Me annoyed again? You would probably think that I'm some sort of maniac depressive or bipolar or something like that. Well, not actually, I'm happy and fine and well, just like the next person (or even more, because I do have the tendency to be happier than the average ^_^. Go rouge me!), but I read something in a paper - at Caroline Hax' column, actually - and that got me reacting. So the thing was that this person wrote to Ms. Hax to help them deal with the fact that they can't feel happy for how good their friends are doing in life, when their own life is so crappy. If you are rolling your eyes, like I did, then that means that you know people like that and you are probably thinking what I thought when I read the letter "well, who's to blame for that?". Am I right? Well, you know what Ms. Hax replied - after the whiner said that "be happy with what you have" wasn't cutting the deal? She advised them to "be happy with what they are". Yes, sure, I'll give you time for that to sink in. This is a good time to go grab that beverage you've been pondering about. Go, I'll go grab myself a coke, an energy drink... something to process astonishment before getting into the next paragraph.
So, are we back? A little bit calmer? Well, at least I am, so let's hack into this.
First of all there's a difference if you envy the lifestyle of Paris Hilton or the Kardashians, or if you envy the good living of people who technically has the same background as you, say coworkers, old schoolmates, neighbours and so on (asuming rather homogenic distribution in these groups). If you are bitter because you are not Mitt Romney, and you can't be happy for him having all that money, and as result your life is a heap of deception and sadness, well, you are sick, stupid and ... and, well, I would be tempted to suggest you to take your life in your hands and either move on or ended, but it would be just wrong to tell you to kill yourself, so I won't.
Oh, if you decide to kill yourself, 1. I haven't prompted you, it's all on you, so I won't be taking any credit nor blame for YOUR decisions, and 2. don't destroy other people's property while doing so, like jumping in front of a car or a bus or a train. Just because you have decided that your life worths nothing, there's no reason to fuck up other people's day or budget.
Now, if you are envious of people just like you, who have done better, please refer to the nearest solid wall and bang your head on it as hard as you can until passing out.
Okay, let's go breaking this thing up, shall we? When someone is jealous for the lifestyle of other people, several things are going on. I'm not a psychologist, so I won't even attempt to autopsy the psyche of people going through this, but from the surface one can clearly tell that often these feelings come from the sense that what others get is your share too, something you are entitled to. Maybe this is a bit hard to understand or picture in the economical and social frame, but think of women, and how it happens that a woman resents another because these got married to a successful man and is starting a family, while the resenting one considers herself more beautiful, smarter, thinner, sexier... anything.
People in a perceived position of disadvantage usually think the others got an unfair advantage in some way, while they have done all the right and honest choices. They landed a better job because they have connections, they've got a better house because they probably made a deal, they vacation abroad because they have someone paying for them, and so on. There's also the tendency to darken the reality and feed themselves and others (through gossip) with stories about how all that fabulousness is result of reckless spending and hazardous decisions. If it is or isn't that's not your business. So your friend changes their car every year, okay! Good for them! So they pick a new continent to visit every year at summer vacation. Awesome! More power to them! So you can't? Well, you can't, what's the big deal? You aren't the President either, are you? And that doesn't make your life ultimately miserable, right? (If by any chance you ARE the president, and you feel envious, wall, please.)
The thing is that the people you envy, just like you, are living the result of their own choices. Those choices are often a composition of their preferences, their way of being and their perspectives for the future. Just like yours. What's the difference? Just the choices each has made and how have they faced both the choice making and the results of it.
When you don't like where your life has lead you, instead of whining about it, you should think about what lead you there in an objective way. Have you slacked? Have you made choices that go against what you really want in order to achieve what you assumed was expected from you? Have you perhaps expected important things or decisions regarding your life to be taken by others? How do you generally make decisions? What's what you want from your life and what steps have you taken to achieve that goal?
Now, there are things you can't control. You could be the best of your class, graduate Magna Cum Laude and end up unemployed because there's simply no jobs in that area at that given field. There's something of a crisis going on, if you haven't noticed, so if they aren't hiring in your area, that's something you can hardly fix by your own (and if you can, please go over to Greece and Spain and help folks over there), but then you might find other occupations meanwhile. There's no shame in working as a waiter or a sales person, while keeping your nose hard on your field and pressing for an opening. Honest work, hard work brings nothing but dignity to those who do it by heart.
Can't get into the univesity you want? Keep on trying! Nobody can stop you but yourself. The person you love the most doesn't love you back and won't marry you? Get a life, that person isn't the only fish in the pond.
More often than not our discomfort is the result of our own actions, our own decisions and our attitude towards the results it yields. Just because your friend won the lottery, you can't sulk, cross your arms and demand that you too win the lottery. If your friend decided to postpone marriage and concentrate on a career and now is the CEO of a big company, while you married young, have kids and have a lower income job, you have no base of being bitter and resenting your friend's success.
You don't have to be happy for your friends' success, if you don't feel like being happy about that, it's okay, but when you start resenting their success, you should really think about it and if you really consider them friends, or if you see them as some sort of competition. Let me illustrate that a little bit more. For instance, a friend of yours could just taken a big step in their lives and decide to give up everything to go live the yogi life in India, and now is succeeding as some, say Level 3 Super Sayajin yogi or what not. All happy, living in extreme poverty, thin like a super model on Fashion Week and flea ridden. If you feel like being happy for them, great! If you feel like "oh man, Terry really lost it", then that's okay too! For some converting to some religion is a big step and a success, for others is to get married, have kids, get a tattoo (Tina's is fabulous, by the way!), get a promotion, publish a book, speak to ghosts... there are are many goals as people and as many measures of success as dreams.
It doesn't matter what your dreams are, only if you are working towards getting them. And once you've reached them, all that matters is if you are happy, satisfied with them. Because yes, it might happen that you had a dream and when you reached it, it turned out to be not quite what you expected. There's no biggie then, because as long as you are not dead you can always reel back or start a new dream. We don't get one dream per life, but all those you want, and the sky is the limit.
Finally, trying to deal with jealousy with concentrating on who you are or what you are good at... hn, I'd take that with a grain of salt. For once, we are trying here to achieve happiness, and if you don't tackle the jealousy issue, you won't get there. That's like having fire in a room of your house and choosing to close the door on the fire and concentrate on all the other rooms that are not caught on fire. And after all, how can anyone be happy with what they are when they are jealous?
Yes, because being good at making brownies from a box while leaving under mounting debt, unemployment and bad relationships is far better than having a good job, healthy finances and a happy relationship, BUT being unable to boil an egg. (Dude, the column ACTUALLY addressed it this way!) This time it's me saying "don't settle", and yes, you shouldn't. You are unhappy, and that's not the point of your life when you should go settling with the state of things. It's time to pull out your box of skills, check what you don't like about your current state, draft a plan of what you need to fix it, use the skills you have to achieve it, and learn those you need. It can take time, it may come with a couple of setback, but you wouldn't climb the Everest all in one stroll, right?
So, bet back on the bike, deal with your issues and take your life in your hand for either end you deem suitable. And stop the bitching, because we are not interested.