A student asked:
As a girl, there is another girl whose lifestyle I admire greatly and I wish I could have her life. She is very pretty and her boyfriend is a very good catch. It appears that she has it all, nice hair, nice skin. Of course, I know that this is what is shown on the surface and there may be things in her life that she does not have that I do. How do I stop wishing for someone else’s life and learn to love my own?
What’s required here is a change in mindset and perspective.
For starters, it’s useful to do a daily exercise of gratitude. Before you end the day, just review the happenings of your life and journal down the things that you are grateful for, no matter how trivial it may be. It could be a warm smile that someone gave to you. It could be a delicious meal. And then go further… What allowed you to be able to enjoy those things in the first place? Why did the person give you a warm smile? What did you do? What can you be grateful about yourself that allowed you to enjoy that smile, or the meal that that person cooked for you? The more you do this exercise, the more you will slowly come to realise that you have beautiful traits, whether appearance, character, or other qualities, that make people appreciate you and/or want to be good to you (or who want to reciprocate back the goodness that you’ve shown them).
Or maybe it’s about things that you have. Then just take the moment to appreciate how lucky/fortunate/wonderful you are to be able to have these things to enjoy/experience.
The first couple of times, it’ll be tough because it’s not something you’re used to do. So here’s an arbitrary number: 3. You’re not allowed to sleep or stop the journalling process until you’ve identified 3 things to be grateful for.
Over time, as you grow more and more grateful with the things you have, you’ll discover that you don’t have to compare with other people. You’ll develop a sense of contentment with what you currently have – whether physical attributes, personal qualities, or even possessions – and you’ll be able to derive joy from that.
To quote Chapter 33 of the Daodejing: “知足者富 The one who knows contentment is rich” (translation mine).