Help with jealousy

fearlessemApril 5, 2011

Hi everyone --

I was hoping that this group might have some words of wisdom or advice for me on dealing with my own jealousy in a professional arena. I don't want to get into the specifics -- and they don't really matter... But I'm wondering -- has anyone here experienced this -- jealousy when fortune seems to smile on the work of others doing things similar to you, but passes you by? Or advice on how to focus on the (metaphorical) wealth you've received when faced with others far wealthier than you? Especially when you are face-to-face with those others every day?

I hate this feeling, and how bitter and small it leaves me. But it just sticks there in my throat, and I'm desperately looking for strategies that will help me cough it out...


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Ok, looking like maybe not... I'll post now so this will move down the list...

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 11:20PM
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No, I get it, I just don't have any true words of wisdom....

This is one of those situations where you can read things, get advice and great quotes and information, but putting those things into practice is the real challenge.

Yes, of course we should count our own blessings and yes, of course we don't know what unseen challenges others are facing or have faced in the past, and yes of course life is cyclical and we will have our ups and our downs. But when you are in the thick of it, it is hard not to feel jealous or bitter, particularly when you are working as hard as you can and the good stuff just isn't coming.

I guess my only real advice is to say it out loud. Either to that person or others - in a nice and honest way. "She is doing amazing work and I really envy her success. I hope one day I have the same success." For some reason, for me, when I say it out loud, it relieves some of the pressure I'm feeling. Jealousy that is hidden feels bitter and bad, when it's out in the open it's more like admiration which is ok and honest.

I'm sorry I can't be more helpful.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 8:06AM
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Well said, AM. I get that feeling from time to time, and frankly, I don't remember how I deal with it. I think I really just push through it, and corny as it sounds, think about the good things that have come my way. Of course, sometimes it's hard to think of those things, and even annoys me to try. But, over time, I get over it and on with just doing the best I can at what I am doing. I have to keep in mind that I can only control what I do. I try to remember that if someone else meets with success, it doesn't change anything for me. Their success doesn't take anything away from me. When I remember that, I can feel happy for them.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:43AM
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I've been thinking about your question. I wanted to respond, but I wasn't sure how to sum my thoughts up in a short paragraph. First, we've all been on both sides of the issue. Jealousy is a part of human emotion. But it doesn't have to be fed. I believe the way to get past it is to look beyond yourself, focus on the greater good, whether it's how your work helps your family, how what you do for your company helps your community of coworkers and customers, or even how your attitude of focusing on helping others can in general make a better world.

I find much inspiration and ideas from the TED organization (Ideas worth spreading). This morning I was watching a short talk on compassion in the workplace. I hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chade-Meng Tan: Everyday compassion at Google

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:47AM
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I think a big part of it, at least for me, was knowing that I am not my job. Sometimes the things that create success for others is beyond our control. Sometimes it's just that they were in the right place at the right time, by chance.

My friend has worked 28 years at the same job, surviving many layoffs because she is so good. Recently the other co-worker who does the same job was awarded a trip for her excellence. My friend was crushed. She works just as hard and does as well if not better. She talked to her manager just to get it off her chest. She felt humiliated because the tacit message seemed to be that the other person was doing a better job.

The manager was appalled and said that she never thought of that. Only one trip was available for her department. How stupid.

Corporate America sucks and I am glad to be out of it. Just have faith in your own value and good things will come your way, although life is not always fair, for sure.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 11:26AM
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I too was waiting while thinking before answering. All the advice is good. I think if I were to say it outloud, if I was feeling good and strong, I'd have to ask it more in a question. "I'm ready to do more/learn something else. Where can I help out?" usually works pretty well. My boss gets the picture that I am ready for more responsibility and something different, so he gives it to me and I get promotions. One thing I learned managing, the person doing the work without "official" recognition is the person to whom I want to give something really great and extra. I hope this makes sense. You're in my thoughts!


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 12:30PM
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Well, first you have to detox yourself from the idea that if you work hard, and do good work, good things will come your way. MAYBE is the operative word there. Good things DO NOT always happen to good people. There's no rhyme or reason to it. Stuff happens. Good work goes unappreciated and sloppy work gets lauded. Ask anyone whose been out in the working world for a long time and they will have a gazillion examples of this. People often get ahead by being means that are less than stellar. That's just the way of the world. The mill of justice grinds slow. ("but steady" is the rest of the quote so remind yourself of that!!)

Next, count your blessings. Write them down on a little card you can pull out if you have to. Meditate on your blessings in times when jealousy is bugging you.

And oddly enough, think about those with real problems. Whenever I feel sorry for myself, (which is jealousy's ugly twin) I think about my friend who is a breast cancer survivor, or my friend who has a son who is severely mentally handicapped, or my friend who may soon loose her family home due to chronic unemployment. Americans are prone to turn away and run away in fear from suffering and sad things in life. They confuse sympathy and empathy for wallowing. But suffering and feeling the pain of others grows compassion in your heart, which can help with lots of emotional issues, such as jealousy.

Focus on your work and the reason your work is important. Try to do something at work that really rings your bell every day. Train yourself to stop comparing yourself to others during the work day. When you're starting to feel jealous, just refocus yourself on what you are doing and why it is important to get it done.

A great book I once read is called "Are You Ready to Succeed: Unconventional Strategies for Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and in Life" by Sikumar Rao. It is basically a mind training program based on some tried and truisms from meditation and Indian philosophies.

And lastly, for the best therapy, maybe try and get involved with something helping those less fortunate. I find that spending time with little kids is a great way to gain some perspective on my life. But helping anyone, seniors, etc. can help greatly to give your life some perspective.

Here is a link that might be useful: Are You Ready to Succeed

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 12:46PM
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I want to thank each of you for your kind and thoughtful comments. I've come back to read them several times today, and have teared up each time, as they feel like they all speak to some true part of this experience.

The saying it out loud was very powerful... And Sally it definitely helped to remember that at least in this instance, their success isn't actually taking anything away from me -- even though it might sometimes feel like it. And lpink's comments about how there is no necessary connection between hard work and success is a painful but important reminder... My work is such that success is often equal measures of luck and skill (or at least 1/3rd luck and 2/3rds skill :-) ) It has been a constant process of trying to value my own effort, rather than focusing on the outcome.

Anyway, I'm feeling a little better at the moment. Fortunately I was able to keep a low profile today, so I wasn't face-to-face with the targets of my envy. Will probably try to do that for the rest of the week if I can, just to give the ego some time to heal.

Thanks again for your thoughtfulness...

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 9:15PM
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I think specifics do matter, and since you left them out, it was difficult for me to respond. There are quite a few specifics that I think would make it easier to understand your situation, and the type of work you are doing is a very prominent one. Rivalry and competition vary greatly from one profession to another - it's drastic in some professions and almost nonexistent on others. The kind of work you are best suited to do is based on your personality, and perhaps there is something that attracts you to a field where competitiveness is very prominent. Also, success can be objective or subjective, depending on the type of work. It's objective if you can put a number on it and subjective if aesthetics are the main consideration (as in my work). That may not have a factor on the jealousy component, but it does make it easier (or more difficult) to quantify.

Here is a short test that you can take to determine what type of work your personality is best suited for. It is also good to remember that most people will not have the same personality type that you have - this test describes 16 different types, and it gives you the idea of diversity among people. I've had people at work fear me because they thought I was trying to take their job when instead I only wanted them to do their job better so that I would NOT have to do it. I have also had people at work tell me specifically that they wanted MY job, and that only made me feel sorry for them.

I furthermore have a feeling that you are probably fairly young and that you will grow out of feelings of jealousy, unless perhaps you are a Scorpio of Aries! In addition to the Briggs Myers test, you could check your astrological profile, which may or may not give you insights into your personality. Jung relied quite a bit on astrology in his personality evaluations, and the Briggs Myers test starts out with Jungian personality types.

I think the main thing to remember is that everyone is different, and what you might see as an important competition, others may see as a trivial game. Everyone's values are different.


    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:49PM
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Lars makes some really important points. Also, I have found that not only are some professions more competitive than others, some work places just seem to be competitive. I've worked in academia and at four different colleges, and it is amazing how much the culture changes from college to college, and even more startling, from department to department. The same can be said for high schools. Teaching biology at one school can be a totally different experience than teaching at another. So some of your jealousy issues may stem from the karma of the workplace, if that kind of statement makes any sense. Measuring yourself against others, even in a competitive situation like sports or sales, is not really a path to ultimate success. I've been in some very competitive situations, and the secret is to focus on the task, focus on doing your best, and try very hard to extinguish your negative thoughts about what might be "toxic" people in your workplace. I once worked at a place where there was a guy purposely trying to make me look bad, (even resorting to spying on me looking for issues he might bring up with management), and there were people there who wanted me OUT. But I survived. I decided that if I was going down, I was going down in a blaze of glory, my way. I did the job the way I wanted to do it, the way I knew it could be done, and I went all out to do it that way. I stopped worrying about pleasing these toxic co-workers, (and one of them was my boss) and focused on working with the enthusiastic, collaborative, positive people around me. And I was ultimately VERY successful. And this strategy has served me well over the years of my career.

Workplace drama is to be avoided at all costs, focus on loving your work, not the people around you. Seek out and spend time with folks who are not toxic for you, who are like minded. I once worked with a woman who was very jealous of me and cut me down incessantly in the workplace. I was very young, this was one of my first jobs, and it really threw me for a loop at first. But then my boyfriend summed her up with these few words, "She's just jealous because you're getting some and she's not!" (He was kidding, sort of, lol!) But then I started to see her antics as just laughable and distracting, and I got back to living my life for myself, there was no pleasing her anyway, I focused on doing my job, and it all worked out in the end. Do not measure yourself by others standards, create your own!!

Also, in the long run, you will find people who are very competitive with others do not get very far in the workplace. They radiate insecurity or their "me, me, me" attitude tends to get boorish after a while, and after working with them once, most folks try to avoid repeating the experience. Don't become one of those people, lol!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 12:06PM
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