Not sure about you, but I can’t really help myself looking at other people and feeling more than a little bit inadequate. I have friends who are doctors, lawyers, activists, and working in a variety of other interesting and successful careers. I am 36 years old, and quite frankly, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.
I also have friends who are supermums. They keep tidy homes, feed their children a diet of gluten free and vegetable rich concoctions. We throw burgers and chips and sauce at the children as we rush around the city and the planet doing whatever it is that we do.
We were in the kitchen surveying the chaos and mess a couple of nights ago. We entered into a discussion about our financial situation, and our plans for the year and so forth. Pretty normal stuff really. The conversation took a tangent about risk and reward and whatnot. Elon Musk came up (as he frequently does in our house not surprisingly). He invested every single penny he had into Tesla and really put himself on the line to pursue his EV dream. And with the success of Tesla, and his insatiable thirst for innovation, he went on to great things with SpaceX. And Grumpy got a wee pout on his face.
“You know he’s like a few months younger than me.” He said in genuinely downtrodden tone.
I have to admit I laughed.
“Yes darling, he is. He also has one more child than you do, and is a Billionaire. I can pretty much guarantee that if you stay married to me, you’ll never be a billionaire. So, yeah, you’re a pretty big failure. I’d probably just pack up your things and go live under a bridge somewhere if I were you. Your life is really very terrible.”
After a bit more playful mocking we wrapped up our conversation, and I was left to think about how absurd it is to compare oneself with other people.
Here’s some conclusions and gems of wisdom that occurred to me as my brain was processing all of this:
– A bit of comparison is probably healthy, but as soon as it starts eating away at you, or makes you feel bad, you’re officially in unhealthy territory.
– Comparing yourself to others takes effort you could be spending doing cool stuff instead.
– The people you might think have a super sweet gig are actually fighting their own battles, facing their own demons, and feeling their own inadequacies.
– If you spent the time being grateful rather than feeling a bit ripped off, I’d hazard a guess you’d be surprised how much happier you are (even happier than the people you used to envy)
Won’t go into to much detail unpacking the stuff I’ve just said. Most of my contentedness comes from being able to be truly happy for the success of those around me, and abundantly and consciously grateful for the blessings in my own life. True joy never stems from what we have or feeling better than other people. True sadness can, however, come from comparing myself to others.
Sometimes, for whatever reason, I get really fed up and feel like running away from my life. Because I am tired, because I see what single or child-free people are up to (all that sleep, all that rest, all that freedom, and all that excitement and adventure while they are out experiencing new things and new people), or because I’ve taken a few too many blows and had to learn a few too many consecutive hard lessons. Or it is as simple as the fact I’ve worked myself up into a right royal lather by trying to be all things to all people and failed rather impressively. Because, you probably will fail in big ways and in small when you attempt ridiculously lofty and unattainable goals.
The feeling passes and I again realize that the crazy, mixed up life I lead is actually fairly fantastic, and more importantly, of my own design. I chose to marry Grumpy. And we chose a family, and then we chose a larger family. I’m happy to trade frequent late nights out partying for early morning cuddles and sticky faces and fingers as the children help bake on a Saturday night. And I am happy to be at the beginning of what I hope will be a very successful career, while so many other people are so much further along than I am in their professional lives. We all have to start somewhere, and nobody can do it all. And for the most part, things are going very well. This is in no small part owing to the fact I’m surrounded by truly wonderful people. People so much greater than me! And yeah, occasionally I am jealous of them and the fact they have their stuff together so much more than me, but I put that to the side and just feel thankful that they are in my life at all.
Wherever you are and whatever you are up to as you read this, I hope you are able to celebrate your gifts and blessings and feel joy instead of jealousy as you go about the rest of your day.
Thanks for reading.
4 thoughts on “Envy is an Illusion”
I really like this post! I’ve been thinking on this issue lately as well. I like how you really dove into it though. I feel because I don’t know what I’m doing I’m intimated by others self assurance. Glad to know I’m not the only one with these thoughts!
Nobody knows what they heck they are doing most of the time IMHO… Some just fake it till they make it. We’re all amazing and powerful and fabulous in our own way though! Trust me, there’s something absolutely magic in you that will take you far. Maybe you already know what that is, or maybe you’ll have many adventures figuring it out. At any rate, I wish you well! XXOO
Really amazing post. The idea of not being jealous and envious was such a game-changer for me. The change was gradual but like you, I am at a point in my life where I truly feel joy when my friends experience success. I spent the first couple of years of parenthood feeling frustrated and resentful, not AT my kids but at the fact that I was incapable of caring for them and doing anything else additionally. For so long all I could see was what I didn’t have and it was sapping my joy. I began to focus on gratitude and making it a practice. It’s so simple yet so difficult. Fortunately it’s not difficult anymore — it’s become an attitude and way of life. I’ll be 39 this month and in many ways I have no clue what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m finally okay with that. I used to dread the question, “Now what do you do?” At some point I began to feel like I was okay even if I didn’t have a successful-sounding answer. Anyway, yes, it is hard to not compare ourselves to others and I still have days where I feel like a flake who can’t make up her mind, but I’m blessed to have amazing people in my life — having honest conversations with my successful friends has helped me realize that EVERYONE has stuff they feel insecure about, and that is okay. As I tell my kids, we’re ALL still learning. Thank you for a beautiful reminder.
That response was better than most of my blogs! Jeepers. I am still catching my breath a bit after reading it. Fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂 I’ve found getting older helps just about all the bits of life that can be extra sticky or terrible – like envy, failure, grief, change, uncertainty. It is all still hard and heartbreaking and sometimes it feels like it is impossible to get through. Having really, truly good people around makes life bearable. And finding them can be tough but is totally worth it. And knowing that we’ve all got stuff (good and bad) that is complex and exhausting is a really great place to begin any healthy relationship. I don’t know why my friends put up with me a lot of the time, but I am endlessly grateful that they do. Thanks again for the very thoughtful and interesting response. Take care XXOO