I landed an internship in the acquisitions department of a museum — which is awesome, because I’m a painter and photographer, so it feels like a great fit.
I was feeling really proud of myself… until I went out for coffee to catch up with a friend from art school.
My friend has done SO much in the year since we graduated. She’s had her own gallery exhibition… got featured in a magazine… and somehow, she’s making enough money selling her artwork to get by (she doesn’t have a “regular job” on the side.)
I’m happy for her, but honestly… now I’m feeling pretty bad about myself.
It feels like she’s so much farther along than me, even though we received the exact same training, and arguably, had the same opportunities.
Now I’m questioning everything — my talent as an artist, my career choices, even this internship that I thought was a good move.
I don’t know if I need “advice” or just a pep talk.
But I could definitely use some help.
Not So Proud Anymore
Dear Not So Proud:
Mark Twain once said that “comparison is the death of joy.”
There will always be someone who is farther along than you, and there will always be someone who is lagging behind you.
Obsessing about how you ”measure up” to others is never healthy… and ultimately, totally pointless!
Instead of feeling depressed and doubtful, try to get inspired by people you admire. Study what your friends, peers and heroes have done successfully, so that you can choose your next move more effectively.
The following practices can help you turn those negative feelings around, and help you to stay focused on your path — not somebody else’s.
: Look at “jealousy” as a positive emotion, not a negative one.
If you look at the history of the word “jealousy,” it actually stems from a word that means “enthusiastic longing.” How beautiful!
Try to reframe “jealousy” as a positive emotion — like desire, excitement or enthusiasm. (My friend Alex has some terrific insights on how to do this.)
For starters, you can say to yourself:
“It’s incredible that so-and-so has achieved such-and-such. If I’m being honest with myself, I want what they have, too. And now? I’ve seen first hand that it’s possible. I’m going to figure out how to create it for myself.”
When you say these kinds of words to yourself, then “jealousy” can become a source of fuel that moves you forward… instead of a heavy, unpleasant weight that holds you back.
: Operate from a place of sufficiency, not scarcity.
If you are constantly telling yourself, “I don’t have enough time, money, prestige, love, etc…” then it’s pretty difficult to stay motivated or do anything productive!
You’ve got to change the conversation inside your mind from one of “scarcity” into one of “sufficiency.”
Lynne Twist, a philanthropist and money expert, talks about the notion of “enough-ness” in her book The Soul of Money. Lynne believes that when you replace feelings of “lack” with feelings of “sufficiency,” it frees up huge amounts of time and energy to generate everything you want and need.
: Count your blessings. Be grateful.
One of the biggest reasons why we envy other people’s lives is because we tend to take our own blessings for granted. Count them again.
You are talented. You are gifted. You are cared for. You are unique. You are blessed with an internship in a museum, which allows you to contribute to your community in a meaningful way. You want to be an artist — you are very much on your path!
As Friar Lawrence says in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, “There art thou happy: A pack of blessings light upon thy back!”
You have countless reasons to be grateful for the life you have been given — and for the life you are creating. Remind yourself again.
: Concentrate on your strengths. Celebrate your progress.
If you are going to compare yourself to anyone, it should be yourself.
What are you doing today that you couldn’t have done five, three or even one year ago?
What are your “wins” this year, compared to last year at this time?
How has your life improved? How have you improved?
What have you done recently that you never thought you could do?
In other words: how have you continued to become a new and improved version of yourself?
If you focus on your own progress, rather than comparing yourself to other people, it’s much easier to stay positive and keep taking strides forward.
: Be generous. Every day.
If you want to be successful in any field, you must create a reputation as someone with a generous spirit. Make generosity an essential habit in your life.
Give your time. Share your ideas. Contribute your abilities, talents and skills. Volunteer in your community. Support a cause that you believe in. Reach out to someone just to say “hello” and offer a resource or a piece of advice, with no “hidden agenda” or “strings attached.”
You do not have to give “everything” away. You still need to earn a living, of course. But every day, look for opportunities to be just a little bit more generous than is strictly necessary.
People will take notice. They will start to perceive you as someone exceptional — someone with tremendous value to offer. This will transform your career, leading to invitations and opportunities that you never expected…
Being generous isn’t just a good way to build a positive reputation amongst your peers and colleagues, though. It’s also good for the soul.
As John Holmes writes: “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.”
We all slip into a state of envy now and then…
… but instead of letting negative feelings suck up your energy, reframe the story. Change the conversation inside your mind. Practice gratitude. Practice generosity. Use “jealousy” as a positive tool to fuel you towards your dreams.
Now, get out there and be the best intern that museum has ever seen.
Celebrate your friend’s success, celebrate yourself and trust that both of you are moving down your unique paths… living your unique stories.
I can’t wait to hear about the next chapter of your story.
The only person who gets to write it… is you.
Image: Willie Franklin