How often do you find yourself getting jealous of other people?
For much of my life I’ve been aware of my own tendency to compare, compete, and be jealous of others (thinking that I don’t measure up). As a kid, a teenager, and a young adult, this was a big issue for me and also seemed to make sense, especially as someone who was involved in competitive baseball. Since my pro baseball career ended when I was twenty five and because I’ve done quite a bit of personal growth work over the past fifteen years, I erroneously believed that I’d evolved past spending or wasting much of my time and energy being jealous of others.
However, this past week has been a humbling (yet liberating) reminder of how jealous and competitive I can still be. Through a series of intense conversations with a few of my good friends, I realized that much of the conflict and judgment that shows up in my relationships with them (and others) has to do with me being overly competitive with them, although I’m not usually aware of it or honest about it. I get really jealous, but often pretend that I don’t. Can you relate?
We live in a very competitive culture and are trained to compete from the time we’re young (with siblings, classmates, teammates, and more) and then as we get out into the “real world” we often continue to compete with family members, friends, co-workers, and others, especially in our professional lives. We’re even taught that this is a good thing to do and essential for success. This obsession with competition has us relate to life as a game we’re trying to win and to the people around us as our “competitors,” even if they’re the people we love and care about most.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to “win” whatever “games” we play in life. The problem is that due to our own insecurity, we often focus on beating others or think that other people’s success, talent, or even their happiness has something to do with us. In other words, we often root against the fulfillment of other people, so we can feel better about ourselves or try to show others up and dominate them as a way to feel superior. This is very natural, but quite counter-productive, stressful, and ultimately hurtful.
There is both negative competition and positive competition. Negative competition, which most of us are more familiar with, is based on an adolescent notion that when we win we’re “good” and when we lose we’re “bad.” It’s all about being better than or feeling inferior to others – based on certain, external factors, results, and accomplishments. No one really ever truly “wins” in this scenario.
Positive competition is about challenging ourselves, pushing ourselves, and allowing the talent, skill, and support of others to help take us to the next level, go deeper, and get the most out of our potential. When we compete in this positive and conscious way, it’s beautiful, important, and healthy – and it has nothing to do with our true value as human beings. In other words, we aren’t “better” or “worse” based on how we perform or who wins.
Of course there are times when we will win and times when we will lose, and while there is a real impact to the results or lack thereof that we produce in life – living our life as if it’s a competition with everyone around us is incredibly stressful, not very authentic, and a recipe for disaster in most cases.
When we’re willing to let go of the ideas and decisions we made as kids and teenagers about who we are, what’s important, and what makes us “successful” or a person of “value,” we can step into a more authentic, adult, and healthy version of positive competition that can truly empower and inspire us, and help us grow to new heights and depths in our relationships, our work, and our lives.
Who do you compete with in your life in an unhealthy or negative way? What’s underneath that competition? Will you let it go? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights, and more below.