t necessarily rid myself of it. Might as well make it useful.
Use Envy as a radar for curiosity and learning
Have you ever stopped to consider that there’s a general theme for whenever you get jealous of someone? Perhaps there is a quality within their character or an item in their possession that you want. There tends to be commonalities with the people you’re jealous of. I find that auditing what those things are is essential to learning how to leverage your jealousy for self improvement.
Whatever it may be, jealousy tends to stem from the comparison you make with other people. Perhaps jealousy can be used as a barometer for finding people to learn from, rather than holding contempt against them. I’ve been mulling over this thought for months now, considering how I can make this paradigm work for me.
Whenever I get a pang of envy now, I use it as an indicator, “perhaps this is someone I can learn from?” If I want whatever that person has, I should consider how they got it. The people I’m envious of can teach me a thing or two if I’m willing to open myself up to observing them in an objective manner. I can’t necessarily be them — we have different life experiences that can never be fabricated or reproduced, no matter how hard I can try. However, I can consider to associate their story with my own unique perspective and talents to get at least somewhere within the vicinity of their success.
“Perhaps jealousy can be used as a barometer for finding people to learn from, rather than holding contempt against them.”
You vs You is enough of a challenge
You won’t achieve anything meaningful if you’re tracking other people’s progress. As we focus on those who are succeeding, we take our attention away from the opportunities that come our way. You’re the only one who can satiate your hunger and define your own happiness. That cannot be done when you spend time comparing yourself to others. However, as mentioned above, if you must compare yourself there are methods you can take to make that activity a productive one.
If you must compare yourself to others, compare your habits and how each of you spend your time. The study of the habits that each of you have, coupled with your talents, will help you out the most. The differences between people are usually determined by the habits that they support. Sure, there are circumstances outside of our understanding and “field of vision” that we can never know about nor how they affect the outcomes of our lives. But, if you are able to ascertain what habits those you’re jealous of have, you can then consider whether or not those habits align with your goals and lifestyle.
For even more productive thought, consider making it a habit of being jealous of your future-self instead of other people.
The best way to keep things in perspective is to consider that there is always a version of you that better than who you were yesterday. Finding a way to consistently be in competition with yourself before considering what others have should eventually be the “end goal.” In Sur/petition: Creating Value Monopolies when Everyone Else is Merely Competing, Edward De Bono writes about the importance of companies focusing on creating value monopolies (think Google and the search market). Edward writes:
“Competition is for survival. Sur/petition is for success…Competition is necessary for maintenance and to ensure the baseline of survival. Sur/petition, on the other hand, is concerned with how you move upwards from that baseline (pg. 77–8).”
Even though this his commentary is specific to companies dominating in the market, the paradigms he presents can be applicable to our lives as well. Edward speaks about why competition, primarily amongst yourself, is the key to success. He mentions that concepts are more important than any technology (current or emerging) and that those you are in competition with will always have methods of defeating you. However, once you enter “your own race” and remove yourself from the race that your competition is in — the competition will essentially focus their time on catching up to you (not the other way around). Their means of getting ahead of you are only applicable when you aren’t defining the context of the competition on your terms.
This isn’t to say that noticing your competition isn’t a bad thing. Just remember, that any pangs of jealousy you may have of others should be used in a productive manner.
“Envy can be quickly changed to admiration if you look at others in a positive light. It will make learning from them much easier.”
Keep in mind that there are others jealous of you too
Even if it may not be immediately apparent, we all show signs of envy. Some of us just so happen to have a better grasp this emotion. Being in tune with one’s emotions is extremely valuable because we can only control our reactions of the world — not the reactions of others.
That being said, it’s important to note that others right now, right this second, are also envious of you. You’ll never know who it is and what is it about your life that they want for themselves (unless they tell you). It’s the same with your envy. One can assume that you aren’t walking up to those you’re jealous of and telling them that to their faces. It leads to nothing.
To add more perspective to the advantages you have over others, I highly recommend doing this activity from Seth Godin. It will allow you to see that there will always be aspects of your life that others want for themselves. Make it a practice to remember this: being grateful for the unique advantages that you have will allow you not to focus on what others have. Worst case scenario — if you must focus on others, make sure you make it productive. There’s a reason why their advantages are grabbing your attention.
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