For me at least, this is what happens when I start thinking about how I want my life to be different.
Then I start thinking about people I know (or don’t know).
Then I start assuming their lives are working out in ways mine is not.
Then I get jealous of them.
If left unchecked, such ruminations can go on for minutes….days….or my whole life.
I can spend my whole life immersed in comparison envy – jealous of my own imaginings of how much better someone else’s life/relationship/body image/income/success is than mine.
It goes without saying that the side effects of comparison envy are equally unpleasant.
While I am busy envying my own imaginings, I am also discounting, ignoring, and sometimes even outright rejecting the blessings I receive.
Whether it is a “good hair” day or a diagnosis of “all clear,” an unexpected financial windfall or a sweet compliment just when I most need to hear one, when comparison envy is at work within me, I won’t notice any blessings in my actual life.
And I certainly won’t appreciate them.
Comparison envy is one of my biggest problems – certain a front-runner for the slipperiest slope in my life.
It is just so easy to fall into – SO easy, in fact, that often I don’t even realize it is happening, no matter how many times it has happened to me before.
Here is an example:
I haven’t heard from my friend (let’s call her Amy) in awhile. I’ll bet things are working out so well with her new boyfriend. He is probably going to propose soon. And she has that great job – I’ll bet she doesn’t even remember what it was like when she used to struggle with debt like I still do. Must be nice….
Sometimes, all of the good things I am imagining in someone else’s life actually are happening.
Maybe I talk to Amy the next day and discover things really ARE going so well with her new boyfriend, AND her new job, and no, she no longer remembers the horrors of being in debt.
And maybe I talk to Amy and find out she and her new boyfriend split, she lost her job, and her credit cards are maxed out.
Or maybe her situation is somewhere in between.
The point is, it is her life, her choices, her path, and all of that really has nothing to do with my life and my choices and my path.
I read somewhere once (can’t remember where so I’ll paraphrase) that it is very important to notice what we are jealous of, because these are the things we want most in life.
I believe this.
Today, I know when I catch myself in the throes of another bout of comparison envy, I need to a) be so glad I can envision such good things in the life of another – and stop to consciously wish the best for them – and, b) re-route my focus to ask myself whether my own actions of late are in harmony with the things I want most in my life.
If they aren’t, comparison envy can be a great friend to remind me to change course.
If they are, comparison envy can be a great friend to encourage me to keep striving towards my goals – after all, if I can visualize it (for anyone!), I can achieve it (for me as well).
Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever struggle with comparison envy? If so, do you often know what it is when it first arises, or do you only figure it out later? Do you find comparison envy has any value as a mentor and guide in your life? If so, what are the ways it can help you?