“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”- Zen Sim
Is it truly possible to experience genuine joy and happiness with someone because of their successes and achievements?
This is the question I pondered on as I reflected on my weekend. On Saturday, my youngest sister celebrated her 23rd birthday. She hosted a dinner party with her closest friends and family. It was quite intimate and memorable.
My sister is the consummate social light. She has a big heart and an enthusiasm for life that is very evident in all that she does. She recently graduated from law school and is extremely eager to begin her journey of helping others, impacting lives and making money.
As I sat at the dinner table, listening to her celebratory speech and the beautiful words spoken about her by her friends, I felt tremendous joy and happiness with her in that moment.
Beaming from her face and her aura was an unmistakable light of gratitude and contentment, with where she was currently in her life experience. I felt it and I believe every other person in the room did as well, as evidenced by the admiring smiling faces.
I’ll be point blank honest with you, being able to share in someone else’s joy was not always possible for me. Jealousy and envy of others once dominated my mind and thoughts for several years.
Previously, I would look at my friends, family members and in some instances complete strangers and secretly covet their life. I would wonder why they were entitled to have what they had, and I wasn’t. There was always an outward pretense of support but secretly I was screaming inside with envy.
This mental battle was something I struggled with for several years. Strangely however, I was aware of the vicious voices of envy and jealousy, pointing out my ‘not enoughness’ and dissatisfaction with myself and life situation. It was agonizing and, in some instances, debilitating.
Margaret Atwood, a Canadian poet said, “You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.” I can honestly admit to this, based on my battle with jealousy. At that time, instead of being able to appreciate the goodness in my life, I was blinded by the perceived good life of others and by what I thought I needed to have.
Therein is the illusion. My mother has a saying, “Never be envious of anyone because you really don’t know how they got it and why it’s theirs.” The truth is, another person’s life situation and its contents are specific and unique to that person and most likely will never match our lives anyway.
We are all unique beings, given the prestigious privilege and opportunity to create and experience life through an idiosyncratic way, specifically designed by us and for us.
However, when we allow ourselves to be consumed with the lives of others, we essentially cheat ourselves from exploring and discovering life through our eyes. We miss out on the one and only golden opportunity to experience the vastness of life in an authentic way and the chance to advance our individual growth and development.
Jealousy is mostly spoken about in the context of romantic relationships, where partners develop various ranges of jealous thoughts or actions, which is another subject matter on its own.
Nonetheless, jealousy within the framework of coveting another’s life isn’t generally frequently spoken about openly. Rather, it usually remains imprinted in the minds and thoughts of those who experience this undesirable feeling and may be covertly expressed at times.
Why do we engage in this un-serving, unhealthy feeling and in some instances behaviour, when it obviously leaves us feeling insecure, angry, inadequate, frustrated and unsettled?
One explanation lies in our socializing. For many of us, our parents, family members, teachers and those in authority, compared us to others, as a method of discipline and a way of motivating us to be better. They continuously highlighted positive qualities or attributes in others, encouraging us to be like them, instead of being the way we are.
While in most instances, the intentions of our loved ones were good, the effects were damaging. We learned to see and use the lives of others as the standard by which we judge and determine our value and success. We were essentially trained to reproduce the lives of others, instead of creating the life that we truly want.
Secondly, the unrelenting influence of our mass media can act as a form of brainwashing for the impressionable and seeking mind. Both children and adults are indoctrinated by movies, advertisements, TV shows and the infamous social media, which creates a platform for the portrayal of an idealistic, illusive life.
By consuming these media, we are convinced that if we physically look a certain way or if we drive a certain car or live in a certain house then we will experience the happily ever after, as portrayed by the models.
We mindlessly seek to follow the manicured path which is replicated for us. This often leads to us comparing ourselves to the actors, as our measure of success, without recognizing that it’s all a play and does not reflect the complete or accurate picture.
Finally, in my experience, the most significant, yet overlooked reason for the jealousy disease, is as a direct result of our ignorance of who we truly are.
The journey of self-re-discovery was truly my turning point and saving grace. Slowly but surely, I began healing myself from the malignancy of jealousy. As I turned inwards and began remembering my essence and falling in love with who I am, regardless of my life situation, the falseness of comparison, envy and jealousy began to fall away.
Instead of coveting the lives of others, I was then able to genuinely admire them and be happy with them for all that they were experiencing. This was only possible because I was so mesmerized by my own essence and captivated by my own life experience.
It was certainly a long journey in getting to this place of complete acceptance of self and contentment with my life. However, it was the most worthwhile journey I have ever embarked upon.
I was then able, bit by bit, to peel away the layers of conditioning, laid on thick by my loving parents, encouraging teachers, supportive elders and moralistic society. I knew that in their hearts they believed they were doing what was best.
I was also able to forgive, let go and thanked them for showing me a path, which inevitably led me to discover my own.
As for now, from time to time, I still experience the occasional jealous thoughts, but as my journey back to self has taught me, I am not my thoughts. Armed with this realisation, I simply allow the thoughts to come and go, like clouds passing in the sky and continue to reaffirm my truth.