Admit, even if only to yourself, you’ve been in this scenario:
Your friend tells you her exciting news. She got the internship. The A+. The guy she’s liked for a while. The Golden Snitch. Whatever it is. She got it.
You do your best to mask your initial envy. You swallow it. You smile. “Look at you,” you say proudly. “Taking on the world.”
Then you ask yourself: when will I get to take on the world? Followed by a familiar series of harsh questions like why did she have to bring this up now? Doesn’t she know I’m struggling with this? Wait… why am I not happy for her right now…?
First of all, stop pummeling yourself with phrases like, “why am I not happy? … I should be…” If there’s one life lesson I’ve learned as a theater minor, it’s that you cannot control your emotions or reactions, as they are consequences, not choices. Simply trying to change your emotions is like trying to change the evidence left at a crime scene: it reverses nothing, and leaves the mystery of the problem unsolved.
So, what DO you change?
Have you even NOTICED the pair of dark-lensed glasses you’ve been wearing this whole time? That’s the root of your problem, right there. Your point of view.
It’s through this pessimistic, maaaayyyybee a bit jealous, attitude that we start to view life as a competition. We view happiness as something with a limited amount under a first come, first served policy.
But guess what? Life isn’t a zero-sum game where in order for one person to win, someone else must lose. Everyone moves at their own speed.
Whether or not you’d like to admit, chances are you’re not necessarily envious of anything someone else achieved, you’re only unhappy for yourself and what you have not achieved. It might be time for an attitude check.
“Changing your attitude” probably sounds vague, maybe a bit more metacognitive than you were hoping this solution would be, and I don’t blame you if you’re rolling your eyes already. But it’s simple if you break this situation down with a psychological tool commonly known as the ABC’s of Changing Your Behavior.
The ABC’s of Changing Your Behavior
- Activating event
- Belief system
The first thing you need to do is accept the activating event, whatever that may be. This refers to whatever ignited your envy for happiness in the first place. Most of the time, you cannot change the activating event, you can only toughen your response to it. Keep a mantra in your back pocket. Some version of “it is what it is” because… well… it is what it is.
Secondly, you need to manage your beliefs. This is the part you CAN and MUST change. I’m not talking about spiritual life or religion or anything along those lines. It’s about realizing the thoughts you tell yourself, be they harsh or empowering, eventually become the truth. A self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly asking yourself why you’re not happy, only confirms the belief that you’re not happy.
The same goes for what you believe about yourself. Telling yourself you’re not a go-getter only builds a comfort zone around this so-called “truth” that you are indeed not a go-getter. Tell yourself what you want to come true until you believe it is true.
We’ve already touched on consequences and how emotions come naturally based on your beliefs. Changing your attitude about your own potential for success will lead to a more honest, more fulfilling sense of happiness for those around you.
I admit, I’m not a 24/7 beaming person. But if the struggle for happiness is something we all go through, why is it sometimes hard to cheer each other on? Wouldn’t a friend’s success and happiness be a sure sign of potential for everyone to achieve that happiness? Who are we to tear hope, or each other, down? Chances are your definition of happiness differs from anyone else’s anyway.
The universe is obsessed with giving you opportunities for happiness. You will get yours. You just have to meet the universe halfway and see those opportunities, which you’ll never be able to do if you continue to blind yourself with that pessimistic attitude. So take the dark glasses off. The light that comes afterwards will not burn your eyes. I promise.