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A promotion at work. A new car. Weight loss. Muscle gain. Walking 3+ miles a day. Paying off debt. New baby. Big engagement ring. Vacations. Smiling photos of friends hanging out. When we see people doing well, self-reflection is inevitable… Sometimes, it’s even uncomfortable or painful. We see where we could be making changes or putting forth more effort, and we feel a whirlwind of negative reactions. Envy, resentment, depression, resignation, frustration, anger, defensiveness….
So, what can we do to get off this train of negative thoughts? It’s not easy, but we can teach ourselves to celebrate and be inspired by the success of others.
First, do your best to avoid most comparison-making so that you can avoid envy and the cascade of negativity that follows. You might think you’re comparing “apples to apples”, but it’s not that simple. Even comparing a Gala apple to a Granny Smith isn’t fair; they’re both delicious but are simply different. Viewing yourself or what you have as “less than” will always leave you feeling unsatisfied. You don’t know what it took for them to achieve that goal, make those friends, get that new RV, or go on that vacation. Perhaps it was to their detriment. Maybe it’s something that simply isn’t possible for you right now or ever. It may have even required a sacrifice that’s just not in line with what you desire for your life. You just don’t know the whole story. Why dive into negativity when you don’t even have all the facts?
Notice that I said to avoid most comparing. Don’t avoid it altogether. Even if you don’t know their whole story, you can use their success as a mirror and learning tool. Your frame of mind as you compare will make a huge difference. Keep these things in mind when you compare….
- What do I admire/envy about them and their success?
- Why do I admire/envy these things?
- Are these things that I can and want to develop in myself? Is it reasonable, attainable, and healthy for me? If the goal they attained is one that I want to reach, can I adjust it to fit my life and limitations?
- What can I learn from my admiration/envy? Are there areas in my life where I want to improve or expand?
Learning… That’s the next step. If what that person achieved is something you want to pursue for yourself, dive into learning what it took to get there. You don’t necessarily have to talk to them about it, but if you’re able to broach the subject, approach them with humility and a spirit of affirmation. The Internet, the library, and experts in that area are also good resources. On your journey of learning more, you may even find out that the goal really isn’t what you want for yourself. Once you’re armed with knowledge, you’ll know how to proceed.
Speaking of knowledge, just beyond that is wisdom, and here’s one of the wisest things you can do. Surround yourself with positive, successful people. Having your social media feeds and in-person social circle filled with people that strive for growth, success, kindness, and contentment will help put you in a good frame of mind. You are a reflection of those that you associate with the most.
So, next time you feel that envious irritation creeping up, kick the green-eyed monster to the curb. There’s no such thing as “apples to apples” because people and life situations are so different. Use their success as a learning opportunity, a time for self-reflection, and an inspiration to commit to whatever growth and goals are healthy and appropriate for your life. Celebrate with those successful folks, and get ready to celebrate your own progress and success!
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