Handling jealousy

I got an interesting question from someone this week:
How you handle jealousy?
There is only this one person that makes me jealous. She seems to have amazing luck and everything lines up for her so easily.  I work just as hard as she does, and I know for a fact that she is no better than I am as a designer and she has gotten everything I ever wanted. Of course, I appreciate what I’ve learned along the way, and the amazing people I’ve met, but I just can’t stop feeling jealous.
Envy is one of the top killers of compassion.  When people feel jealous of what others have, they want it for themselves and/or they think the other doesn’t deserve what they have.  Envy can be dangerous if it grows into hopelessness; when people reach a point where they don’t think they can get something, anger rises.
Envy comes from comparison, and comparison is all about conformity and competition.  When we compare, we want to see who or what is best out of a collection of “alike things” or “alike outcomes”.   When we compare, we want to be the best out or have the best of our group.  Comparison pushes us to fit in to an established set of what is considered “successful”, while standing out amongst the crowd.  It doesn’t lead to a mindset of self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity.  It doesn’t allow us to be true to who we really are, but to conform to a preconceived notion of what is “best”.
When we spend energy conforming and competing, we lose the opportunity to devote that energy to creativity, gratitude, joy, and authenticity.  Comparison (and the envy that goes with it) is the thief to happiness.

Here are some thoughts on how to deal with jealousy:

  • Cultivate gratitude for what you have. Someone else may have more than you, but you have more than someone else.  One of my favorite TED talks is by David Steindl-Rast on gratitude.
  • Redirect envy into emulation.  When the Dalai Lama spoke at Santa Clara University earlier this year, he spoke about competition, compassion, and business ethics.  Competition can be healthy if it inspires you, but not if it’s seen with a scarcity mentality (e.g. there is not enough “of the good stuff” to go around for everyone).  Instead of seeing her as a competitor, see her as someone whose presence inspires you to be better. If she is getting promoted faster or is paid more than you, in a way, her success validates your endeavors, because it means that this kind of work is valued!  Also: what is it about her that makes her more “successful”? Is there something about her that she is doing or how she is being that you can learn from and use to improve yourself?  How can you become lucky like she is?
  • On the outside, she may seem more “successful” because it looks like she has everything you’ve ever wanted, but that is not true success. She may not be any happier than you. True success is when you are happy on the inside, authentic to yourself, without attachment to final outcomes.
How do you handle jealousy?

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