My friends are on the rise. I mean really.
And I love seeing that. I love when they get the job, when they go on the vacation, when they fall in love, when they travel to new places, when they get the Masters degrees, when they lose the weight.
I love all of it.
But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t almost always at least a little jealous of their accomplishments. This week I had a few moments when I was really down on myself, and consequently more than a little jealous of some of my friends. It’s a slippery slope that often leads to isolation and insecurity.
I double tapped the photos on Instagram and commented the heart-eyed emoji while silently wishing it was me. In those moments I magically forgot the late night text conversations and the impromptu prayer sessions we shared while they were working toward their goal. Never mind the sacrifices they have made to be where they are and get what they have, in those moments I wanted it, and I wanted it immediately. It’s like sitting in a stew of selfishness and anger at yourself for not being better.
I think it’s an ugly, but extremely human reaction. We envy the experiences and possession of others because the destination always looks so much better than the road in.
It’s natural for jealousy to show up, but it’s not right for you to let it hang out. So this week after I went through my funk, I decided, for the first time, to really sit down and explore what I was feeling. I wanted to identify where the jealousy was coming from, and I wanted to document how I fought it off. Keep in mind that none of this is easy, and none of this will happen overnight. It’s literally a choice you make every time the jealousy rises. But as you begin to make changes, you will see and feel the difference.
I had to begin to condition myself to feeling the twinge of jealousy and choosing to be supportive in spite of it. Nothing will squash jealousy more than genuine happiness for another person. And how do you assure the happiness for that person is genuine? I have a few tips.
First, you dig real deep and decide to think about their whole journey instead of just their grand prize.
Think about the hardships they must have endured, think about the nights they probably went sleepless because they had work to do, think of all the resumes they sent out, think about the weekends they sacrificed in order to meet that deadline, think about the parties they couldn’t attend and the episodes they couldn’t watch because they were in the library, or at the office, or on their knees praying for relief.
They worked hard, acknowledge that, give them their credit for that, be proud of them for that.
Second, make up your mind to cheer during the whole race, not just at the finish line. We glorify end results, but how often do we applaud our friends every step of the way? How often do we lift them up when they fall down halfway through? How often do we encourage them and celebrate them while they’re walking, instead of just when they arrive? Helping them along the way makes their challenges so much more real to you. You’re not just spectating, you’re getting down in the dirt with them. You’re going the extra mile. It’s hard to be jealous of someone’s accomplishments when you really understand their struggles. And if you have a friend who is doing a whole lot behind the scenes, check in every once in a while, especially when you’re feeling a little jealous. Make sure they know you’re there for support, not just to clap at the end. It matters, trust me.
Third, put yourself in their shoes. Think about how devastated you would be if you darn near died working full time and going to graduate school at night only for your friends to all be stand-offish and only celebrate you half way because they all wished it was them. Sadly in our fits of jealousy and bitterness we do this to people. We withhold our best praise because we’re annoyed it isn’t us. That’s terrible. And if you have done it to someone (I definitely have) or are secretly doing to someone, imagine how they must feel. People deserve to be celebrated.
To attack jealousy you have to attack that those attitudes of entitlement and instant gratification that most of us struggle with to some degree. And you have to attack immediately. As soon as the jealousy kicks in, remind yourself that good things come to those who work hard and wait. Remind yourself that this is their journey, this is their dream, this is their accomplishment, this is their moment to shine and be proud of themselves. It’s not about you right now, it’s about them.
And that brings me to my fourth tip: make it about them, even as your insides scream for it to be all about you. Buy or make the gift, take them out for dinner, make it a big deal, truly celebrate the achievements of those around you.
As you revel in their success, I promise you that jealousy you once felt will fade.
Contrary to popular belief, you can feel one way and choose to act another. You can feel jealous of someone and be absolutely, genuinely happy for them as well. You just have to choose which you will let take the lead. And as I said, it’s so much easier said than done, but I believe it’s possible.
I think our jealousy can be fueled by simple selfishness, but sometimes it is fueled by unhealthy comparison. We look at someone else’s journey and wish their milestones were our milestones. We wish their accomplishments were our accomplishments. But the fact of the matter is their calling is not your calling, so their journey can’t be your journey.
Comparison would have you believe that someone’s come up is them overtaking you in the race of life, when in fact they’re running on a completely different track. It’s not just about staying in your lane, that is doing what you are uniquely gifted and called to do, it’s about staying on your track.
I think being truly comfortable with who you are and what you’re called to do makes being happy for other people much easier. Insecurity is a breeding ground for unhealthy comparison. Grounding yourself and falling in love with yourself and your process allows you to truly experience the joy that comes from celebrating other people. Encouraging someone on their journey only makes you stronger. Lifting someone else to the top doesn’t put you further behind, it makes you an ally.
I’m at the age where the plans we made ten years ago about where we would be career wise, relationship wise, and money wise are all being blown to bits. Life is hard, guys. It’s hard and unforgiving, but let’s not get so disoriented in fighting for what’s ours that we can’t stop to applaud someone when they finally get theirs. Let’s not let jealousy stop us from being good people, great friends, and impactful leaders. Let’s help instead of hinder. And let’s choose to be bearers of celebration and encouragement instead of misery and bitterness.