It’s natural to compare ourselves to others — to see how we are doing and how we could do better. We can learn by observing — whether it’s a job, a sport, or how someone relates to others. Comparing ourselves to others can provide great constructive insight into how we can improve.
Yet, comparisons can be detrimental when we become jealous, that is, when we feel hostile toward others whom we perceive as being better, happier, or more successful. We harm ourselves in several ways.
1. We choose to feel miserable.
2. We show others that we feel inadequate and insecure.
3. We become unpleasant to be with.
4. We are less likely to learn how to improve.
5. We miss out on being inspired by others.
People who feel frequent pangs of jealousy tend to feel worthwhile or happy only when they stand out as being special or the best. Yet, self-worth and happiness do not come from being Number One, although they may result from being the best we can be, without regard to others.
People who are jealous of others’ happiness, accomplishments, or skills often lack a strong sense of self and of power over their lives. Rather than being energized, they merely resent the other person as a reminder of what they themselves seem to be lacking. They don’t feel they have control over improving their attitude, relationships, skills, and situations.
Yet, one way to improve your life is to appreciate other people’s high skill-level or happiness; you will actually feel more enjoyment and happiness yourself through such appreciation. Therefore, it’s better to be around people whose joy and talents inspire you rather than around those whose lack of passion leave you feeling better than, but also uninspired.
If the goal is to be happy or the best we can be, then it’s best to stop focusing resentfully on what others have and can do. We’re better off admiring and enjoying the blessings of others, and focusing with gratitude on what we have and what we want to accomplish. In fact, relishing others’ blessings with delight has an inspirational effect on the body and soul.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD