No matter how much we might strive for perfection in each area of our lives – in our relationships, in our careers, in our health, or even in our faith – it’s inevitable that we’ll fail at times and see others outshine us. Yet when this happens, what’s our reaction? Do we express happiness for our friends’ and co-workers’ successes in life? Is our happiness for them genuine?
A sense of ambition and competition can inspire us to reach for new goals and be a useful driving force for improvement, but when our competitive tendencies prevent us from rejoicing in the achievements of others, it’s time to evaluate our thought-patterns.
In countless cases, our hesitation to celebrate the accomplishments of those around us stems from fear and self-criticism. Haven’t we all, at some point or another, felt as though someone else’s achievements would somehow limit our own, or that their success would somehow make us a failure?
Just the other week, for example, I was working on a project with a few colleagues when one woman in our group was singled out and praised for her improvement and dedication. I could see how eager she’d been to prove herself and how hard she’d worked to do so, but rather than feeling proud of her like I should have, I instead felt threatened – afraid she’d surpass me at work or that I wasn’t capable of contributing as well as she did.
In hindsight, I can see now that what I should have realized then is that another’s success is never an impediment to our own, nor does it make us a failure. Had I recognized this at the time, I would have been able to let go of the fear and self-criticism I was holding on to and sought harder to appreciate how thoughtful and attentive this woman had been in her role and then encouraged those positive traits in her.
In the end, each of us is endowed with a certain set of gifts, which manifests itself in unique and beautiful expressions throughout our lives. Though we share several common experiences and participate in several of the same activities as one another, no two expressions are the same from person to person. As a result, shouldn’t we be striving to celebrate those traits that are unique to others and that have brought them success?
The more we start to search for and see the uniqueness of these inherent gifts in those around us, the less prone we’ll be to compare their talents or business success to our own — identifying instead the splendor of their gifts as something to be celebrated and encouraged. In focusing our thoughts to reflect on what is good and beautiful in others in this manner, it then becomes natural to let go of our need to “measure up,” allowing us to experience both inspiration and happiness when we see them excel.
This quote, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, sums it up well: “I am not bound to win, I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to the light I have.”
Do you find yourself spending more time comparing and less time celebrating? What are some practical ways you can show support instead of harboring jealousy?