In a highly competitive environment, we tend to struggle with self-esteem. We compare ourselves to one another, fostering resentment and discontent in the process. And so, we live out our lives hoping to become better than our neighbors: smarter, better looking, and definitely more successful. As long as our lives entail chronic dissatisfaction, moments of potential joy pass us by, without our being able to take advantage of them.
So, I’ve created a thought experiment in an attempt to help others begin to examine their jealousy of their neighbors, to ask themselves what it is they really want. Let’s begin. Since we’re starting from a point of competition and comparison, I’m going to assume that as there re others to negatively compare oneself to, then she/he won’t be happy; this means that if you’re beautiful, you have to be the most beautiful, and if you’re smart, you have to be the smartest. I know you may be thinking, “I’m not like that. I’m okay with just being beautiful and smart, and don’t need to be the best.” The problem with that line of thinking is that once we achieve certain goals, if we’re competitive, we tend to up the ante. “I have a master’s degree, now I need a Ph. D.” “I have the breast size I wanted, now I want a bigger butt.” “I have big arms, now I want strong shoulders.” So, as long as there are others who have, and do, more, we need to have and/or do more as well. Good enough isn’t relevant in a competitive environment.
Now, imagine that you are completely self-actualized in terms of not only your own potential, but of human potential. Imagine that you are the most beautiful, the smartest, the most successful, the most courageous, the most articulate, and the kindest person who’s ever lived. There you are, the best of the best, achieving a level of success that has never been achieved before; you have it all. Now, what do you do? Where does life go from here? And, how does someone with everything live? Do you have friends or are others intimidated and/or jealous of you? Do you have a spouse or are potential partners afraid of dating you, for fears of inadequacy and/or cheating? Do others enjoy being around you or do they feel inferior, not kind, beautiful, or smart enough in your presence? Is life full of joy and excitement or one of isolation? Are you content or are you bored? What is there to achieve for someone who’s fully actualized? Do you get another Ph D? Do you try to enter a new field and become an instant success there as well? Do you drive others away by being even more knowledgeable than you already were?
Ask yourself these questions. I would love to hear your answers in the comments section below.
If accomplishment is needed to be content, no accomplishment is enough.
Similarly, envy, once you’re caught in it, is interminable. I once started but never finished a short fictional story on this theme. It’s a rich one.
Nice writing, Leon.
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As John Candy noted in Cool Runnings, “If you aren’t enough without a gold medal, you’ll never be enough with one.” Thank you for reading.