Dear Lauren,

I was blessed with an amazing talent, thank God. Lately I've met some people who are just as good at it as I am, and in some cases better. I know talents aren't who you are, but I just can't help feeling kind of....jealous? Empty? Replaced? Help please!

Lauren Roth

Lauren Roth's Answer

I love the fact that you thank God for your talent in your first sentence. That’s going to be the fact which comforts you: God gave you your talent, and God gave you people in your life who are better at it than you.

Whatever you can’t control, God controls. So meeting people who are as good or better at your talent than you was God’s choice for you. The question is: what are you going to do about this God-sent situation? You have many options.

You could practice, practice, practice your talent so that you become better and better at it. That’s what Olympians, for example, do. In the bestselling book by Malcolm Gladwell exploring experts (Outliers), he says that for someone to become really, really outstanding at something, they need to practice it for 10,000 hours. He writes about Bill Gates waking up at 2 a.m. when he was an adolescent and going over to the graduate school near his house and working on the computers until 6 a.m.

If you want to become better and better and better at your talent, you could dedicate your life to perfecting it. Do you love it that much? If it enlivens you and if you are passionate about it and if you love to do it, that’s a viable option. I know musicians who could not LIVE without their instrument. And I remember a girl in my gymnastics school for whom gymnastics was her life. She was on her way to the Olympics, but an injury prevented her from it in the final hour.

There are many people who are much better at my talents than I am. And I’m perfectly fine with that.

Personally, I have many different talents, and there are many people who are much better at my talents than I am. And I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m satisfied to use my talents for my own enjoyment and for creating meaning in my life, and I don’t feel like I have to be the best. I’m happy just to be able to do something well. There is a quiet satisfaction from having done a good job that I can enjoy between me, myself, and I.

I’m really good at dancing. But I’m not the best dancer. I’m really good at writing. But I’m not the best writer. I’m really good at cooking. But I’m not the best cook. I’m really good at teaching. But I’m not the best teacher. In every one of those areas, I enjoy my talents. I don’t need the fame and fortune of being the world’s best, or even of being my community’s best. I just enjoy dancing, writing, cooking, and teaching. If other people are better at those things than I am, no problem. I still enjoy moving to music, reading my literary creations, eating my culinary creations, and educating people in order to enhance their lives.

In our community, many people have just graduated from psychology programs, and are working in the community as therapists. Far from being sad that other people are “impinging” upon my area of expertise, I’m thrilled that there are more good people doing the same good work I am. I’m thrilled there are more people helping the efforts to alleviate people’s suffering. The more good people there are in the world bringing sanity or beauty or creativity into the world, the better our world will be. If you are amazing at playing the violin, but someone is better than you are, how lovely! That means there will be more beautiful violin music in the world!

I think this idea of being “the best” or “the most talented” at something is a very Western, American idea. In Jewish philosophy, many people working together towards a common, good goal is valued even more than one particularly wonderful person doing wonderful things. One person doing good things is good, but many people doing good things is even better. In Jewish philosophy, the goal is to increase the light in the world in order to dispel the darkness of evil. The more good created, the better off we all are.

In American society, being famous for your unique talent is the highest goal. But, honestly, it can be very lonely at the top. It’s nice to have some company up there to share the loveliness with.

Rather than feeling sad or empty or jealous because other people share your talent, remind yourself how wonderful it is to have people in your life who understand your passion for your talent. You now have a community of like-minded individuals! The human need for a connection to other people is much greater than the human need for recognition for our talents. You can connect to the other people with your talent in a deep way. They can understand how you feel when you’re “in the zone,” doing your special thing, more than anyone. That connection with them can be a source of positive energy in your life, rather than a source of competitive jealousy or negative energy.

Also, like I said at the beginning, God is the One who gave you the other people in your life with your talent. He created that situation. Your wishing that you were, once again, the only one with your particular talent in your life is like wishing you were someone else. And God didn’t create you as someone else; He created you as you. He created you with your talent, and He created this situation where there are other people in your life with your same talent.

Embrace this reality, love this reality, and thank God for giving you your present situation, because God always does everything to us for our own good, even if we don’t recognize it as such right now.