Some time ago (like nearly a year) I wrote a short piece on one of my worst habits, comparing myself to others. Recently this has been on my mind, and I would like to expand on it a bit.
I have the worst habit of comparing myself to others, and never in a good way. One such way I do this is, if I respect someone I become obsessed with their age and how old they were when they “made it” and where I am in my own life. Of course, this expands to comparing myself as far as looks, health, where they live, anything that I can. Anything that I can obsess over about other people and what a failure it means for me is something I will find a way to fixate on.
It’s a horrible habit. It makes me negative, it puts extra pressure on myself, and it ruins my relationships with people. You can’t be positive about the people in your life if you are always comparing yourself to them. It breeds resentment, jealousy, and just makes you into a bad person in general.
Beyond just my own struggles with this I have started to notice other people in my life doing the same. No one I know does it to the extent I do, or at the very least I don’t know that they are. However, there is something lingering there, jealousy that I have seen in some people, in myself, even in those I don’t know well.
I think we should all take the time to learn not to be jealous of others, to learn to respond to others good fortune with excitement and joy for that person. I think it gets hard. When you are unhappily single, and you hear about others getting married, it’s a struggle not to think about how much it sucks for you that you are single. If you are struggling in your career it can be hard to hear about someone else’s promotion. If your writing is not going well (cough), it can be painful to watch someone else go much further in their career.
The knee-jerk reaction of wanting the successes that they are having is natural I believe, at least to a degree. I think the problem is we struggle with moving beyond that knee-jerk reaction and into a more healthy response. We should celebrate the joys in other people’s lives instead of focusing on what’s not going right in our lives.
I want my friends and those I love to be happy. I want them to succeed. I want to see their streams take off; their writing improve, their financial independence grow, their lives to simply be better and take them to the places they want to go. I may not be happy with a lot of things that are happening in my own life, but that shouldn’t stop me from celebrating for others.
Instead of responding to their news with an obsession over what is not happening in my own life, with comparisons, and negativity, I want to simply be happy.
Beyond the simple fact that I believe responding positively makes you a better person, there are pragmatic reasons for this as well. Just for one example, you can use people’s success to motivate yourself instead of beat yourself up. Instead of dwelling on what you perceive as failures on your part look at your friend’s success and drive yourself to that point too. My friend did this excellent thing in a field I like, so I can too. Instead of resentment seek inspiration from those in your life. If it’s something more esoteric, then you can still draw from it, and hope that you will also achieve these things in your life.
I don’t know where my inherent need to compare myself and be jealous comes from. I don’t know if I was always so negative, or if it somehow was taught to me and I took to it. I do know that it something I am always trying to improve on. The areas of my life that I can control my level of negativity are ones I want to focus on and power through. I want to learn to not compare myself. I want to learn not to be negative. I want to learn to have my knee-jerk reaction be joy for others and not bad feelings about where I am.
I will succeed or not based only on me, and the only thing stopping myself is myself. Age, time, and other factors don’t have to be the roadblocks I make them. So in the meantime, it doesn’t matter that some people made it younger than me. It doesn’t matter that some are happier than I am. It doesn’t matter that some are in better places. What matters is what I do with today, tomorrow, and every day after, to get myself to where I want for me. And if that is the case then the only thing I should feel for other people is joy.
I don’t know if these words will help you. I don’t know if instead it just paints me in an ugly light. I do know that it’s hard. It’s hard when you see others happy, and you don’t feel that way. It’s hard not to slip into “I want these things for me.” That mode doesn’t seem to help though. I love when those I love are happy, so I want to celebrate with them, and I hope that one day they can celebrate with me too.
So for now another step to being a more positive person is to unlearn this behavior of mine. No more comparing, no more jealousy, and a lot more joy for those around me.