Vicarious means to feel how someone else is feeling through our imaginations. In Sanskirt the word Muditā “means joy; especially sympathetic or vicarious joy, or the pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being” as defined by Wikipedia.
As I was meandering along my life I was reflecting upon recent joys of people around me. On Friday, one of the students I counsel, with the assistance of her school counselor, applied for college. The background of this student is rough stuff. Tons of trauma, hardship, and hurdles to overcome. You would not know this if you met her. She comes to school every day with a smile on her face, does her work, and gives it her all. A few years ago she was not sure she would see this day as she had been suicidal. Her joy, her Sukha, was pure and heartfelt in this moment. I felt it and celebrated with her.
“We’re stronger when we cheer each other one.” Serena Williams
There have been times in my life, too many, where I did not fully embrace or experience someone else’s joy. Perhaps it was because they were experiencing something I wanted and my unhealthy envy kicked in, I did not feel they deserved whatever goodness was occurring (which reflected my insecurities and ego) or other reasons I did not totally understand. What I do know is as I worked on myself, became more whole and in love with who I am, I could celebrate someone else’s joy completely. Even when there were times I was feeling some envy or ego, I would cheer the other person on will all of my gusto. To my surprise, when I moved beyond my negative feelings to celebrate someone else, I felt better, happier, confident.
“How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you.” Kushandwizdom
Lately I have been reading “Think Like A Monk” by Jay Shetty. In one part He talks about “Reverse Internal Energy”, how envy, and “Schadenfreude” which means “taking pleasure in the suffering of others”. Jay says “When we derive joy from other people’s failure, we’re building our houses and pride on the rocky foundation of someone else’s imperfection or bad luck.” Think of it this way as Jay states it “The more we define ourselves in relation to the people around us, the more lost we are.”
You know what happens when you celebrate the joys and accomplishments of others? It is freeing, beautiful, connecting. Just imagine if we all began to acknowledge and support the joy of others with no negativity? We could have “joy flash mobs” where we are joyous because of the accomplishments of someone else.
“When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves.” William Arthur Ward
Too often in our “comparison culture” today we rank ourselves by comparing to others. Relationships, grades, jobs, vacations, clothes, cars, homes and more. Guess what? This way of thinking is destructive to us. Our envy feelings don’t build us up. They bring us down. A Psychology Today article states “Envy has to do with feeling unhappy about the success of someone else, or about what they have and, at the same time, secretly feeling inferior yourself. Instead of finding success for yourself or improving yourself, you may be envious and want what another person has or find yourself wishing that the other person would lose that quality or possession in order to make things seem fair.”
The way to feel better about ourselves will always be doing the work to like, and love, ourselves. To combat the voices of negativity in our heads with ones of strength and capability. Build on our confidence and strength. To work towards what we want to accomplish. To give a big WAHOO to celebrate the joys of others. When we expand our joyousness to beyond ourselves by feeling our Muditā for others, joy radiates into a world where more joy needs to be celebrated.
We are not born with low sense of self and lack of confidence. How life comes at us, and how we are impacted by life events, affects us. The great news is we can change how we feel about ourselves. An article in Zen Habits states “I strongly believe that you can do things to increase your self-confidence. It is not genetic and you do NOT need to be reliant on others to increase your self-confidence. And if you believe that you are not very competent, not very smart, not very attractive, etc…that can be changed.” We all have the power and ability to change what we believe to be our truth if we are willing to do the work. We are worth the work.
You and all of your amazing skills and talents matter. Let’s Muditā for others and create flash mobs of joy. Celebrate each other with gusto. To view others achievements as inspirations, because if they can accomplishment something it means you can too. To see the success of others as a moment in time to be joyous. That is the type of world I envision for all of us. I would love to hear about your accomplishments and achievements so please let me know so I can give you a giant WAHOO!
May your Muditā be with you💜