***I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you to those of you who have been reading my blog! It’s been a little over a month since I launched it, and I’ve learned a lot. The idea of putting my thoughts out there for anyone to stumble upon was incredibly intimidating, so the kind comments and bits of encouragement have meant the world to me.***
Maybe it’s because I’m back in America, where bigger seems to be better, or maybe it’s because I’m in the process of buying my first home and seeing first-hand how easy it is to get carried away with perfectionism, but greed has been on my mind as of late.
Isn’t it often true that we don’t think to be dissatisfied with what we have until we realize that someone else has something we perceive to be better? This particular brand of jealousy not only contributes to an insatiable drive for more, it breeds an unhealthy sense of competition.
The object of envy could be something we’ve always dreamed of having ourselves. This is definitely not limited to material possessions; it could be a career, a relationship, a child, an education, etc. It can definitely hurt when you’ve longed for something for years and someone else seems to fall right into it.
Just as often, we’re envious of something we didn’t even realize we wanted until we saw someone else with it— not unlike how my toddler responds when she sees another kid with a cool new toy.
We’re taught from a young age that money doesn’t bring happiness and that things aren’t important, but throughout our lives we’re shown the exact opposite. We tell ourselves that we’re not materialistic, but then we crave that nicer house, that expensive car, that perfect wardrobe, the entire stock of Anthropologie (guilty); and we expend an enormous amount of emotional energy on these desires.
It’s especially difficult to curb these desires when it seems as though everyone around us is living a certain lifestyle. It’s interesting how fickle these desires can be— I recently read a book where the author described the coveted ideal of her childhood as having plastic on the furniture and collections of figurines. I’d be willing to bet that those particular standards of living have changed for her, and what once seemed immensely important probably feels trivial or even undesirable.
The thing about comparison is that we rarely gain insight into someone’s world in passing. The images we’re presented with— whether via social media or through personal encounters— are often glossed over. We’re not seeing the depth of their struggles.
That woman who’s so beautiful? She’s been struggling with health issues for most of her life.
The family with the perfect dream home in the best neighborhood in town? They’re crippled by the heavy weight of a mortgage they can’t afford.
The person with the job you’d kill for? They’re thinking about switching careers to do what they really love. Or maybe they struggled for years to get where they are now, and worked several grueling jobs before landing at the one they’re currently in.
The stay at home mom with the picture-perfect family? She gets lonely, and she longs for the achievement and status of the job she left.
When we keep the complexity and depth of others in mind, it gives us a more compassionate approach to life. Comparing ourselves to someone else who seems to have exactly what we want is always going to lead to jealousy, discontentment, envy… and a lack of insight. We don’t know their story, we don’t know if they have what they want. We’re so blinded by the sight of what they do have that we miss out on the bigger picture.
This isn’t to say that we should substitute genuine happiness for others with a feeling that they lack something. This isn’t always necessarily the case— sometimes the guy with the perfect job and the biggest house is doing just fine, at least in a worldly sense. Even more importantly, learning to be happy for others when they are thriving is crucial! Nothing is more freeing than experiencing genuine happiness for others—it’s a big part of how we can put the needs of others above our own. We should want good things for others, even if it means that we can’t have those good things ourselves!
It’s also worth noting that nothing— not beauty nor possessions nor accomplishments— will give any of us joy, self-worth, or freedom. So to begrudge someone else what they have is a little besides the point, isn’t it?
I think that most of us know that, at least on an intellectual level. The problem is that we forget this truth when we’re faced with that shiny toy— it distracts us from the bigger picture.
I know that I, for one, could do with a reminder every so often to be thankful for the many blessings I have and stop comparing. More often than not, it’s the things I lack that teach me the most anyway.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Is jealousy or comparison something you struggle with, and if so, how do you check yourself?