If you have ever looked at someone else’s successes (either online or in real life) and experienced a heaviness in your chest followed by a wave of disparaging thoughts, you are really not alone. With everyone’s highlight reels in our faces at the tap of an app, it can be difficult to feel like you are doing enough whether as a parent, a professional or simply, a human being. What I’ve found from being on social media over the last decade is that while it has the amazing potential to create change, opportunity and community, it can also trick us into believing we are missing out, or somehow lacking.
It’s not just online situations that can create these types of feelings; they can reveal themselves in a family or friendship situation. The side effects of envy include withdrawal from social settings, depressive thoughts, resentment toward others, and even the disintegration of important relationships.
And who wants that?
In my experience, and taking some advice from my spiritual teacher – the late Dr. Wayne Dyer – ‘if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’
Envy doesn’t necessarily have to be regarded as negative. We can look at envy or jealousy as a map. Clearly, you aren’t where you’d like to be, or you’re not taking into account where you actually are, if you are subscribing to these kinds of thoughts. There are a few things you can do to use these feelings to guide you to where you’d like to be.
Here are 5 things you can do the next time that heaviness settles on you:
- Don’t call it envy. Call it ‘inspiration’. Instead of saying, “I’m jealous of Sunita because her photography on her blog is so professional,” you can say, “I’m inspired by Sunita because her photographs are amazing. They make me want to learn to use my camera better.”
- Think about what YOU actually want. It might not even be someone else’s success. You probably don’t want the exact same thing someone else wants. So, focus on your own goals and your own interests. Otherwise, you are just wasting your energy wishing for something you don’t actually want.
- Then, once you know what you truly want, make an action plan to achieving it. In the example above with Sunita’s photos, if you want nicer photos on your blog, what are some ways you can achieve that? Classes? New camera? Lighting props? Hire a professional? Once you make a list of action items, you will feel empowered and motivated by the inspiration that started off as envy.
- Take account of what you do have. Imagine yourself 10 years or 5 years ago. Even last year! What are some things you are doing now or have accomplished, personally or professionally, in that time? There has likely been an improvement in your lifestyle or some part of your life that you can celebrate. It’s a great reminder that you are moving forward in your own way.
- Be someone else’s cheerleader. Someone else is looking at you and wondering how to get where you are. Make yourself approachable to someone who might love to have you as a mentor. Mentoring is such a rewarding experience for both sides. It will keep you humble and remind you of where you came from, and also help someone else in the process.
Comparing our lives to others is inevitable once in awhile. But it can be productive rather than destructive if we allow ourselves the opportunity to grow from it!