You use other people to gauge your success, or failure. We all do it—compare ourselves to other, maybe more successful, people. Without seeing what others around you have achieved, how else would you know what’s possible, right? But as you progress in your career, that benchmark effect can actually lead to professional jealousy, which can hamper your own success and lead to unnecessary stress if you let it build.
So it’s important to acknowledge jealous feelings, because the time and energy you expend worrying about what others are doing could (and should) be put into building your own career, your own business, instead.
You can take steps to recognize and reduce professional jealousy. Try these four:
1. See the full picture.
Pastor and author Steven Furtick once said, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” This is especially true in a social media-driven era where everyone boasts about their accomplishments without revealing the details behind them. That award your competitor brags about winning might have been handed over by a friend. The major successes you see other entrepreneurs achieving likely came after years of failure, none of which they tweet about.
When you find yourself feeling envious of someone else’s successes, reread your own biography or scroll through your social media feeds. Consider how your own successes might look to someone else and congratulate yourself on all your achievements. It’s easy to forget how much you’ve accomplished when you’re constantly working toward your next goal.
2. Congratulate them.
You might notice that as your colleagues achieve great things, their circle of true friends tends to diminish. The number of congratulatory responses to their tweets will probably dwindle as the awards, funding rounds and media attention increases. By being one of the few in the industry issuing congratulations, you’ll not only look gracious, but you’ll be networking with someone who has accomplished big things and might be able to help you along the way.
Part of congratulating your industry colleagues and competitors is recognizing that a win for them is a win for everyone. Instead of seeing someone else’s win as a loss for you, recognize that there’s room for more than one person at the top and these successes actually pave the way for other ideas and growing businesses.
3. Redirect your focus.
Instead of turning green with envy, turn the focus back on yourself and ask what you can do to achieve what others have achieved. If someone else wins an award, is it an award you wanted? If so, what can you do to put yourself in line for it, as well as other awards, next year? If a friend just landed major funding or a raise at work, what can you do to work toward achieving that goal yourself?
As your friends, co-workers and colleagues achieve success, it can serve as a to-do list for growing your own career. Chances are you first decided to go after your current goals because of the things you saw over the course of your life. If you can return to a place where you observe the accomplishments of those around you and strive to achieve the same things in your own career, you can turn a detrimental emotion into something that’s healthier—motivation.
4. Look away.
If you find yourself focusing far too much on other people, just stop. Unfollow them on Twitter and drop the alerts you’ve set up for them. While it’s important to keep up with the activities of people in your field, spending an unhealthy amount of time and energy on them is more harmful than helpful.
By the same token, if people are jealous of your successes, distance yourself from them, too. If those around you constantly denigrate your accomplishments to make themselves feel better, you’re probably better off without them in your life. These people bring a toxic, negative energy to your interactions, and that can impact your self-confidence.