Sometimes, it can feel pretty terrible when another has accomplished something we have always wanted for ourselves.
It’s okay to admit this.
They may have landed the job we had wanted, begun dating the person we desired, or won the promotion or recognition we worked so hard to get. Or, somehow, it just feels as if everything we had set our sights upon has been gobbled up by another.
It can feel like a punch in the gut—from the inside.
It’s common for people to label the feeling of not being happy for someone else’s success as jealousy. But for a lot of us, the discomfort feels more like disappointment, defeat, exhaustion, or despair rather than jealous sentiments.
We feel forgotten or like there’s nothing left for us.
I’d always believed that “some guys had all the luck” and everything they touched turned to gold. I believed that those who weren’t as fortunate had to make the best of the leftovers—make lemonade from lemons.
This is why when my spiritual teacher announced in class one evening that “one person’s success is all our successes,” I wasn’t convinced.
I jotted down a big question mark in black marker next to her words in my pink spiral notebook. I wondered how she expected us to take pride in or credit for something someone else had accomplished.
I felt it was their shining moment, not mine.
I believed that I could be in awe of another’s success, and applaud it too, but only as an outsider like a fan or a spectator. I had never felt successful or invigorated in the ways she described.
For me, it was hard to feel positive about someone else’s achievements when I struggled with my emotions and circumstances.
I couldn’t comprehend how someone achieving their dream of running a successful fashion design business or accumulating massive wealth had any relevance to me. Instead of feeling inspired as she said, I often felt disheartened because I hadn’t been able to achieve my dreams.
Still, my teacher continued about how their success inspired us to recognize our own individual talents. She believed that seeing others succeed could help us realize the unique strengths and exceptional gifts that we possess within ourselves.
I came to the realization that my belief in being separate from others is what prevented me from understanding the bigger picture. I failed to recognize myself as a member of a collective or as an essential part of the whole.
As children, we learn the words “me,” “my,” “mine,” and “I,” and the idea of self becomes instilled in us, and so we embark on a path of individualism and division. As we progress in our social development, we tend to continue to segregate ourselves into smaller and smaller groups based on gender, race, religion, sexual preference, social class, and more.
We separate ourselves from the larger community, conforming to social constructs and moving away from the oneness that exists all around us—the same energy that makes the stars and the trees.
Our belief in our separatism tells us there’s only one winner and limited opportunities for success. It has us believe that doors are already closed, so we give up on our potential.
However, before we learned about the idea of self, we already understood that we are essential components of the greater whole and that possibilities are endless—joy and success are abundant.
This profound understanding is evident in the gaze of every child.
Years ago, I had a friend who admired my nature photographs and the editing I’d done. She asked if I would send my photos to her. I was glad to do so, especially if they made her happy.
A few days later, I saw she had put them on her social media account as her own. Initially, I was upset and felt violated. Later, though, I realized that my friend was operating as if talent, beauty, and even love were scarce commodities and not universally available.
She hadn’t taken into account the extent of our interconnectedness or the impact our positive actions and thoughts can have on each other like a chain reaction.
Most of us carry the same belief system ingrained within us: success and happiness are only available for the lucky and the few.
At the time, my friend and I didn’t understand that recognizing the artistry in my photographs meant that she had a similar capability and could produce equally lovely photographs on her own.
Gradually, I decided to embrace a holistic perspective in my life and release the influence of my upbringing.
I discovered that by embracing the notion that someone else’s creative work could showcase my abilities, I resonated with the positive emotions of their works like love, craftsmanship, sensibility, and appreciation that had come with their achievement.
I shared in others’ success in a way I never knew I could. Inside, it felt as if I was listening to my favorite song on the most clear, crisp sound system.
Surprisingly, I discovered that I possessed similar passions and abilities. They had always been within me but were lying dormant.
I picked up a box of colored pencils and a sketch pad one afternoon. I drew dresses and clothing as if I had been sketching apparel for some time.
My grandmother was a seamstress and fashion designer and I watched her draw as a child. Yet, I remember it was determined when I was nine years old that I didn’t inherit her talent and I never drew again.
Although I’m not particularly interested in pursuing a career as a fashion designer, it’s a hobby I enjoy now and find to be a great way to express my creativity.
We aren’t going to pick up every new skill like a master, but if we can hone in on the qualities of another’s brilliance and let them resonate with us, we may find hidden gifts, become deeply inspired, and experience boundless joy too.
We only need to remember that despite our unique identities, we are all connected—we are one—and were never forgotten.
Like a young child, we can open ourselves up to the wonder and infinite potential of the world and know with certainty that we truly are a part of it all.