How much time do you focus on what you do not have?
Something that I have touched on in previous articles is how we all have the same 24 hours each day. While we may only have 4-6 hours of free time when you subtract all of the necessities or social requirements, each minute we are observing the world around us. I have spent a massive chunk of my twenty years alive focusing on what others are doing. I was irritated “at them” because of their ease with social interactions, or what they had good that I didn’t I was jealous and envious of the fact that other people had more friends, a significant other, being at the top of the sports team, or had higher grades than I did. I used to interrupt the teacher or a classmate with jokes (albeit not very good ones) or comments when someone smarter than I was excelling with the answers in class. I always tried to be polite around adults, and with teachers, I attempted to toe the line so they would not mention my outbursts to my parents, although they usually did. While for the most part, I was respectful to elders, I was an annoying little shit to those my age.
I specifically remember in fifth grade an ongoing feud I had with a kid named Ryan. He and I were both knowledgeable, him more in math and science and myself in English and literature. Overall, I would say he was a better student than I was. I was always trying to beat him, have the right answer before he did, turn in the assignment first. We were both in the school band and went to practice at different times. I played the saxophone and he the trombone, so when he left for practice during math on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I was ecstatic. I got most of the questions right, and though I could win over the attention of classmates and the teacher with my “smarts.” This comparison continued into high school, and at some point during junior year, I started to let it go. If you are reading this Ryan, I apologize for being such an ass. I hope you’re doing well.
Comparing myself to others was not healthy for my self-esteem, nor did it help me focus on my strengths. Whenever I got down on myself, (which happened almost daily in high school) I immediately compared the skills I thought (and was told) I needed to be the best at to those of my classmates. This bred jealousy created resentment and downright hatred for those who were better at me. At some of my lowest points, I despised not only everyone around me but myself as well, thinking that I was a waste of space, that there was no reason for my existence. I have since come out of this mindset, and learned to focus only on myself, and how I react to others actions, not their actions directly.
Jealousy will destroy your self-esteem.
One truth of life that many of us, myself included, avoid or have avoided thinking about is that we have finite time. You will never be five years old ever again. Along with this, our personalities and habits harden as we age. A physical example of our lives hardening is that we are a lot less flexible as we get older. This being said, the things we do as children and teenagers determine who we are as adults. The question is then, who and what do you wish to become more of? While people may disagree with this statement, (one of those debaters being my younger self) I am responsible for how I handle my emotions. I cannot begin to count how many nights I spent in tears, screaming into a pillow in anger or jealousy at the world. I was mad at God (if you call it that), at my parents, at my classmates, the girls I had dated, most importantly, at myself.
Even though I have made an enormous amount of progress in self-discipline and improving the quality of my life, I still feel the pull of envy and comparison. Our Western society assumes that the only addictive behaviors are to substances or activities that are external, such as drugs, sex, or gambling. We can also be addicted to putting others down, to causing pain so that we do not feel lonely in our sorrow. It is very crucial, oh so important that we are aware of what our emotions are doing, and how we respond to them. I am now a firm believer in being in full control of my life. Learning to be in control of who I am is due to many of people, but it started with a book, “Way of the Peaceful Warrior.”
None of us are perfect, and there will always be someone who is better than us at something. Our first reaction is to be angry at the other person and down on ourselves, ( deep down, mad at ourselves but blaming others) because this person is taller or has bigger boobs. The person you are envying has more money, a bigger house, are more confident or have a seemingly happier family. The problem with this is that the cycle of blaming and hating others for what they have can go on forever. One thing that my partner has taught me is to be thankful for what I have. Having Aspergers and not knowing it, I always have been envious of everyone else who seemed so fluid in conversation. After two years of meditating and focusing on myself, I have found my purpose. Reading texts of Buddhism, Taoism and now Stoicism, and listening to people such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, Jordan Peterson, and joining a martial arts school, I have become more confident in who I am.
Love yourself and the strengths that you have.
We all suck at stuff. Every one of us has weaknesses, and half of the world is going to look at your weaknesses. So what? Focus on what you are good at, what you love doing. You are an incredible and amazing human being, unique and more than adequate to survive in this world. You have something that you are good at, and while there may be 100 other people who are also good at that activity, you and those 100 other people are the best at it. Own that. You may not be the best in your field, or if you’re like me, you are in your 20’s and are just getting started. This perspective has two ways to look at it, and I prefer the latter. You can get down on yourself and think “I suck, I will never be better than them, I will never be successful.” Or, you can have this attitude: “Wow, there is someone else who is or already has done this. They are a perfect opportunity not only to learn, but also network, and potentially share my skill with the world.”
You are going to fail. You are going to lose, get let down, mess up, hurt people’s feelings. We all do this; no one is exempt. Many people are so afraid to take the first step because of the thought of losing, of screwing up or letting someone down. After a loss or failure, you must be able to keep going, learn from your previous decision and move forward. Comparing yourself to others will always end with a defeated mindset; comparing yourself today with who you were yesterday can result in a smile and pat on the back. Life is hard, we all have problems, and time is going to go on regardless. Are you going to let your life go by, making no attempt to improve your situation, or are you going to have problems AND do something about them?
Being happy, being content with who and where you are, takes time. It took me over a year of accepting who I am before I even had the idea to start this blog. I had to go through five failed relationships, of me being able to admit that I acted disrespectfully to the person I was with before I found the one who actively helps me improve myself. The process takes time. I can promise you, that even though I still have a long way to go, taking steps to improve your life is worth it. You are a beautiful human being, and yet still have faults that can be improved. You are marvelous and have something great to share with the world, and yet still have a dark side that could become the next Hitler. We have to be careful with being jealous and resentful, as it can ultimately take over our lives. The magic of life though, is that loving kindness can do the same exact thing. This comes down to choice.
If you found something you liked or disliked in this article, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I hope you create a wonderful day!