“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else” – Booker T. Washington
Sometimes I get intimidated by my friends.
I am surrounded by so many absolutely wonderful people that it can be easy to compare myself to them and come out feeling inadequate. My friends are amazing musicians, activists, artists, doctors, writers, teachers, and so on and so on. There are so many beautiful and talented people in my life – sometimes I convince myself that I am the only one who is not working hard enough, who doesn’t speak enough languages, who is not making enough money. I have a habit of not giving myself enough credit for the awesome things I do and I’m guessing many of you do, too!
Fortunately, this feeling doesn’t usually last long because I realized a long time ago that, if I am surrounded by all these stellar individuals, then that must mean I am pretty stellar myself. I also realized that life is a lot more fun when I allow the excellence of others to inspire and encourage me rather than letting it make me feel inferior.
Unfortunately, many of us forget this fact and go through life thinking it is a competition. We think that we have to prove we are better than those around us, both strangers and loved ones, in order to receive love and recognition. Not only is this not true, this mindset can leave us feeling isolated and more alone than we were in the first place.
Find your own worth
We do not lift ourselves up and make ourselves more deserving by putting others down or by finding faults in them. Sadly, this is a common go-to strategy to make ourselves feel better. For many of us, judgements have become automatic and we are constantly looking for ways that we are either better (or worse) than those we interact with. We learn to keep score and we hope that this will lead us to a greater sense of worth (or else we use the score to remind ourselves that we are worthless and don’t deserve love). Even when we don’t say these thoughts out loud or share them with other people, we are often thinking them and constantly comparing ourselves to others.
Deep down, though, this false sense of superiority based on putting others down doesn’t last. When we use judgements of others to make ourselves feel better, it’s like spiritual junk food. It might feel good at the time and give us a temporary high, but it won’t be long before the craving for approval sets in again and we need another fix. And over time, this junk food judgement diet has all sorts of negative effects on our body and mind.
You have your own individual worth regardless of how great or how terrible the people around you appear to be. Your value as a human being does not go up or down depending on who you happen to be around at the time. In addition, you are not more or less worthy than others, we are all equally worthy – worthy of love, of respect, of connection, of a decent and happy life. This means that everyone around you is just as deserving of all these things too.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone on Earth deserves YOUR time and energy. Sometimes people treat us badly or bring us down and it is ok to cut those people out. I am surrounded by wonderful people because I intentionally keep people in my life who are hard-working, compassionate, creative, and kind. I am a good friend and I appreciate people who reciprocate the effort I put into our friendships. I recognize that I do not have to stay friends with every person I meet and have let go of plenty of friendships and relationships over the years.
But that doesn’t mean that those people have more or less worth as a human being than I do or that they don’t deserve to be happy.
The point here is that the path to feeling happy and fulfilled does not come from bringing others down, it comes from doing your own personal work to lift yourself up! And one way you can create your own self worth is by recognizing all the awesomeness around you and celebrating it rather than being afraid of it. Someone who is full of confidence and love for themselves doesn’t need to prove that they are better than others – they delight in the excellence of others while exhibiting their own excellence at the same time.
Don’t waste your time on fear
So, if we all have equal worth as human beings, why is it so frustrating when someone gets recognition and we don’t? Why is it so hard to see a friend achieve something that we want but don’t yet have? Why do we feel intimidated when we are hanging out with someone who is more attractive than we are and gets way more attention? Somewhere inside of us is a deep-seated fear that we are actually not worthy of love, a fear that we don’t deserve to be happy, a fear that all those mean things our ego tries to convince us of are true.
Because of those fears, we turn to judgement as a way to elevate ourselves above the rest. If we can point at how others are bad, or wrong, or ugly, or stupid, or mean, then that makes us a better person, right? Well, no actually, it doesn’t. Even if we feel that someone got something they didn’t deserve, what good does it do us to spend time being angry or judgemental? Stewing over it isn’t going to change the fact that it happened and it also isn’t going to help us feel any better about ourselves in the long run.
It can be hard to celebrate a friend who beat us in a competition. It can be heartbreaking to smile at someone’s wedding when you just got dumped. And it can be maddening to try to be happy for your partner who just got a big promotion when you just got fired. But that’s only because it feels like someone else’s success means we are a failure. These things feel shitty because we are comparing ourselves to them, rather than seeing that wonderful things can happen to the people we love without making our own lives any less meaningful, even when we are going through a rough time.
Turn your jealousy around
So what do you do when you are having a hard time being happy for someone else or delighting in their own excellence? What do you do when you feel really intimidated by someone who you see as way more amazing than yourself?
The more you build up your own sense of self-worth and compare yourself less, the more you will be able to celebrate and be happy for others without worrying that it diminishes you in any way. When you see that someone has accomplished something great, or you just notice a trait in someone that you really admire, instead of letting your jealousy or judgement take over, take a moment to share honestly with that person what you think is amazing about them. It only takes a few words to make someone really feel great, yet so often we don’t take the time to share what we are thinking. You will probably find that using your energy to brighten someone else’s day is a lot more rewarding than using for judgement or comparison.
Plus, if there is jealousy there, it is probably because you see something in that person that you wish you had, so why not turn it into something positive? It could even be an opportunity to learn from that person, to find out what they did that got them to where they are. Turn that jealousy around and use it as inspiration, as a way to reflect on your own life and figure out what steps you could take to get to where you want to be.
One of the best ways to get what you want is to find people who are already doing what you want to be doing and learn from them! So having this person in your life can be a total blessing and by celebrating their successes and lifting them up, you have a chance to lift yourself up as well.
Alternatively, it may be that whatever this person has that is so great is their own unique gift and you need to take time to discover what you have to offer that is unique. Maybe what they have isn’t what you want at all! We all have something different to share with the world and we are all on our own path. It is important to remember that what works for one person might not work for us, and that is ok. We can be excited for those around us without necessarily wanting the same things for ourselves.
To sum it all up…
The important thing to remember is that we shine brightest when we focus on bringing ourselves up rather than trying to break others down. Judgement and comparison are counterproductive and are more likely to do damage to our self-esteem than to improve it.
I mean, who really wants to live their life as an angry, bitter, vindictive person? Wouldn’t you rather spend your time finding ways to learn from those around you and becoming the best version of yourself you can, instead of trying to prove that you are better than everyone else?
So, who in your life intimidates you the most and how can you turn that into inspiration? Who in your life is doing things that YOU want to be doing and how can you learn from them while utilizing your own unique skills and knowledge to create your own path?