I was 25. I was extremely ready for every single element of my life to be perfect. I wanted an incredible job, a loving partner, a beautiful child, a perfect body, a gorgeous home in a stunning city, a large paycheck, a swollen savings account, to start work on my doctoral degree, perfect health for myself and everyone I loved, and for nothing to cause me any heartache. Completely reasonable… Obviously.
Thanks to social media, I was constantly bombarded with images of my friends who seemed well on their way to the perfect life that was alluding me. Pictures of engagement rings, wedding dresses, graduation gowns, baby onesies. Smiling couples posing with the keys to their new homes. Why was this magically happening for my friends, but not for me?
Then one day I had a sudden aha-moment. I was jealous of no one. I stepped back and realized that many of my friends may each have a piece of my “perfect” life puzzle, but I couldn’t think of a single one who had all the pieces. As I reflected, I realized that out of all my friends, there wasn’t even one name that emerged of someone who had everything in place that I personally desired. I was jealous of various elements of each of their lives, creating a composite person that I was striving for, but who didn’t even exist.
Moreover, as I reflected on my amazing non-profit job, in gorgeous San Diego, that afforded me incredible travel opportunities, I realized that my friends may very well be jealous of me.
Blessings Come and Go
In the years that have followed that aha-moment, I’ve seen some of the great joys in my friends’ lives slip out of their hands. Children have fallen ill, homes have been foreclosed, marriages have failed, careers have dried up. Blessings come and go, and then come again. Journalist Mary Schmich says it well, “don’t waste time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
It’s natural to feel that tinge of jealousy when something that’s been alluding you seems to so easily happen for those around you. However, I’m willing to bet that you don’t have a single friend who “has it all.” And, even if it seems that they do, you never know if tomorrow they may “lose it all.”
I stepped back and realized that many of my friends may each have a piece of my ‘perfect’ life puzzle, but I couldn’t think of a single one who had all the pieces.
Jealousy of a composite character who doesn’t actually exist serves no good in your life. It’s like trying to make your body look like a model’s impossibly photo-shopped image. You become trapped trying to achieve something that not even the luckiest person alive has been able to obtain and you then are too distracted to enjoy all the incredible blessings that you’ve already been given.
“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars.” Gary Allan captures this thought so poetically. What a shame to not recognize your own glory because you’re so distracted by the glory of others.
Living in the Present
Of course it’s great to strive for a better life, but take care so that you aren’t striving for something that’s not even possible. If jealousy starts to overtake you, then pause for a moment to come back into the present where simple joys can bring peace. You have your whole life to pursue your big dreams. Simple joys in the moment are about surrounding yourself with love, friends, beauty, and a sense of purpose.
There are many practices that can bring you back to the present; meditation, yoga, prayer, journaling, or even a nice walk. In this exact moment, you may find delight in the feeling a cool breeze on your face, a shared laugh between friends, the satisfaction of a full stomach, or even the gentle beat of your own heart. Dwell in the simple joys and perhaps you’ll find that they may just be enough. Comparison is the thief of joy and if you are comparing yourself to a composite person who cannot even possibly exist, then you’ll never find peace with yourself or be able to see the beautiful blessings that already surround you.