Friends' triumphs are not my failures
Whether I like to admit it or not, I am a selfish person. All people are selfish, I think. I'm pretty sure that - as humans - it is impossible to take ourselves out of the picture when observing things completely outside of us, even when we try. And trust me, I really do try. I consciously make an effort to treat others without any internal prejudices or personal thoughts, likes, dislikes, hangups, experiences, memories, feelings or fears getting in the way. But the more years that go by, the more I understand that this just isn't possible. Every single thing we encounter in life, we bring our own perceptions to, it is impossible not to. And our perceptions are built on our very own lifetime of all these aforementioned things. How could we be anything but selfish, at our core? It's not a question of if we're selfish, it's a question of how we let that selfishness manifest itself.
Here's a confession: I get jealous. I envy others their successes and their triumphs and their attributes and skills and qualities, even though these things have absolutely nothing to do with me. Because I am a human (read: hardwired to be selfish), I relate all these things back to myself, letting them highlight where I perceive myself to be lacking, and I want those things for myself. Bad, isn't it? One step further, it's often friends and acquaintances in particular I envy. I look at someone like Reese Witherspoon and all the she has and does which is so admirable and do I feel jealous? No. She is too abstract, too removed and out of my own real world to be in the realm of something I would consider envying. But when solid people come into that personal world, right up close, and exhibit things I perceive as triumphs, do I feel jealous? I think you guessed it.
I can't tell you how many articles I have read about the toxicity of jealousy amongst women; about how we should be uplifting and supporting each other rather than feeding this competitive culture. But I'm not talking about the culture of competitiveness that has been built amongst women (which I certainly acknowledge), but the nature we all have - men and women - to internalise external things. I don't think the reaction I have to others' successes come from a nasty place. Truly, I don't wish to see any of these women do badly - in fact I do actively support them - I just wish to see myself do better, precisely because they are doing things I perceive to be so.
To tell the truth, I don't think I am saying anything here that every single person in this world hasn't thought themselves at some point. I don't think anyone who does as much is a bad person, we are all simply people, and people are always wanting for more, for better. It's possible to feel happy for someone, to celebrate them and be a good friend, at the same time you envy them a little.
I don't really know why I felt compelled to write this today... I had a whole other post planned. Maybe I just thought someone else who has recently had that little pang of feeling lesser than or lacking in some way could do with reading that they're not alone in that. I think it's worth us acknowledging this human truth, and talking about it. I think it's worth reminding ourselves that others' successes are not our failures.
Whenever I feel this way I really take a step back and look at myself. What about this other person has made me feel lesser than? Is it something I have any control over? If it is something I do have control over and actively want to change, I set about doing that. And if it isn't, well I find someone (usually the same unlucky friend) to hash it out with and try to get to the bottom of it... which I usually reach at about the same time as we get to the bottom of the bottle too. Coincidence?!