turning envy into gratitude

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that green-eyed monster, jealousy. About how it’s easy to be there for people when they’re down. What’s harder is being happy when something great happens for somebody else.

Why is that? Why are we so inclined to compare ourselves to others? When someone else accomplishes something amazing, why does it have the potential to make us feel bad about ourselves?

Life isn’t a race. Life isn’t a checklist or a report card or a beauty contest. And when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others, it leaves less mental energy to focus on all the good things happening in our own lives — and all the great things we want to do in the future! For me, nothing saps motivation quicker than that green-eyed monster does.

I’ve heard it said that envy can be a motivating factor, and maybe it is for some people. Maybe there is a good kind of envy: “You just did something amazing, and I want to do it, too!” That’s envy integrated with a nice dose of inspiration. When you don’t want to take away someone’s good fortune — you want to share in it.

That’s what I’ve been trying to focus on lately. Not just being surface-level happy for my friends when things go well — taking it a step further and truly basking in others’ happiness. Jumping up and down with excitement for them. Sharing the good news with everyone I meet. Feeling my heart swell with giddy joy.

Because you know what? When you celebrate the good news of others as if it is your own, it sort of does start to feel like it’s happening to you, too. The good feelings are yours. The celebration is yours. And the sense of accomplishment? That’s yours, too.

building people up
When you build others up, you build yourself up.

It’s also true in business. Here’s an article I read yesterday about the #1 secret to success in the workplace. Can you guess what it is? Making others successful.

Another thing about being happy for others is that happiness is contagious. And being joyful about the successes of others isn’t even limited to people you know. Being happy for strangers is an unbelievably freeing feeling. Once upon a time, whenever I used to read about an author getting an agent or book deal or selling a bajillion copies of her new book, I would feel jealous. I would think, “Why that person and not me?”

It’s one thing to be happy for my writer friends when they get a book deal {go Tera!}; or a story accepted to a phenomenal literary journal {I’m looking at you, Leigh!}; or are awarded a prestigious writing fellowship {woo-hoo, Jan Jan!} These are people I’ve been “in the trenches” with. We’ve read and commented on each other’s work, encouraged each other through the dry spells, sat together over coffee or fro-yo and commiserated over rejection letters. I know how hard they work. I know how much they deserve these good things.

But when good news happened to a writer I didn’t know? I was much more likely to let my heart slip into that jealous place. To feel like I didn’t get something because someone else got it instead.

But that type of thinking only breeds more bad thoughts and discouragement. A stranger to me is someone else’s Tera or Leigh or Janet. All of us are working hard. All of us are out there pursuing these big beautiful dreams of ours. I don’t like to think of the world as a pie with a limited number of pieces. When we’re happy for each other — even for people we’ve never met — the world begins to seem like a brighter, warmer, more inviting place. A place where good things happen.

When I celebrate a stranger’s publishing deal, it rejuvenates me. It makes me feel like maybe my good news is just around the corner. And it makes me feel fortunate and grateful for all the great things that have happened in my life so far.

I love this meditation from Heather at For the Love of Kale: “Gratitude turns what I have into enough. Thank you, Universe, for giving me everything I need. I am willing to see the light and love in this situation.”

You know one of the top things I feel grateful for? That I’m surrounded by people who genuinely care about me, who are there to pick me up when I feel down, and — perhaps even more importantly — who are unabashedly happy with me when good things happen. What a blessing. What a gift we can all give each other.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you quash that green-eyed monster? Who are you celebrating today? Give them a shout out in the comments section so we can all send happy vibes their way!

7 thoughts on “turning envy into gratitude

  1. Pingback: year of kindness challenge: week 30 | Day-By-Day Masterpiece

  2. Pingback: There’s Something ‘Hinky’ In Norway | Finding Ann MacGregor

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