The thief of joy has stolen years of happiness
Dear Annie: I will turn 65 this year and can’t help but look back on my life. For the most part, until recently at least, I was feeling very satisfied. I was married right out of college, at 22, to the wrong person, and we split up after 10 months. She has since been married four times. But I found the ideal person for me, and we were married when I turned 30 and have been together — happily — ever since.
We have one child, our beautiful daughter who will graduate from college next year. My wife and I tried to inculcate her with the importance of education and self-esteem, and we are very proud of her.
The company where I have worked is doing better than ever. In fact, I’d like to stay longer, but years ago I agreed to retire at 65, which is pretty standard around here. I’m not totally opposed to this, as I look forward to playing more golf and reading and just relaxing.
My wife and I have a good circle of friends, mainly from our church.
In other words, I was feeling pretty good about things, but then something happened. I got an email from a friend telling me about another friend, an old fraternity brother, who had started his own electronics business and just sold it for $15 million. All of my old friends are chatting by email, saying how impressed they are by this and how happy they are for him.
But I’m not. I felt sad when I heard this news, and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m jealous. This guy has six beautiful children, lives in a mansion and seems to have done so much more with his time than I ever did. He makes me feel like I hardly tried in life. I know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, but I can’t help it. It is not that I want him to fail. I don’t. It’s just that he makes me feel like a failure.
My wife reads your column every day. (She loves it.) When I told her my feelings about this situation, she suggested that I write to you and ask if you have any advice for how I can change the way I feel about this. — Not Measuring Up
Dear Not Measuring Up: The best way to “change” the way you feel about your jealousy is to accept it. It is natural to feel a little jealous when your friend just sold his company for $15 million, but it is not natural to try and push those feelings away and or to go down a rabbit hole of self-pity as to why you don’t measure up to him. Once you let yourself off the hook and allow those feelings to come up, they will pass more easily.
You sound like you have a very nice life — a productive career, a fulfilling marriage, a lovely, healthy daughter and friends from your church.
That which we appreciate appreciates. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t allow your joy to be stolen by comparing yourself to another. Just remember, you never truly know what goes on inside someone else’s life. It might seem like they have everything, yet they might be miserable. Real happiness comes from peace of mind and is achieved through exactly what you are doing. Freely expressing your feelings, allowing room for them, and then letting them go!
Good luck to you and your family, and please thank your wife for being a fan.
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Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.