The habit of comparing yourself to others can ruin your life. Watching someone achieve better results than you is not very pleasant.
However, with the right approach, envy allows you to recognize your true values. Here are some ways to help turn that feeling into positive action.
1. Listen for triggers
Twenty years ago, while waiting for coffee to brew, a young lawyer leafed through her school’s alumni magazine. When she read about the guy who works as a full-time writer, her stomach twisted sharply. This is what made Gretchen Rubin, who is now the author of several best-selling books, start a career as a writer. Rubin didn’t change jobs because she talked to her boss or went to a coach. It was because she was desperately jealous of the other person’s life.
Comparison with others can point the way to your true needs. This happens in moments when you are jealous of someone who does something that you do not allow yourself. Reflection will help turn a negative feeling into something useful. Therefore, when envy awakens in you again, ask yourself:
- What makes me feel less successful than this person?
- What emptiness inside will be filled if I have something that I envy?
- Do I really want to have what this person has?
- If so, how much do I desire it, and is it worth the effort to get it?
The more accurately you answer these questions, the more effectively you can channel your energy and emotions into concrete actions and strategies.
2. Envy the right way
Envy that arises when you compare yourself to others can be a great motivator and guide. But she can also piss you off.
Psychologists distinguish between “good” envy, when we admire someone and try to imitate this person, and “evil” envy, when we openly dislike someone because he has something that we don’t have. Here’s how this difference manifests itself: “He has his own beautiful apartment, it’s very cool!” and “It pisses me off that he has a nice apartment and I want him to suffer.”
It should be clear that any envy is painful. However, its “good” version makes us work on ourselves and become better, and the “evil” version simply turns us into unpleasant personalities.
We often feel “evil” envy when we cannot achieve the result that another has achieved. But in most cases, the success of one person is proof that such a triumph is possible in principle. To switch your thinking from “evil” envy to “good” envy, try repeating these phrases:
- I am inspired by…. Perhaps I can learn something from him or take him as a mentor.
- I haven’t done what this man has done… yet.
- Each person walks their own path. I’m grateful for mine.
- If my idols stopped doing what they do, I wouldn’t be able to follow their great work.
3. Think big
When important personal events happen to your loved ones, it’s easy to feel like you’re falling behind in life’s race. But if you remember 10-20 of your acquaintances, you will understand that many of them are at the same stage as you, and even quite happy.
Researchers conducted experimentwhere people were asked to rate their running ability. It turned out that the participants compared themselves to the best runners they knew, so they did not consider their skills to be particularly outstanding. The researchers also asked people to make a list of the top 10 runners they knew. By the seventh or ninth position of such a top, the participants in the experiment suddenly felt much better. Comparing oneself to a larger group of people narrowed the gap between the participants and those they considered good enough, and helped build self-confidence.
In addition, expanding perspectives is also useful when we experience deprivation intolerance, that is, we do not get what we want, and sink into the abyss of despair. The next time you get jealous of something you don’t have, replace the question with “Why don’t I have it?” to “Do I have enough?” Most likely, you can live without what you want, and its absence in your life does not affect your value as a person in any way.
4. Compare everyday activities
A couple of years ago, Liz learned that her friend had been promoted and that he would now lead a team of 200 people. Liz was jealous. “Does this mean I need to change my plans?” she thought. “Maybe I was wrong when I thought I knew who I am and what I want?”
However, the next morning, Liz woke up with the certainty that she would not want to be in the place of her acquaintance. She was not close to the tasks that bosses do every day. She simply craved the prestige and social recognition that comes with great accomplishments.
As soon as Liz thought about the daily routine of a friend, she realized that she did not want to change her career at all. But in fact, she needs to continue on her current path and look for opportunities to become more visible among her colleagues.
Here are some questions to help you compare yourself effectively to others:
- What does a typical day in the life of the person I envy look like?
- What aspects of his life are most desirable for me?
- And what do I definitely not want to face?
- What experience does this person have?
- Is this comparison based on an imagined better version of me or what society expects of me?
- Am I willing to give up the pleasant aspects of my life in order to get what I want?
5. Compete with yourself
You may not be where you want to be right now. But not where they once were, right? Stop and evaluate your achievements and the skills that you have received thanks to them. This will awaken a sense of pride in oneself and get rid of “evil” envy. Here is a small example.
Elisa had always loved the mountains, but avoided hiking because of her asthma, which prevented her from being as mobile as her peers. When Elise was well into her twenties, she still made up her mind.
“I will never be able to walk as fast as others because I have a small lung capacity. The only person I can and should compare myself to is myself.” Elisa’s perseverance and new perspective paid off: shortly before her 30th birthday, she completed a five-day hike.
The easiest way to make self-comparison a habit is to reflect on the following questions each month:
- What have I learned in the last couple of weeks?
- What difficulties did I have to face? What should have been done differently, knowing what I know now?
- What progress have I made?
Yes, you can’t stop comparing yourself to others. But by putting into practice some of the tips from the article, you can learn how to use this comparison to your advantage. Remember that you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, especially on social media. A person whose life looks perfect can overcome challenges you don’t even know you have.
And one more piece of advice: compare yourself not only with those who have achieved more, but also with those who have been much less fortunate.