Dr. Wall Says

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Never Give In to the Dark Side of Envy

Dark side of envyDo you ever find yourself assuming that because something is different, it is necessarily better? I’ll admit I do this more often than is appropriate for a self-respecting, self-assured, confident person.

Different isn’t better!

For example, I love my website design. It is everything I wanted: clean, bright, crisp and to the point. Then I’ll see someone else’s website, it is completely different from mine, and it is genuinely a great looking site. Suddenly, I start to look at mine critically. I develop website envy. I think about what my website would be like, if it looked like theirs. Their different, their good becomes better.

If only this kind of thinking confined itself to things, it might be okay, but sometimes this perspective applies to life. I’ll hear about someone’s great projects and goals, (that are different from mine) and I’ll start questioning what I know is right for me.

I am not proud of this. I kind of didn’t want to share it. Seriously, it makes me look insecure and petty, which I am neither. I offer my own examples, however, because I know I’m not alone here. I help really smart people see how they make these kinds of assumptions all the time:

  1. That different is better.
  2. That someone else’s great means my great isn’t good enough.

As natural as it is to evaluate and compare oneself to others, I am here to say: do not automatically assume that different is better! Different can be appealing simply by virtue of providing a contrast. Different may mean better, sometimes it just means that someone has also put out something great. Other times different is just different!

Be aware of the assumptions you make about what different means. Don’t change who you are or what you do simply because someone else is different from you.

Wait… maybe different is better!

Imagine a world where there is no “different”. A world where each one of us starts mirroring what others do. Imagine a world where we create a homogenous culture.

That would be awful! And awfully boring. Certainly, we are facing pressures to all be, think and do alike. 15 minutes on any social media platform will show you how: voice or display an opinion that runs contrary to your “friends” and you are sure to get lambasted and shamed into homogeneity. It’s one of the downfalls of social media, instead of putting us in touch with novel and contrasting ideas, it has create insular pockets of homogenous thought and perspectives. Dissent is baaaaad…

So maybe different isn’t better than what you have, but different is better than all the same.

The key is to allow different to exist, to appreciate what others put out there, while staying true to who you are, what you believe in and what you stand for. 

Your tastes and interests evolve over time, but the changes should reflect who you are rather than being the result of outside or inner pressure to be like others.

But I have envy!

It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to sometimes have envy, or doubt yourself, or feel insecure. Everyone does, and if they say they don’t they are lying or deluded. What you want to avoid is being disingenuine. You want to steer clear of making choices that aren’t right for you, or following a path or course of action simply because it was right for someone else.

Doing what’s right for you means you don’t adopt another person’s path without considering if it fits with who you are, how you live and what you need. Assuming different is better, and shifting your choices to reflect someone else’s way is just another version of doing whats’s right instead of doing what’s right for you.

How can you make sure envy doesn’t turn into a poor choice? Know what right for you looks like. Understand what you need, want and value. Build your choices and your path on the foundation of those principles and you’ll be okay.

A really fun way of doing this is by writing a manifesto. I’ve written one, and it makes life so easy to negotiate. But more on that next week.

If you want to learn more about doing what’s right for you here’s some light reading:
How to do the right thing.
What’s right for others may not be right for you.
Do what you love.
Life in Focus Ep 8. Nik Hawks “Decide what kind of life you want!”

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Hi! I'm Dr. Alessandra Wall

I help smart driven women and forward-thinking companies bridge the gap & build real conversations.

Here on the ‘Dr. Wall Says’, I share tools, tips, and insights about speaking up, getting heard and how women can take up space and thrive in the 21st century.

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