As a blogger, I read a lot of other blogs. I’m frequently amused, often inspired and occasionally humbled by what I read. And sometimes I’ll read a post and I’ll think, “Ninety Eight comments on this? I can write better than this! This person’s success should be mine, all mine!” What I won’t think is what I’m actually feeling. I won’t think to myself, “I’m jealous of this person. I’m envious of their success.”
It’s so hard to admit to ourselves the we feel any of those ugly emotions like jealousy. But refusing to admit what we’re feeling means we can’t hear what the feelings are trying to tell us. As a master of the petty, small, ugly feelings, I’m working on learning to recognize when I’m feeling jealousy or envy and interpreting what those feelings are telling me.
Name the Feeling
When I look at the headshot of the attractive 25-year old next to the impressive bio underneath the article I should have written, goddamnit, I don’t typically think to myself anything like, “This makes me feel insecure and jealous.” No, my literal gut reaction is “Entitled skinny bitch. Probably you got this gig because your dad is rich. I hate you.” Martha Beck calls this monkey mind because we share this attractive quality with our baboon cousins. It’s in our very DNA to compare ourselves to others.
We all do it, then, so it helps to own up to it and embrace the shadow emotion when we feel it. Then we can figure out what it’s trying to tell us. So when I recognize that my thoughts are really jealous ones, it helps to stop and say, “What I’m really feeling is jealousy. I’m jealous of this person. Why?”
How to Find Out What Your Jealousy is Telling You
- Turn the focus on yourself. Your jealous feelings are trying to serve you. They want to tell you something that needs to change in you to make you happier. The answer to that is inside you.
- Ask yourself what exactly is bothering you about this person. Is it her success? Is it because people like her more than they like you? Is it because she’s so thin? Is she really popular? The possibilities (believe me, I know) are endless.
- What emptiness is that exposing in your life? If this is a big question, pull out your trusty journal and hash this one out. The answer probably isn’t as simple as “She’s so successful. I wish I was successful too.” If somebody is eliciting a strong reaction from you, the chances are pretty good that it’s because there’s some pretty raw stuff behind it. Pull that shit out into the daylight.
- What are you willing to do about this? If you’ve uncovered an issue that needs fixing, is there something you might want to do to take you one step closer to the person you want to be? And notice I didn’t ask you to figure out what you could do or what you should do or what you might do. Let’s just take one step today. What are you willing to do today that could take you closer to the you that you want to be? And please remember that watching Netflix in bed while eating ice cream directly from the carton is always a valid response. Rest and restoration to the soul can sometimes what we need the most.
Once when I was comparing myself unfavorably to another person, a friend of mine told me, “Don’t compare your inside to someone else’s outside.” I think that’s pretty wise. It never hurts to remember that the person you’re feeling jealous of just might be jealous of you.
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