How to Find Inspiration Instead of Jealousy in the Success of Others

"Turn jealousy into admiration and what you admire will become part of your life." - Yoko Ono

Do you get inspired by competition, or does it turn you green with envy?

In my previous post about climbing, I shared one of my favorite lessons, "There will always be someone who warms up on your project". I admit that I have been humbled by this many times, and I even used to compare my performance on the rock to my husband (who climbs MUCH more than I do and frequently does much harder grade levels when he does). What is the point of that? I also had my moments of quiet jealousy during residency when I overheard accolades from attendings about a fellow resident, knowing full well that I was much more the ugly duckling than the golden swan of my program.

Comparison to others leads to unhealthy expectations of the self, which can be a major source of stress for many people. This way of thinking takes away from present-tense mindfulness and detachment from the ego, which are both key components to coping with stress. Many people believe that Facebook and social media have increased the possibility of unhealthy comparison, given that these outlets are mainly vehicles for people to replay their "greatest hits" for friends and family. Fellow blogger Jen Keck recently mused about the impact of FB on our self image, and PsychCentral discussed our society's addiction to FOMO (fear of missing out). In addition, consider the popularity of entertainment such as The Enquirer, TMZ, or other "caught on tape" style media... some people love to see "successful" (rich, beautiful, etc.) people fail!

So what changed me from being jealous to being inspired by others' successes? Becoming a patient, which taught me self-acceptance. Suffering, then cherishing success on very small levels (like being able to go to the bathroom on my own). Realizing (with full irony) that I am sometimes the person who "warms up on someone else's project"! Knowing full well that I am incredibly lucky to have had only a benign cancer with manageable residual effects. These things changed my overall perspective to one of gratitude for the small triumphs. Now I feel like the swan.

What about you? I'd love to hear what tactics you use to find inspiration instead of jealousy in the success of others!


  1. I have turned jealousy into motivation as some of those that I have been most jealous of have become my mentors. In viewing it with that perspective it helped me form who I wanted to be - not in a competitive way, but to learn and grow as a person. I am not sure I am ever truly jealous, but I often have admired certain traits that I wish that I had - and wanted to find out more about the person and how they approached life. I am in my senior years now, and I think that approach has served me well in life. It also has helped me accept my own limitations and strengths.

    1. Thanks Suzanne! It sounds to me like you have a great outlook on this. Learning by watching other people is a great way to grow.


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