Do you or do you perhaps know anyone who has this habit of constantly comparing their life to someone else’s?
It’s dangerous to believe that other people’s success was achieved without a lot of effort or pain. It’s so important for us to question the premise behind other people’s success. If we look at other people’s success and we acknowledge and we are aware of the amount of work and sacrifice that went into his or her process, it will also be easier for us to reframe our own experience of success.
For example, thinking or saying “He has such a great life. He has this huge house, this awesome family, and he has a job that pays so well.
Or “Her life looks so easy. She’s inherited this business from her parents so she doesn’t need to do much. And all this money just keeps flowing in.”
And while envy is an emotion that is normal for people to have – at least once in a while – the dangerous thing is the self-pity that is involved in this kind of thinking.
If you notice that you tend to think in this way – or perhaps it’s not you, maybe it’s someone close or someone you know – I would challenge you or challenge you to question this person’s assumptions.
I wanted to write this post for a while because of someone in my more extended family who has this kind of thought pattern.
This person often says things along the lines of “She has it so easy. If I could only be like that if I could only have a life like that I would be happy”.
And then top it off with the statement “Life is unfair”.
And I think that it’s not just annoying to hear, but also very concerning. It’s a self-defeating and self-deprecating mindset.
It does no good at all and there’s nothing to gain from this mindset.
The only thing that happens by thinking in this way is that the person adopts a victimhood mentality.
This means that they feel like they do not have control over their own lives. That they are entirely the victim of circumstances.
There was a time in my life, that when someone said something like that, I would just go along with it. I’d just be polite and nod my head.
By agreeing with that person’s way of thinking, you soothe their feelings, but enable them to become passive.
In case you’ve encountered something similar, here are three things that you might ask him or her or even yourself the next time this comes up.
Asking these questions puts the person in a position where he or she needs to think carefully about what they’re saying. It might even change the person’s perspective.
1. Are you aware of how much work they put into it?
Oftentimes we look at other people’s success and we only see the shiny facade. But what do we know about how much work went into it?
Even if they inherited some of their success, what do we know about their struggles?
One example that I can tell you from my own life is about
the acting and filmmaking that I did. Before I started acting and filmmaking, I took it quite lightly.
I thought that acting as a job was a very easy and fun job. And it is indeed a fun job. But it’s not without its challenges and sacrifices. It also involves a lot of hard training and dedication.
Another example is people making an app. It’s very easy for people to say “Oh he made an app and now he’s earning millions off of it. He got lucky and now has such a great life”
Most people don’t have any idea how much blood and sweat goes into developing and distributing it.
2. At what cost was the ‘success’ achieved?
If we look at someone very rich, successful, and famous, do we think that they were able to get there without sacrificing anything else in their life that was perhaps as valuable?
We might look at a businessman or an inventor and think “Oh he’s so super smart, he’s so successful, he has everything that he needs in his life”
But what do we know about the person’s health? What do we know about the person’s relationships?
Think of Steve Jobs. So successful but in the end, he died from cancer at a relatively young age.
Maybe we might envy the life of some executive who has a very high position in her company.
But what do we know about her family? what do we know about the sacrifices she made? Maybe she sacrificed being able to have one so that she could climb up that career ladder.
I want to share with you another example, about Albert Einstein. Everyone knows about the success that Albert Einstein had in his professional career, but very few people are aware of his personal life. And that there was a time when his marriage was breaking down.
At that time he presented his wife with a contract listing all the things that he expected from her if the relationship was to continue. And these are the conditions:
(1) You will make sure one that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order
(2) That I will receive my three meals regularly in my room number
(3) That my bedroom and study are kept neat and especially that my desk is left or my youth only
(1) You will renounce all personal relationships with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons specifically you will forego one my sitting at home with you
(2) My going out or traveling with you
C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me
(1) You will not expect any intimacy from me nor will you reproach me in any way
(2) You will stop talking to me if I request it
(3) You will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it
D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children either through words or behavior
We can see that Albert Einstein’s success came at a cost not only to himself, meaning that his relationship with his wife was less than ideal but also for his family.
His family sacrificed a lot to create the kind of atmosphere that was conducive in his mind for him to work on his career.
It might not be that extreme in other cases but I think it does make sense to ask yourself about the cost or the price of someone’s success, before jumping to conclusions about how great other people’s lives are.
Ask yourself at what cost it was achieved and following from that ask yourself whether you would be willing to make that kind of big sacrifice to achieve what that person achieved.
Many people fail to take into consideration the complete equation.
They look at the output which is all the glamorous – glorious the positive the fun, nice fancy stuff – but they fail to think of or they’re just ignorant of all the tough parts that went into the equation.
The hard work, frustrations, disappointments. The long nights working, the fear, the desperation.
3. Is this person actually happy or is he or she at least at peace?
Many people envy celebrities who seem to have this perfect and glamorous life. But what do we know about their happiness? Their experiences?
Everything may look completely perfect on the outside, but on the inside, they might be dying or rotting away.
The saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ goes in two directions. It’s not only the case that something might look unattractive from the outside that is very valuable inside but it can also be the other way around.
Something may look very glamorous, beautiful and perfect from the outside but once you open it up then you see all the damage. All the shortcomings, all the negative stuff inside.
I think that as human beings it’s completely normal if once in a while we are envious of something that someone else has or that someone else gets to experience but it becomes a problem when it becomes a habit.
When you notice yourself or someone else thinking or saying this constantly.
A huge part of what determines our success and happiness in our own lives is the way we think and the way we talk to ourselves.
And because of that, we need to put in a lot of care into our thoughts and the things that we believe.
I also think that comparing your life to someone else’s life in an envious way (and not in a constructive, which is possible) is a way of saying that you’ve given up.
Let’s say that you are working very hard on something, for example, you want to get to a certain position or a certain level in your company. Or you want to make a certain amount of money or you want to win some competition.
And then there come the times when things start to get really difficult and really hard and you feel like you want to give up. On top of that, you also start to compare yourself and your life with other people’s life.
That can really bring you down. That’s often a very easy way of saying “I give up”.
It’s dangerous to believe that other people’s success was achieved without a lot of effort or pain.
That is why I think it’s so important for us to question the premise behind other people’s success. If we look at other people’s success and we acknowledge and we are aware of the amount of work and sacrifice that went into his or her process, it will also be easier for us to reframe our own experience of success.
Then we’ll realize that we have ownership over our lives. That we are not victims in our lives, but that we have tremendous influence over our successes and failures.
It’s not to say that some people do have a bad hand dealt to them and more to struggle with than others. But facing that kind of situation, would you choose to accept it, or try to influence the situation – in even the tiniest way possible – to make it better and more bearable?