I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. It was an exciting day for me, as I stood in line, clad with cap and gown, waiting for my name to be called. My family sat in the stands, watching my achievement as I crossed the stage and shook hands with the chair of my department.
When the ceremony was finished, I went to meet up with my family, anticipating the pride I would see on their faces. But instead, I only found my husband. He smiled, offering his love and encouragement. We took pictures before heading to my graduation party. My parents had left immediately following the ceremony. I found them at the park, waiting for my arrival, but not hiding their boredom. Within an hour they had loaded themselves in their car and headed back home, out of state. No celebration, no excitement, no congratulations were offered.
I was crushed. What I thought was going to be a celebration of my accomplishment had turned into a party of jealousy. This caused me to feel ashamed of what I had accomplished rather than proud of what I achieved. Nearly 20 years later, I am embarrassed at how much that moment effected who I became. I felt ashamed of my degree for many years.
Jealousy is a powerful emotion. It is defined as a resentment against a person enjoying success or advantage. It can overcome us and cause us to treat those closest to us with contempt if we are too focused on ourselves.
In our culture, our daughters are surrounded by a constant push to be better. Not all the encouragement is negative. Girls today are growing in confidence and power in leadership roles that were not offered in prior generations. But as these girls are growing up in this current climate of opportunity, many are living self-focused lives. We often forget to look around us and celebrate one another when we are tempted to focus on our selves. The tendency to see what we lack rather than our abilities keeps us thinking, if not obsessed, on our faults. This makes it more difficult to prevent jealousy from consuming us.
When we are on the receiving end of jealousy, it hurts. We are excited about what we have done, no matter how small it may seem to someone else. Any time we are working toward a goal, we want to celebrate the work that brought us to our accomplishment. When we look around and find resentment instead, it casts a shadow into our own perspective.
How do we, as women, encourage our girls to stop down-playing the accomplishments of others? How do we teach the next generation to celebrate one another and reduce the jealousy that tears us apart?
As parents, we try to instill confidence in our children. Encouraging them to find what they enjoy and excel in is a great step toward building who they are as an individual. As they accomplish their goals, we should celebrate, not just the achievement, but the work it took to reach the finish line. We can show them it is more than just the end goal, but rather, the time and effort we put into something that is worth celebrating. Then we can celebrate what others do by focusing on their efforts, as well.
As our girls grow in confidence, we need to teach them to grow in their openness to be themselves. Too often, we can feel alone in our struggles because we only see the best parts of those around us. We need to show others who we are and celebrate who other are becoming through our trials. We can then learn to find joy in our failures and share our stories with one another so they can see they are not alone in their sorrow or their happiness.
Being yourself is hard enough as our girls navigate adolescence. Teaching them to be happy when others win, to cheer others on through good and bad times, can change their outlook and turn their focus towards others. They may still find judgement and jealousy, but with great examples from the women surrounding them, they can learn to choose how they respond. Because we have chosen to be happy for each other, we encourage our daughters to celebrate, rather than resent, the efforts and accomplishments of others.