December 24, 2012

If Jealousy Was Fuel, I Could Power A Rocket

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I am the most jealous person in the world. Okay, maybe not in the world. I’ve never committed a crime of passion or broken another skater’s kneecaps with a baseball bat during the Olympics. My jealousy is also never over something as frivolous as boyfriends or love though.

More than anything, I’m supremely jealous of my friends’ professional accomplishments. I’m really susceptible to it. My initial reaction whenever anyone gets anything is “Why not meeeee?” in this really stupid whiny voice I use in my head. This was not helped by a corkboard the guidance counselor used to keep in the hallway during high school listing all the colleges certain students had gotten in to. Some people’s areas were blank, some were filled by Yale and Princeton. Jealousy abounded like were a bunch of college-bound Lords of the Flies.

This kind of jealousy a huge problem in my life and something I realized I really needed to work on. It’s not fun being so petty all the time. Plus, what does someone else’s success have to do with me? Why do I have to make it about me by immediately jumping to “I should have that!” instead of “Oh, good for them!” It’s exhausting.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy for my friends who are successful. But every article published, every movie role landed, every show booked, every book deal acquired makes my hands wring together. I’m smiling, but I’m also murderous. Like the Joker fused with Lady MacBeth, except more crazy.

The big thing is that I’m wrong. I don’t have to be jealous of my friends because all their success means is that I have the best, most talented friends in the world. Easier to type here than to think in the moment though. But this is the truth.

I’ve started making a conscious effort to change the way I see other people’s accomplishments. Whatever good things happen to other people don’t belittle or change what I’m up to. It’s not a scale; it doesn’t take away from me, if someone I know succeeds. I have my own pace and my own stuff that other people are jealous of. We’re all on different paths. Maybe mine doesn’t include some of the things I want, but it does include other GREAT things I should be using my time to maximize and be grateful for, instead of wasting it pouting about other people. I can’t BE other people. I can only be me and do what I do.

Plus, maybe my friends doing well is a good sign. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s generally a group of really talented people who all find each other in some way — the British invasion, the Beat poets, ’90s comedians, 1920’s expatriate writers in Paris, the artists of the Renaissance, East Coast/West Coast rappers. These people all got successful together. They were part of a movement. They were friends. I bet within those groups people were jealous of each other. In fact, I know that’s true because rappers shot each other, Hemingway wrote extensively about Fitzgerald’s talent, and because other comedians were supremely jealous of Janeane Garafalo’s meteorite rise to cult icon in the ’90s. But in the end, they were attracted to each other because they each saw something special in their counterparts. Successful people tend to find and cling to each other.

Instead of going with my instinct to tear people down, I’m going to start pushing myself to lift them up, to make an effort to work together, to support other successful people in my life. This is something I have to constantly remind myself to do, but it’s really been worth it for my psyche and self-esteem. I can’t recommend it enough. When your first instinct is to spiral into depression after hearing a friend’s good news, try sending them a long congratulatory email instead. It doesn’t pay to wallow — so turn that negative feeling into a positive deed.

I just have to believe and focus on this: Jealousy isn’t worth my time. All it means when the people I know succeed is that I know some pretty awesome people. TC Mark

image – Dejan Lazarevic
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