Sunday, September 11, 2011

Admiration vs. Jealousy

Isn't it funny how certain qualities have only a fine line distinguishing them from another quality? Take confidence vs cockiness, for example. What comes across as confidence to one person might seem like overconfidence and arrogance to someone else. A person who does not know them personally might have a hard time deciding which it really is, confidence or cockiness. The same holds true for ingenuity vs insanity... what might come across as an act of madness at the time might later be revealed to be an act of brilliance. Inventors, trend-setters, and scientists often have to deal with this initial misunderstanding.

There are plenty of others...  I can think of independence vs alienation and courageous vs reckless right now. Or how about admiration vs jealousy? That's something I find that as teens we may deal with a lot, whether we're conscious of it or not. There's a lot of competition in a typical high school student's life. Grades, for one, are always a source of contest. "Hey, what did so-and-so get on that last math test? 87? *fist pump* I got two points higher!" Or SATs and standardized tests, for example. And that's just academics. Competition gets fierce when it comes to high school sports or even music ensembles, where not everyone can participate so some sort of selection process is required. Sport try-outs can sometimes be difficult when it comes to making the cut for the team and then seeing who gets the most playing time. I'm lucky to go to a high school where our sports teams are really team-spirited and encouraging rather than cut-throat when it comes to practices and games, but I'm sure this is not the case in other schools.

The same goes for musical ensembles and auditioning for chair seating, auditions for a school musical or drama production, and even club competitions. All of these are opportunities for a student to compare himself or herself to all the others. And when one student rises above the rest, does that inspire admiration or jealousy? I find it difficult to gauge my own reaction sometimes... on one hand, I have admiration and respect for anyone that can achieve such success. But if that person is someone I know as a friend, sometimes the feeling of "why not me" (in other words, jealousy) masks the admiration and turns my feelings into resentment.
This is especially hard for friends in a competitive setting, where both are trying out for a team or auditioning for a part in a play. One makes it to the top, the other falls. What's the result?

It's so hard to be able to say "I'm happy for you" honestly. Disappointment often gets in the way of true and selfless joy for a friend. The line between admiration (even if reluctant) and jealousy is important to distinguish in order to better understand your own emotions. Jealousy has negative connotations and usually feels bad and self-destructive, whereas learning to admire and respect a friend (or stranger) for what they do is much more inspiring and positive.

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