Jealousy is a natural human emotion and is often incited at the most inconvenient of times. It is frequently unavoidable given that it usually springs up without warning. Nobody pencils into their calendar, “I plan to be jealous of X today,” but the reality is that this emotion can hold tremendous power over us if we let it. Jealousy frequently stems from some sense of lack in our lives. It very often comes from a desire to either have something that doesn’t belong to us, or be something/someone we are not.
A few examples of events that may spark this emotion are the birth of a baby if one was lost, celebrating the engagement of a friend after a break up, or working tirelessly for a promotion but finding it went to someone else. What all of these examples have in common is that they result in significant pain. I think it’s fair to say that most of the time the people around us don’t do things to purposely make us jealous. It’s more often that we see something going on around us, identify a void in ourselves, and inflict this emotional pain inward.
This process of internal degradation is emotionally exhausting and physically draining. We invest so much focus and energy into the void that someone else’s happiness leaves us that our own emotional bank account starts to run dry. This can start to affect things like job performance, interpersonal relationships, and most importantly damage the relationship we have with ourselves. We may start second guessing our skills, worth, and value. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in this spiral, it becomes very difficult to claw your way out of it. And the question is, once you’re in the vortex, how do you make it stop?
One of the first steps to making peace with jealousy is recognizing that it’s there in the first place. It is often uncomfortable to confront the idea of being jealous of another person, particularly when it is someone we care about or are close to ie. our partner, friend, sibling, parent, child, co-worker, etc. Acknowledging the emotion and then thinking about where it is coming from puts us on the path to healing. Denial of its existence just prolongs the process. The real work comes after you’ve accepted that jealousy is the emotion you feel. Walking through the emotion, acknowledging its presence, and paying attention to the harm it is causing you is important. The trick is not to get stuck there. It is easy to revel in the feeling, and perpetuate its poison with gossip and trash-talk either internally or externally, and recruiting others to participate in this with you. By allowing yourself to wallow in it, you have essentially handed over your internal locus of control, and are losing yourself in the process.
Quelling jealousy means finding the light at the end of the tunnel. This starts with taking the acknowledgement of your jealousy and finding out what it means. What is it about this particular situation that makes you feel this way? Is it a sense of inadequacy? Is it that you don’t feel like you are getting the recognition you deserve? Are you longing for love in your life? Finding out where this emotion is really coming from helps us discover our own personal void, and also provides the road map to how to fill it. It gives us the answer to our pain. Maybe it’s a job change, or taking a chance with online dating, or starting your own business.
But sometimes, despite our best efforts, we find that the root cause of our jealousy is something that can not be fixed easily or at all. Sometimes the answer is that of acceptance, and the realization that your path is uniquely yours. Nobody else can walk your path for you, and you are unable to walk someone else’s.
Sometimes when things don’t work out the way we hoped, we don’t realize the value of the experience until much later down the road. Sometimes life’s greatest missteps provide us with our greatest joys later in life. Instead of focusing on the things that are missing in our lives, perhaps the answer is to find the beauty in the life we do have and express gratitude for the meaning we find in our own happiness, as opposed to focusing on the perceived happiness of others. When you create your own happiness, you find that it isn’t something that anyone can take from you. It’s not conditional, or contingent on others. Your happiness is a gift. And the beauty of it is, it’s one that you can share whenever and with whomever you choose.
*Originally published on the Inpathy Bulletin