Dear Emuna,

I’m really struggling. I can’t stop comparing myself to those around me and finding myself wanting. It’s not just that they seem to have better relationships – with their spouses, their children and their employers – but they seem to be thinner and more confident as well. I know it may all be an illusion but it’s really tormenting me. Any thoughts about how to move on? I’ve tried giving up Facebook but I haven’t been successful…

Miserable

Dear Miserable,

First of all, you need to get serious about this. If you really want to fight the proverbial green monster, you need to be proactive. This means getting yourself off of social media.

All those feelings of jealousy, insecurity and resentment are fostered and heightened by reading about the lives of others as portrayed on their Facebook or Instagram or whatever-the-latest-app-is page. Whether their reports are true or not, peering voyeuristically into their lives is not a healthy pastime for you.

You say “I can’t stop” but of course you can. If you didn’t believe you could change your attitude, you wouldn’t have written to me for help. Initially it may be productive to remind yourself that everyone puts up a good front and you have NO idea of what their reality truly is.

But in addition to that, and this is even more important, it doesn’t matter. Maybe they really do have better relationships. Maybe they are thinner and more confident. You have some choices to make. You can work on your relationships. You can learn to be kinder, more considerate, more thoughtful. You can build deeper friendships, a better marriage, more meaningful connections with your children and a healthy working relationship with your boss. You just have to put in the time and effort to do so.

You need to learn the skills and you need to harness your determination and drive and patience to implement them. At the same time, you need to work on acceptance. Someone else’s situation is irrelevant to you. You can only work with the hand that you were dealt. And whatever that is, from a Jewish perspective, is the one best suited to you. It’s the one where you will grow the most. It’s the one with the greatest opportunity for you to actualize your potential.

Maybe your friend really does have a better marriage. The Almighty has given you the spouse you need to become the best version of you. Maybe your neighbor really does have less challenging children. The Almighty has given you the exact children you need to become a deeper, more compassionate human being. Maybe your sister has a more supportive boss. You have the boss you need to help develop your job skills and your character simultaneously.

We are all in the exact situation we are supposed to be in, a situation that was custom-made, uniquely tailored for us as individuals to achieve our maximum growth and connection to the Almighty.

It’s up to us to take the tools we were given and to dig deep and work hard to make the most of these gifts.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy. It certainly doesn’t mean that it’s fair, in the commonplace sense of the word. But it’s right. We are not each given the same tools or even equal tools. We are, however, individually blessed with equal opportunity to get close to the Almighty. And we know that we are not judged against anyone else in this essential and important struggle. It’s up to each one of us to take the tools we were given and to dig deep and work hard to make the most of these gifts. We know how inappropriate and destructive it is to compare our children, to judge them by a standard set by one of their siblings. The Almighty knows this even more clearly. He is not interested in comparing us to others so why should we be? He just wants to know if we are lifting up to our unique best self, irrespective of whether our neighbor is doing so.

Recognizing the nature of our individual relationship with God and His judgment of us as unique human beings is the key to freeing ourselves from comparisons and jealousy. It takes work. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this reality. Changing bad habits is hard. Just imagine the freedom of lifting this burden off your shoulders. Think about how much you love each one of your children for their specific strengths and assets. Think about the special relationship you have with each of them. And recognize that the Almighty feels the same way about you. You can stop comparing yourself. Equipped with these fundamental insights, you can now turn to the Almighty and ask Him to assist you in this worthy endeavor.