Beating design jealousy… is it possible?

When I see the amazing work of other designers, especially that of former classmates, and see how successful they are, I can’t help it: the green demon rears its ugly head. Avoiding the comparison is hard, and so is dealing with my design jealousy. Sometimes I just want to gouge their eyes out, and whine at their followers, clients, etc., that I’m here, too! I’m good, too! I’m talented, too! Here I am, working my butt off trying to be “successful” (whatever that means), and they don’t have to do much and yet they are “successful”. Sometimes I wonder how they got this or that position, when in reality their talent isn’t that great, the world is conspiring about me, it’s so unfair, blah blah blah…

What’s the problem?

I’m not proud of my jealousy. It’s ugly. It’s stupid. It’s childish. But don’t we all experience some form of jealousy at some point in our lives? Isn’t jealousy some form of envy anyway?

Competition is often the root of the problem in the case of jealousy. Every human wants to be recognized as part of this society we live in. Every human wants to live a happy, fulfilling life. Competition is the driving factor that makes the green monster come out to play. And it loves to play with our emotions.

But the thing is, I’m not jealous of, say, Michael Jordan, the Dalai Lama or Donald Trump. Why is that?

It seems we humans are usually (of course there are exceptions) only jealous of those we perceive to be on the same level as us. I’m not jealous of Michael Jordan’s popularity or skills because, frankly, I don’t care too much about basketball. I’m not jealous of the Dalai Lama because I’m not overly religious and well I don’t agree with some of his views. I’m not jealous of Donald Trump because hair and because he’s a brute, to put it very lightly (guess where my vote wouldn’t go if I were American…).

However when it’s someone you perceive to be on the same level (i.e. same grade, same job, same age, same talents, etc.), then all bets are off and we all compare each other. When the other succeeds, it’s personal because in our minds we just think “but that could have been me”. I used to be jealous of my eldest sister (same genes!) because she was slimmer than me. She used to be jealous of me because I had a better foot arch and a better turnout than her (we both danced ballet). My middle sister was jealous of me because I had a bigger butt than her. I was jealous of her because she had more friends. The list goes on.

“That could have been me!” is a constant thought in the back of our minds.

Just like Koreans always ask for your age when you first meet (thereby comparing themselves to you hierarchically), here in North America the first question that always seems to pop up is “What’s your job?” (thereby putting you in a mental social totem in their heads to see whether you’re interesting / relevant to them).

Comparisons drive our world, whether we like it or not.

Just beat it

Jealousy sucks. Negative emotions suck. So how do we find a solution to our jealousy?

Is jealousy good?

I think so. Here’s why:

  • When you feel jealous of someone, it’s a clear indication that there is something missing in your life. You have yet to feel validated.
  • The people you’re jealous of are not your enemies. In fact, they should be added to your network of friends, colleagues, and collaborators. They’re human. Talk to them.
  • We often think that jealousy is showing us the things we can’t and won’t ever have, but it is in fact showing us what we can have. Seeing that Amanda struck a deal with an awesome new client means that there are people out there who want to work with people like you.

Jealousy can be turned into motivation

That’s right. Let’s turn a negative into a positive for once:

  1. Make sense of your jealousy. Say what’s on your mind to the mirror, to your car or to your dog. It doesn’t matter how or who you say it to. What matters is figuring out what your jealousy is telling you you’re missing in your life.
  2. Figure out the reality. Amanda perhaps has a very nice house with a six-figure salary and month-long vacations, yet perhaps her life isn’t as perfect as I think. Perhaps she’s struggling under student debt. Perhaps her marriage is falling apart after years of fertility consultations. Perhaps her salary was earned through sleepless nights and crazy overtime. Find out more about the people and the situations you’re envious of. Their lives are probably not as perfect as you thought.
  3. Figure out your reality. What have you done in your life and what is your current situation? How have you achieved the things you want? Accept and embrace your current limitations: perhaps Amanda’s six-figure salary paired with monstrous overtime and insomnia isn’t quite worth it. You need to put things in perspective: be proud of what you’ve done, your limits and start looking at what you do have.
  4. If after writing down your achievements and your current situation and limits you still feel like you’re missing out on something in your life, write an action plan to get to that happy place you’re looking for. If your goal is to publish a book after spending years writing it, research what needs to be done to do it and get to work on getting it to happen. Nothing in life is spoon-fed to you (except when you are a baby, which you are not – I hope!).