It’s a problem that’s never going to go away, especially for our generation. Everything’s magnified, multiplied, broadcasted, announced, declared. Nobody celebrates a job promotion or an engagement by calling up a few of their closest friends and telling them the good news. They announce it, to everyone. ‘Everyone’ ranges from their mom and their high school best friend all the way to that person they met at summer camp when they were eight.
That’s just the way things work now. When something good happens to us, we want to share it with everyone. Posting a Facebook status or an Instagram photo just makes things feel more official. It makes what just happened to us feel more real somehow.
This is good when the good thing that’s happening is happening to us. But every other time besides that, when it’s happening to one of our friends, or even to an acquaintance that we rarely speak to anymore, it’s hard not to feel an onslaught of anxiety and crushing pressure.
We can’t feel happy for people anymore, because instead of thinking about the good thing that just happened to them, we’re worried about how that’s going to make us look. We let our thoughts drive us crazy to the point where we’re convinced that as soon as people hear the good news about our friend, they’re going to wonder why the same thing is not happening for us.
It feels like everyone knows everything about us, which, to a point, they do. But it also therefore feels like everyone is judging us and coming up with reasons why we’re not good enough, every second of every day. They’re not, and rationally we know they’re not. None of us (or I guess, most of us) are not self-absorbed enough to actually, logically believe that other people spend their days and nights thinking about us and how we measure up to other people.
We know that, rationally. But sometimes, especially when jealousy or insecurity or anxiety get involved, it’s difficult not to give into these crazy thoughts.
So how can we move away from it all? How can we actually, truly be happy for our friend, and not just on the surface level? How can we post a photo of us and them on the day that they move across the country or announce that they’re expecting or accept a new job, and truly mean it when we congratulate them and say that we’re happy for them?
The truest, and yet most annoying, answer is that we have to fix ourselves internally first. It doesn’t mean walking around thinking the sun shines out of your ass and that you’re literally perfect. It means repeatedly doing things and thinking things that make you feel good about yourself. It means surrounding yourself with people who make you feel happy and inspired and accepted. Taking it easy on yourself when you’ve had a bad day at work. Forgiving yourself when you’ve screwed something up, and reminding yourself that even the most accomplished of people have screwed up (many times) before.
It means figuring out what it is that you feel proud about – what it is that you love – what it is that makes you feel excited in your life. It doesn’t have to be your job. It doesn’t have to come solely from a relationship. It’s whatever breathes life into your veins. You have to focus on that. You have to understand that you are on a very different journey from your friend. You have to understand that, yes, you couldn’t do what they’re doing every day or live the life that they’re living every day. But more importantly, you have to understand that the same thing goes for them in relation to your life. They couldn’t do what you do. They can’t think the way you think. You are on a path that has never been walked before, and not a single person in the world can walk it except for you.
Once you accept that, once you acknowledge that what happens in your friend’s life is completely irrelevant to you, once you tell yourself to stop being ridiculous and thinking that everybody else is just waiting to jump on you and judge you for not being good enough, you will be happy for your friend. The jealousy may still show up, quietly and calmly. That’s okay. It’s natural. But by training yourself to start thinking differently, you can keep the jealousy at bay long enough to be genuinely happy for your friend. And for every other person in this world that you’re ever tempted to compare yourself to.