Sometimes I observe my own behaviour and feel embarrassed. Does that ever happen to you? I catch myself thinking, saying or doing something, and it’s as if a little angel jumps onto my shoulder and says, “Really Stuart? Is that how you’re going to show up today?” This happened to me on two separate occasions over the past week, and both were rooted in jealousy. Luckily for me, one big advantage of working in the self development industry is that it equips me with the tools to quickly identify my blindspots before they make me blind. Thankfully, those tools were put to good use over the past seven days.
The first moment of jealousy happened when I received a newsletter from someone within my network who recently achieved a major milestone in their business. I felt jealous knowing this person had hit this milestone at an age that was much sooner than I had in my own entrepreneurial career. Unhelpful thoughts of, “It’s not fair,” or “Why wasn’t I given those opportunities in life”, and “I wish I was that lucky” all came to the surface. The second bout of jealousy happened when I saw an advertisement for a comedian who had sold out a big theatre over multiple nights, and deep down I knew I wanted the same success.
This is exactly what jealousy does. It’s a beacon that directs our attention to what our heart truly desires. You might feel it when you see a two people in love holding hands, someone driving a nice car or a friend posting pictures of their recent vacation. It’s the inner voice that pops up saying, “I want more of that in my life”. There is nothing wrong with jealousy in that it serves a useful purpose. It only becomes a problem when it causes you to act in ways that aren’t aligned with your higher self.
For myself, before that happens, I turn to one of my most trusted tools, which is meditation. To counter the negative feelings within me, I closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and sent those I’m jealous of as much love as I possibly could. While doing so, I imagined all the struggles that person must have overcome in order to reach that level of success. Doing that quickly moved me away from feeling jealous, and toward a genuine sense of happiness for those people. It’s not easy, but the process works.
So, at this point of the blog, you probably think my message is about helping you overcome your own jealousy. Well, it’s not! However, if you stick with me, I’ll try to use what you have read thus far as a foundation for us to leap toward something even bigger than overcoming jealousy. You see, when I observe parts of myself that are a little ugly, or that I’m not proud of, my response is to look for ways to improve. For the record, my list of needed improvements is still very long, and I’ve accepted that I most likely won’t check them all off in this lifetime. In fact, the journey I’ve taken to achieving that very acceptance used to be one of the items on my list. Check!
At the age of 20, I bought a book that led me down a path of constantly looking for ways to become a better version of myself. From there, I was inspired to read as much as I could on the topic. But let’s face it, not everyone has chosen to take this path in life. It’s for that reason some people choose to handle their shit, while others don't. For this same reason, some people are riddled with jealousy to the point of it having detrimental effects on their life, while for others it’s a passing feeling of negativity that they are able to turn into something positive.
Now, if you can understand that concept, you can understand most psychological challenges people face in life, and how they choose to deal with it. For example, some people convert the lack of love they received as a child into an outpouring of love for others as an adult. Conversely, other people use the same lack of love in their own childhood as a reason to not trust people today. Some people grew up poor, and for that reason won’t treat themselves to nicer material items today, while others who grew up in the same neighbourhoods experience the joy of giving money away knowing they can survive without it. Some people let past failure stop them from trying, while others use it as motivation to try harder.
Would you look at that? It looks like Stuart is inching toward the ultimate point of his blog! I most certainly am my friend! Here we go! People are who they are today because of their past. As well, people are who they are today based on the way they have interpreted their past. The past can be a complicated mess of hundreds of interactions, missteps, good days, bad days, wins and losses, ups and downs and voila, a person becomes who they are. While I do acknowledge that people are all born with certain prescribed tendencies, I believe most of our behaviour is rooted in choice.
Sadly, who some people have chosen to become drives you bat shit crazy! These people are often describes as being difficult or guarded. They might be unable to apologize for their mistakes, own up to their poor choice of communication or lack the ability to drop their narcissism. They might be rude, brash, overbearing, judgemental, vindictive, inconsiderate, selfish or plain old mean. And guess what? They can’t change. Well, they can, but until they choose to, they can’t be anything other than who they are at this point in their life.
It has taken me a long time to learn that lesson, and for that reason I encourage you to embrace something I am trying to do more of as I move into the year 2024, which is to accept people for who they are. It doesn’t mean you forgive them, or excuse their behaviour. It means you accept that, as of right now, that person simply can’t be any other version of themselves. Think of it this way. Would it bother you if you sat a five year old child down at the piano and they couldn’t play Beethoven’s fifth symphony? Would you be upset at yourself if you were unable to speak a new language fluently after one day of study? Of course not! That would be ludicrous. And today, I am here to tell you that it’s equally as ludicrous to expect certain people in your life to be something they simply can’t be. At least until the time comes that they choose to change, which by the way, may never happen. For most people, it probably won’t happen, and again that’s something you and I need to accept.
Throughout my entire life I’ve been plagued by the feelings of frustration over people I love not living up to their potential. Looking back, there are countless times I can see myself screaming from the stands, “I know growing into a better version of yourself is hard work, but I’ve done it myself and it’s so worth it in the end!” Over and over again, those people have looked over at me jumping around with my pom poms, while their own hands cover their ears. And each time when that person was unwilling to change, I have allowed myself to wallow in despair over the relationship we could have had.
Well, at the age of 50 years old, I have decided to jump into yet another painful, yet worthwhile, experience of growth. This growth will require me to no longer encourage certain people in my life to change, but rather to accept that it is something they simply cannot do. Should they ask for my opinion, I will be thrilled to offer help, but until then I need to sit back and be quiet. To be sure, there will be knee jerk moments where I slip into my old self and pull out my pom poms, but I will do everything in my power to remember the commitment I made to accept things as they are. I won’t stop holding onto hope that those people may choose to lead a different life in the future, but in the meantime I will no longer hold onto the negativity while I wait.
The only person you can change is you. I hope that 2024 gives you many opportunities to do just that.