Thought I’d step away from goals and resolutions and share with you two new words I’ve learned recently. Gluckschmerz, a German word that means feeling unhappy about the good fortune of others; and Schadenfreude – yes, you guessed it – also German, which means feeling pleasure at the suffering of others.
Sadly, the English language doesn’t always have the panache of other languages! We’re left with envy – perhaps the feeling does deserve such a short and ugly word. Does it affect you? If so, does it motivate you to work harder to achieve what the other person has got? Or, does it drag you down and undermine your self confidence?
Professor Richard Smith, University of Kentucky, said envy:-
“Occurs when we lack another’s superior quality, achievement or possession and desire it or wish the other lacked it. When we envy, we feel inferior, longing, resentment and ill-will to the advantaged person.”
Not holding back he goes on to say “It’s socially repugnant; it can corrode the soul”. (The Times, London 5.1.08). So it deserves to be one of the seven deadly sins! But like all feelings and emotions, its how we deal with it that determines whether or not its destructive.
Envy can totally undermine your self confidence. But in every situation we encounter in life, there is always going to be someone who is that bit better than us, with a better suit/smile/figure/speaking voice/whatever (I’m assume whoever is perfect is too busy maintaining that perfection to have time to read this!).
At the same time, there will always be something you can do better than them. Arnold Schwarzenegger may have a better physique than me , but I can speak clearer English! And whilst his muscles may be better developed – he has exactly the same number of muscles as me – and I prefer to blog rather than pump iron. He may be Governor of California, but I don’t have a $14 billion budget deficit to sort out…
Don’t forget, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Whilst you may let yourself think someone is “better” than you (for instance “more attractive”, “taken a better photograph”) – others may disagree. I can genuinely say to all the women in my life that I cannot see anything attractive in anyone size “0”.
If your confidence is undermined by others ability to do something better than you – use them to your advantage. Lets imagine you envy someone who always appears perfectly at ease and confident in social situations. But you find yourself lacking confidence in situations where you have to talk to small groups of colleagues, perhaps address a meeting. So, imagine how your “perfect” person would do it.
Picture in your mind that person giving a talk in their “perfect”, confident way. Or have them addressing a meeting, putting across a point in an assertive manner. Now in your visualization allow an image of yourself to take over Mr Perfect. Imagine yourself delivering the talk in this “perfect”, confident way – or holding your ground in that meeting.
Visualization takes practice, and some will find it easier than others. With practice you can just visualize yourself doing something well, mentally rehearsing that talk, speech, golf swing, or whatever. But using those whose talents you envy as “role models” is another starting point. And you don’t have to pay them for the privilege!