One of my favorite newsletters is from Brian Johnson of Optimize. In two of his recent newsletters, he talked about soul ulcers–referring to envy being the ulcer of the soul.
The phrase “soul ulcers” stuck in my mind—along with the “+1” message that comes with his email, and I’d like to share it with you today.
Tell me if this sounds familiar to you: you hear about a colleague getting a promotion; a close friend getting engaged; a relative buying a brand new car you’ve been coveting.
What’s your first reaction? Envy? A sense of why-not-me? A wee bit of self-pity? A feeling that life is unfair because someone you know got what you wanted?
Of course, ideally, you should rejoice in their success. But be honest and admit that there are times when it is a little hard to be happy for others. There are times when we even feel righteous about holding back from feeling happy for others simply because we feel that—well—life has been unfair to us.
It is not uncommon to feel threatened by others’ success and believe that other people’s success, especially when one’s on the same level, with similar goals. It is absolutely annoying to see that a classmate who graduated with you lands a fabulous job while you are struggling to find employment. Especially so when you thought they were not quite ready for it. It feels like they robbed you of your dream.
And thus the soul ulcers develop.
Truth—as hard as it is to take in—is that other people’s success does not undermine your own. Being competitive is healthy to an extent, but not to the point of becoming a flood of jealousy. Just because others are successful does not make us a failure. Why feel insecure or allow your self-esteem to be affected by what others are doing?
That’s why envy is the ulcer of the soul. (Thank you, Socrates!)
Envy is definitely toxic and has no place in our well-being.
What if we practiced celebrating other people’s successes?
In this day when social media practically rules our lives and FOMO is a real thing, how about cutting down on social media screen time and replacing it with some soul media no screen time?
Envy is the art of counting another’s blessings instead of your own.
In his book Company of One, Paul Jarvis writes,
“When we give in to envious feelings, the best we can hope for is second best, since we’re focusing on copying someone else’s path and not forging our own.
Envy is also based on false comparison, like comparing uncooked ingredients to a delicious baked pie. Envying others, we see only the end result or the final product—the delicious dessert. But in ourselves, we see all the not-so-tasty starting ingredients and are aware of all the real work required to combine them into a successful end product.
We too often compare our sometimes messy selves to only the best and shiniest parts of others and come up short. Remember, every business has not only its successes but its failures.”
Paul also mentions that in the ancient Pali language from India, there’s a word “mudita” that means “to cultivate appreciative joy at the success and good fortune of others”.
So the next time you feel the green-eyed monster raising its head, why not practice some mudita?
Why not heal your soul ulcers?
It’s true that comparison is the thief of joy. But if you feel compelled to compare yourself with others, at least do a proper comparison.
Don’t compare your imperfect process with someone else’s supposedly perfect outcome.
Here’s something to think about:
Today, focus on seeing the goodness in others.
Celebrate their success.
If your colleague is doing a great job, tell her.
If a friend is working hard on something, congratulate her.
If your partner is aiming to accomplish a goal, celebrate their success.
See how great you feel!
If you are interested in Paul Jarvis’ book, here it is.
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Wednesday Wisdom is a series with short bursts of easy-to-consume wisdom in the form of stories, quotes, anecdotes, reflections, easy meditation, thought-provoking questions and humor.