Every time I read an article about a twelve-year-old who sold an app to google, I die a little inside. Replace that twelve-year-old with a teenager who started a successful company or a young twenty-something who has already achieved millionaire status. It seems like everywhere I look these days, there is somebody younger than me who is vastly more successful and that reminds me just how little I have accomplished in my short twenty-two years on this Earth.
I say to myself ‘what have you been doing, Melina? You could have invented something, made a bunch of money, started a company, saved a species, if you had only tried harder, earlier’ I feel an enormous sense of failure having not done anything that anyone would describe as ‘remarkable’.
This kind of exposure can be tough to take. With social media, you can hear about every hyper-successful up and comer around the world. It is easy to be jealous of their success and to become filled with self-doubt that you’ll never amount to anything because you missed your window or because you believe these types of people are exorbitantly more intelligent or driven than you are.
I suffer from this A LOT. I feel intensely inadequate and like a straight up bum when I read or hear about these kinds of people. Consequently, I’ve had to develop a method to cope with this instead of just giving up on life because I wasn’t a pubescent tech genius.
I’ve boiled it down to the fact that I’m not jealous of these people because they’re successful, rich, famous, or smart. I’m jealous of them because they clearly had a direction. If someone is a world class pianist at the age of 11 or they made a million by 18, they didn’t get there by accident. They believed in a path of life so powerfully that they acted on it and gave their all to it. Those kinds of accomplishments don’t just take hard work and intelligence, they take devotion. To reach the highest echelons of success in a particular area, one has to be devoted to it. And THAT is what I’m jealous of.
For example, I have this friend who is currently finishing up an aerospace engineering degree at MIT. In short, her goal is to be an astronaut. But what is so astounding about her is that she has had this goal FOREVER. She is twenty-one years old, and as far as she can remember, she has had the goal of being an astronaut and has done everything in her power to achieve it. She has direction.
I, on the other hand, don’t have a direction. Sure, I have a great job, hobbies, and friends, but there is not one direction where I would feel comfortable and productive devoting myself to. And that is the part of these peoples’ success that I find myself being envious of. I wish I had a direction for myself because I know that if I had a clear idea of what I wanted to become, I would probably be successful at achieving it. Innately, I realize that aspiring to accomplish the same things as other people is not what I actually want. As cliche as it sounds, I want to be the best version of myself in the end.
In simpler terms, a basketball player would never be jealous of a successful gymnast because they know they have different directions. The basketball player wants to be the best basketball player, not the best at any other sport.
By the same logic, I cannot compare myself to these people I read about online because we don’t have the same goals. I can’t compare myself to the five-year-old boy who performed at Carnegie hall because it was never my goal or direction to become a world class musician. I can’t compare myself to the twenty-six-year-old billionaire founder of Snapchat because it was never my goal to be a tech billionaire (although I wouldn’t say no…). And that is how I have to think. I have to learn to be ok spending this time figuring out a direction and to learn to rely on the idea that when I find my own direction, I’m going to kick. its. ass.