Thievery and Joy
Want to know what words drive me up the wall? ‘But moooom, so and so has (insert device/toy/clothing item here) and I dooooon’t…’ (Of course, to truly see me cringe, you’d have to utter said words with that whiny, naggy voice that only one’s own children can achieve.) Some people are less able to see how green their own pastures are because they are blinded by their attention to the other side of the fence. Or wall. Or whatever. Some people just can’t see what glories they have for themselves because they only see – and want – that which others have. Envy, my friends, is the foe of happiness. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” C’mon, friends, let’s figure out how to poke that darn thief in the eye!
What to do when that jealousy bug bites? Simply, don’t ogle and jones for what the Joneses have. Besides that, focus on this: developing your own ability to stop the green-eyed monster will give your kids a better example of how to behave, and perhaps this might turn into an example of Monkey-see-monkey-do and they’ll mimic your good example instead of whipping out that whiny tone. It’s worth a try, I’d say.
Try these tricks:
Try not to Facebook. If you can’t help it, remember that ‘Facebook lives’ are not necessarily a true snapshot of what’s ACTUALLY going on with your friends. Instead of focusing on how great you think their lives might be – or how great the pictures are making their lives seem - think about one of your own greatest moments. Just how great is it that you publish an article, gave a great speech (in a language other than your mother tongue), or your (insert amazing personal achievement here). Guys, you’re amazing. There is no need to kvetch about what isn’t; focus on what IS. And leave the Facebook posts to be the few seconds of enjoyment they provide.
Give yourself (and your kids) a reality check. Are your kids wingeing about how great their friends are at soccer, or the new toy they got for the past holiday, or the great math grade everyone else got? Now ask them: ‘Couldn’t YOU have all of that too? Maybe with a little more practice/money saving/studying?’ Outside surgical enhancements to improve physical structures, most things can be enhanced through hard work, right? Helping your kid achieve a good work ethic is a win-win, if you ask me, and if dangling a carrot or two in front of them as an incentive helps to keep them motivated, then go for it. We all know how it is to work for a goal, and how great it is to achieve it. It could be scoring three goals in community soccer or saving allowance and babysitting money for an ipad. These are attainable goals, especially if you can help them break down the Biggie into smaller goals to line the way. What we are envious of often signals an unmet need or desire. So instead of staying in the space of comparison and jealousy, move to a place of possibility. Allow yourself/your child to think of ways to get what they are envious of. It IS possible, especially if we change the way we think about it.
Lastly, I have some big news for you. Ready? The truth is, there are people out there comparing themselves to you right now. You're someone else's inspiration and motivation. Isn't that an incredible feeling? Relish that, and then pay it forward. If another person mentions something you have or have earned with a twinge of envy, why not help them see how they might attain it for themselves, too.
Be careful. Don't look down on people and get excited at how poorly things are going for them or about how much "better" you are. Think about ways you can reach out and give them a boost. Do NOT allow yourself or your kids to take joy in seeing others fail. Instead, focus on how great it feels to give them a boost, and help another attain their own goals. Appreciate where you are, and what you have. Teach your kids to do the same. Being happy in the now will help you appreciate when you can move forward. And it will also help keep that green-eyed monster at bay.