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I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
I have been dating an introverted man who I am very in love with for almost 2 years.  Reading your posts have helped me to be more supportive and understanding to him especially during the times when he needs space.  I just wanted to thank you for your weekly posts and let you know how helpful they are for someone who is in a relationship with an introvert. C.M. on space2live
Thank you for all the words. You’ve created the magic drug I’ve been looking for all my life. Your blog has transformed my life, and I feel like I am on the brink of a most satisfying fulfilling journey…You’ve made me see everything in a new light. I now feel calmer, able to care better for my toddler, less hateful of people around, and hopeful for my future. I am not so afraid for our marriage anymore. — Shilpa CB
Shilpa CB
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo

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How to Deal With Envy, Competition and Knee-Jerk Negativity

In his book, “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression — and the Surprising Solutions”, Johann Hari mentions a female friend who suffered from constant envy. Anytime she heard of someone’s success she immediately thought of a negative attribute of that person to balance out her jealousy. If her friend was physically attractive, she told herself, “Ok so you’re gorgeous —  but your husband is ugly.”

Envious attitudes and retaliatory negativity feed on the messages society puts out, such as, “You have to look out for number one” and “There is only so much pie. If someone else has a big piece, you get a smaller piece.”

Kids constantly in competitive environments

Kids compete and compare every day in school and online. I’ve heard my kids bash successful celebrities, thinking it’s cool to do so. It is as if positivity or attention given one person, diminishes the success or attention of another, therefore that other person must be kept small. For example, if my daughter gets a good grade in her Language Arts class, my son can’t simply say, “Hey that’s great! Way to go!”. He has to say, “Well it’s Language Arts and that’s not an important class.”

Photo by James Pond on Unsplash

Competing with those you love

Granted it is always more difficult to compliment those we see as competitors. Siblings being classic rivals. Sometimes our spouses feel like competitors too. I found it hard to work up a sense of joy for my ex-husband toward the end of our marriage. It seemed he dominated most family discussions and competed with me for best parent title.

I did not want to give him anymore “wins” or kudos. Looking back, perhaps a few more cheers for him would have made him feel safer with me and less competitive. It’s likely he needed my support as much as I needed his.

If only we could have gained energy from each other’s joy and successes. It was easy to feel empathetic joy with my children when they achieved something or felt happy.

Cheering for those who thwart you

When you feel someone actively squelching your joy or minimizing your successes, it takes a monumental effort to rise above that and cheer for them. So what is to come of our children, who often compete and condemn? Will they learn the beauty of sympathetic joy? Time and the people with whom they surround themselves will determine that.

There has to be a shift from competition to collaboration or mutual enthusiasm. People who accept us for whom we are and not what we do, feel safe and therefore provide the foundation for mutual joy.

It is hard if you are the one creating the safe feeling first, but do it anyway, the results are worth it.

Sympathetic joy

I recently went home to Michigan for my 30-year high school reunion. I admit there were classmates I envied and bad-mouthed during our school days. I will say there were not many, but a few. Throughout my life, my friends have primarily been a refuge. They have been there for me when the rivalry with my sister was hot or when my parents could not be there.

I am quite sure I’ve romanticized them somewhat, but the inhabitants of my hometown, have often offered the sympathetic joy and enthusiasm I needed. Over the years, Facebook has provided connection with these old friends.

The reunion was a rare treat. I got to experience the joy and connection in person. Thirty years post high school, we had all experienced love and loss. The playing field was basically level. We simply enjoyed catching up with each other.

Your success is my success

I took Mark (fiancé) home for the reunion. My classmates embraced him and genuinely wished us well. Many old friends congratulated me on my book. Their excitement for me, beaming out of their eyes. It’s hard to put into words how much that support and sympathetic joy meant to me. I suppose I wanted Mark to see how magical and loving the people of my roots are.

I am equally happy when my old classmates succeed. It warms my heart to hear of their happiness. I genuinely want good things for them. I outwardly let them know that by cheering for them online, in texts or if possible, in person.

The closeness of my hometown (population 9000), made the disconnected lifestyle I once led here in the suburbs of Minneapolis, that much more amplified. I missed the communal joy and even the communal sadness of my hometown community.

If you don’t have a built-in cheering crowd, make one

I’m building a close community here in Minnesota. It feels fantastic to have friends and family members to cheer for daily. It is equally fantastic to feel their sympathetic joy in return. We recently had friends travel to Italy for an anniversary celebration. I noticed how excited and happy I was to receive their photos via text. It was easy to wish them fun and joy on their trip.

The cool thing is sympathetic joy is a true sense of joy for ourselves. We can feel wonderful when others are happy. Even more amazing, this works with friends, strangers and people we don’t like. All we have to do is allow ourselves to let their joy resonate within us, instead of letting it feed our envy. Instead of bringing others down to elevate ourselves, we tap into the good vibes they feel. It takes restraint and a re-training of our knee-jerk reactions but it fills us in the best way.

I tell my kids, just because others won does not mean you lose. There is more than enough success and love in the world. We can all share in the joy instead of the competition.

Is there someone you can’t stand to congratulate? Why is that? What if you felt their success as your success? What if we looked at others’ lives as boundless opportunities for joy? 

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  1. Michael Buley September 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Brenda, you are one of the truly bright and beautiful lights in this world. I smile and laugh quietly thinking of you. thank you for everything you do for so many. Thanks for being beautiful.

  2. Michael August 24, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I think simply of the idea that what we wish for others, we draw to ourselves.

    To wish magic and beauty and everything good for others, is to create it for ourselves, as well. To wish those things for all, to speak well of others always, to think good of others … well, we become what we think about. And thinking about those things for others, we become those very things.

    Why speak ill of, wish ill toward, anyone, ever — if we are actually creating those very things for ourselves?

    We swim in the oceans that our thoughts create. We live in those creations every day, every moment. If we don’t like the water (thoughts and creations) we are swimming in, we need only change our thoughts. That is all. That is the only thing we can change, to change ‘out there.’

    • Brenda Knowles September 8, 2018 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      I agree Michael. It does seem we attract negativity if we exude negativity. We attract light and joy if we exude light and joy. It is darn hard to be light and joy all the time. I always have the notion that there is no need to put more harshness and mean-ness out in the world. There is already enough. Thanks Michael. Good to hear your perspective.:)

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