It's a dog eat dog world out there, or at least that's what they say. We get it: the economy is terrible, Congress is stuck in an ideological gridlock and the chances of us getting a full-time job are slim, never mind finding a job we actually enjoy. Be prepared young 20somethings, the naysayers are out there and they are coming at you full-force. For every Lena Dunham success story there are hundreds of thousands of 20somethings who are underemployed, living at home and desperately trying to add flavor to their life by instagramming what they had for lunch. Is this you? Have I just caused you to enter into the downward spiral otherwise known as "what the hell am I doing with my life?" For this I apologize, please read on, because like Google once said— it get's better.
I'm here to tell you you're going to be alright. Yes, shocking news isn't it, strange to hear words of encouragement in a sea of voices that want you to panic and fail. How do I know you're going to be alright? Simply put, history tells me so. Contrary to popular belief we are not the first 20somethings to traverse this planet, in fact I have it on good authority that hundreds, thousands, millions and even billions of people have in fact successfully lived through their 20s without imploding from the stress of existence. Yes, I know what you're thinking: they weren't as stressed out as us. You're right, they lived through the dinosaurs, Dark Ages and the Great Depression, but you don't know stress until you, personally are forced to pick an Instagram filter from over ten different options, ten! Of course I'm being facetious, I understand it's not fair to compare the plight of the 20something during the Dark Ages to the modern day 20something. I only meant to say people have lived through their 20s before and so will you. So chin up, Butercup, you're doing alright after all.
Now back to the larger issue at hand. At this point we know we're going to be alright. However the question remains, in an environment of such extreme competition how do we stay happy for others as they achieve success ahead of our own?
I'm guessing you have roughly some idea of what I'm talking about. Whether it be the pang of jealousy rushing over you when you learn your friend is moving to a new city, the impulse to throw your computer out the window every time someone else gets engaged on Facebook or simply your hesitancy to congratulate someone on a job well done, we've all been there, we've all been jealous. Personally, I think every emotion has its time and place, even the "bad" ones. After all without sadness there would be no happiness, without pain no pleasure, and so on and so forth. Jealousy is the same, an emotion meant to move us forward, to keep us from getting too complacent. And yet left unchecked jealousy is perhaps the most wicked of our emotions, causing us to forget who we are in the face of someone else's success.
No doubt our personal struggles with jealousy have been different. For me I find it hard to be happy for friends who are in relationships as I've never experienced a serious one myself. Every new boyfriend or girlfriend feels like a personal stab to the heart, and when I let it get to me my jealousy brings me down faster than an anchor cast to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. I start to question who I am, whether I'm enough or should be doing something to change. Then after eating up my confidence jealousy quickly turns to bitterness, projecting out of me like rainwater from a storm drain. This is me at my worst, helpful to no one and hurtful to others.
At some point in time we all experience jealousy, it's natural enough. However it's important that we learn to to be happy for others and their successes, using our envy to propel us forward instead of drag us down.
"Anybody can sympathise with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathise with a friend's success." — Oscar Wilde
Here are my three tips for being happy for others, even when things aren't going your way.
1. Put yourself in their shoes.
Think of all the hard work, long hours and failures your friend or colleague experienced before reaching their current success. It's easy to view the success of others as unwarranted or out of the blue simply because we weren't there for the backstory. Picturing yourself in someone else's shoes will help you appreciate just how special achieving success truly is.
2. Practice gratitude.
Perhaps the single most successful way to achieve happiness in your life is to constantly practice gratitude. Be thankful for the life you are living now, not the one you lived in the past or hope to live in the future. This will help contribute to your overall well-being and act as a natural shield between you and envy. It's hard to focus on jealousy when you are grateful everything in your own life.
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude."— Ralph Waldo Emerson
3. Don't compare.Finally the thing we all know yet find so hard to accept: comparing yourself to others will never make you happy. We are not meant to be anyone other than who we are and in comparing ourselves to others we lose our unique qualities. So don't worry if you're not moving along at the same pace as your friends and colleagues. Each of us has a different story to tell, a different goal to reach and inevitably a different path to take. Take pride in your life, it's yours to live.