Dealing with Jealousy: Covet Not Thy Neighbor’s Awesome Stuff

I’ve been reading a book on the side lately which was recommended by a professional acquaintance of mine. She mentioned it as a potential aid in my search for gainful employment. Unlike most books I’ve read in the past that deal with such matters, this one focuses not on improving your weaknesses but fully developing your strengths. The main idea is that by developing your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses, you will become a far more valuable asset to your company by excelling at something, rather than being an all around average individual.

While this idea is indeed stimulating and bears further consideration, it has led me to consider another side to this exercise: dealing with jealousy.

The word “jealous” often leads the mind’s eye down the path of the spurned lover, or a latent distrust of ones partner, but this scenario isn’t the one to which I refer. Instead, I’ll simplify the term itself. According to Google (the definitive source of all knowledge for my generation and those to come, like it or not), jealous is defined as “Feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements or advantages”. Even more simplified, “He has that but I don’t. Damn.”

Jealousy is something I’ve struggled with for most of my life. I always wanted one thing or another that I didn’t have, the subject of my envy changing as I grew: the latest Power Ranger toys, more friends, a car, a girl, a better degree, a job, etc..

A constant desire in my life was more talent in areas I found myself lacking. Some days I wished I had the physical prowess of a star athlete, or the musical talent of Travis Barker (still an ongoing jealousy, by the way), or a degree in bioengineering so I could be on the forefront of human progress and knowledge. Regardless, it was always something I didn’t have. Now, I am the first to admit I have led a charmed life. I was born and lived healthy, financially supported by my parents until I was old enough to start earning my own living (and a bit longer, let’s be honest), and I’ve had true and wonderful friends. Despite all of these joys, I found things to covet.

What I’ve come to realize in the past few years is that the old saying “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” has endured for a reason: it’s 100% accurate. You will always want what you don’t have. It’s why people gamble, it’s why people risk healthy happy marriages for affairs, it’s why so many people have feelings of inadequacy in their lives – what we have is rarely enough to satisfy us.

Example time – Cam Newton is an incredible quarterback and all around athletic beast (Auburn misses you ol’ chap). I could waste years of my life trying to be half as good as he is naturally. Ok…but I write well. It’s a skill I’ve developed over a lifetime of writing and four years of college devoted to exactly this skill, and I plan on spending the rest of my life getting better. I will bet my meager life’s savings that Cam Newton can’t write half as well as I can.

I am happy and proud of my talents, though it is still difficult at times not to envy someone’s success. I look at a famous heart surgeon and wish I could save people’s lives that way (the huge paycheck is also appealing). However, I could look at it another way. That doctor can only save so many people, as many people as he can see in a day. In most cases, those people have to pay thousands of dollars for his work, for their lives to be saved.

I, on the other hand, might write something that is passed around the entire globe and reaches millions of people, inspiring them to change their lives for the better, or make them appreciate something they didn’t before. On a smaller scale, I may write something someday that speaks to a kid who’s had a very hard life and was considering suicide. He may change his mind because of me. He may decide he’s actually a pretty cool guy, and go on to invent the cure for ignorance in politicians. All this, for the cost of a paperback. In the end, who has the greater talent – the surgeon, or I? Hard to say really, as both are valuable skills that help people. However, my talent is mine, and I’m proud of it.

2 Responses to “Dealing with Jealousy: Covet Not Thy Neighbor’s Awesome Stuff”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Another very insightful and profound piece of writing, Ken. You continue to make us proud!

  2. daevski says:

    I find myself content at the end of this piece. More people should exude (defined: discharge slowly and steadily) this wisdom!

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