Jealousy and envy have no place in your career — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines jealousy and envy thusly…

jeal·ou·sy noun \ˈje-lə-sē\
: an unhappy or angry feeling of wanting to have what someone else has
: an unhappy or angry feeling caused by the belief that someone you love (such as your husband or wife) likes or is liked by someone else

en·vy noun \ˈen-vē\
: the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has
: someone or something that causes envy

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It is a rare person who has never suffered from jealousy and/or envy in their life and career. Both of these emotions are simply part of the — all too fragile — human condition. There are many times in our lives when we want what others have and are deeply jealous that they have it. Jealousy and envy can be greatly damaging to your career, though, and lead you to take actions you might not imagine otherwise. They can cause you to be petty, mean, controlling, and outright aggressive towards others if you feel your self-worth is threatened deeply enough. The perverse nature of jealousy and envy, though, is that it matters little in life what others have. Except in the most extreme cases, your accomplishments and your success are your own to control. Life is not a zero-sum game where everything someone else gains, you lose. We all gain and lose on our own merits, our own timeline and our own wants, needs and desires.

Often, in my own life and in the stories I hear from others, jealousy and envy most often raise their head when someone — who we may consider unworthy — gains something we, ourselves, wish. We find ourselves checking off every negative reason why they shouldn’t have got the job, the money, the project, the publishing deal, whatever. Of course, it matters little what they deserve to get. They have achieved something regardless.

Instead of focusing on the other person, each time we feel jealousy and envy we need to look to ourselves, our actions and our own motivations. These are truly the only items under our direct control and feeling jealousy and envy towards another only effects us, not the other person. I know that for myself, when I examine my jealousy closely, I easily see that the other person has often engaged in behavior or actions that I either couldn’t or don’t want to do. Perhaps they invested the time and energy to get an advanced degree. Maybe they spent hours and days cultivating relationships with people that I don’t care to know or engage with. In some cases, they may have engaged in constant, self-aggrandizing behaviors that I find tiresome or distasteful.

It matters little what they do, though. I can hardly be jealous of someone if I am unable or unwilling to take the same actions and put in the same effort as they did. I may not like their actions. I may disagree with their motivations, but I cannot deny their results. Neither can I feel jealous of them. They accomplished what they did by direct effect of their actions and, in some cases, I might be able to accomplish the same things. That said, I also have to live with my own desires and morals. I have to live with myself each and every day and sometimes I find that certain actions would make that very difficult. Again, though, there is no need to be jealous, only to understand my own motivations and actions and be comfortable with them, regardless of the results.

The deep fact of jealousy and envy is this. Too often we don’t recognize the success, the wealth and the happiness we already have in our lives. We judge our success based on some perverted understanding that you are either an incredibly wealthy and popular celebrity or you are no one. Success has many levels, but if you fail to recognize this you will doom yourself to a life of jealousy and envy. Someone will always have something you want. Someone will always have more than you. Chasing after them in some misbegotten attempt at “Success” with a capital S is almost certain to leave you unsatisfied, unfulfilled and deeply unhappy.

The next time you find yourself feeling envious or jealous, don’t focus on what the other person has, or the methods they used to achieve it. Rather, focus on whether you really, truly want the same thing. In some cases, you will find that you only want it because someone else has it, not for your own reasons. If you do desire the object, the success, the recognition, then your next step is to develop ways of achieving it within your own sensibilities and morals. Put your energy into action and don’t waste your time, breath and energy on jealousy and envy. It will result in nothing but despair.


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