The Thumbs of Jealousy
“I could be totally happy if it were not for these feelings of comparison, judgement and jealousy towards so-and-so!”
It’s sunny out, but cold still. Spring, by the calendar, may have arrived but winter is still clinging with rigid fingers to the air, the frozen ground, the bitter wind. It is the same with the stringent, unyielding thumbs of jealousy that clutch at my aching heart.
I could be totally happy, I just know it, if I didn’t have to compete with so-and-so. I mean, why does so-and-so get to be a president, a bestseller, a TV star, with two organizations and an institute to their name, while I, lowly I, am still just launching this puny little business, only two paying clients to my name? Will I ever “arrive”? Will I be valued for my work? Does anyone care about me?
Does any of this sound familiar?
There are so many assumptions in the above paragraph. First of all, we assume that happiness is conditional and based upon a measurable outcome. Secondly, we assume that we are in competition with others, even if our work is verifiably different than the ones we are “competing” with. Thirdly, we measure our success based on the perception of fame and money, rather than fulfillment, satisfaction and being of benefit. Fourthly, we assume that because someone else has found success, there is no room for us, and anyway, nobody will care about us.
These assumptions are so heavy.
I don’t know about you, but I have found none of these assumptions to serve me well in leadership, or any other aspect of my life.
It has never helped to assume that happiness is only achievable if I “arrive” at a certain outcome. Comparing myself to others only makes me feel small, puny, starved for satisfaction. There’s a tightening in my stomach, a hunching of my shoulders and a constriction of breath. I become physically small, crouching into a cave of fear and sadness, anger and jealousy. I cease to inhabit my whole body and suspend my true existence as a whole human being who has wisdom and depth and humor. I have hardened into a tiny kernel.
The cold, hard truth is that I am actually far larger than I assume. I have more to offer the world than I can if I am paralyzed by jealousy and fear. The truth is, my offering is unique, different from so-and-so who I always think I’m competing against. Our work is tangential to one another, and someday perhaps could be complimentary. My voice is needed in the world - and so is yours, and so is good ole so-and-so’s.
It is up to us to turn on the brilliant vector of bravery and step into our own shoes. Jealousy will only keep us small. Jealousy, if we don’t allow ourselves to acknowledge it, will only give us a backache and send us to the chiropractor. Our assumption that we will not be valued, that our efforts will be ignored and are therefore wasted will only send us to the doctor with a stomachache.
We start out whole and we only grow deeper from there. Feeling jealous is just a sign that we are able to feel the mighty array of feelings that arise all the time. The vast rainbow of experience will continue for as long as we draw breath. If we can allow ourselves, particularly as leaders, to inhabit all of it, to fill out the costume of our skin and bones and don the rainbow parka of emotions, then our genuineness will radiate out to all whom we encounter.
We can feel what we feel, but we can also remember to feel the bigger picture, the larger story, the truth of vastness. When we allow ourselves to be who we are (no matter the color of the day), we give birth to possibility. We can be our own midwives, guiding the birth of genuine presence.
We can be ourselves, no matter what so-and-so is doing. And, if we’re lucky, we can even invite jealousy to transform into celebration. How fantastic that so-and-so is doing so well, and that our work is different from theirs! How tremendously fortunate that we have a calling to fulfill and that nobody else can do that for us! As a leader, the more you inhabit this space of freedom, the more you empower everyone around you to do so as well.
So, turn those thumbs around, feel the fortune of this very moment and say to yourself, “Yes! Yes, I am.”