Jealousy, envy, comparison and judgement are difficult subjects to talk about right.
Difficult to acknowledge to ourselves quietly even, they feel taboo. In health, wellbeing and spiritual circles it’s common to feel as though jealousy is something only less enlightened or aware humans have to deal with.
As though once you’ve achieved a certain number of hours in meditation or on the yoga mat and have banished cinnamon scrolls from your diet you will no longer feel the green eyed monster on your back.
Well I’m here to tell you that you can’t meditate yourself out of humanness. Being human also means that on occasion you will feel jealous, envious, less-than, critical of, and judgmental.
It’s what you do with feelings of jealousy that counts
We can either scoff down these thoughts and feelings with lashings of shame until we feel sick and even lower than before.
We can look at it from another angle, one of self-compassion, kindness with a big sprinkle of realism.
Let me lay out the likely scenario for each;
When we engulf the jealousy, washed down with shame for feeling that way we take it into our bodies and allow it to merge with our own sense of self.
I have no scientific evidence for this but my feeling is that as women especially, jealousy is like a detrimental chemical that wanders around our bodies not knowing where to exit and ends up getting stuck on a receptor site that was supposed to be for something else like um, feeling good about yourself!
In the second scenario, compassionate, kind and realistic with ourselves, jealousy provides us with an opportunity to get closer to our truth.
Some authors say that jealousy is always a sign of what we want for ourselves and we just need to acknowledge that it’s already within us and needs development.
But what if jealousy can also tell us what we don’t want. Maybe it’s there to offer even more specific information about our desires and also what repels us. Knowing what we don’t want can often help clarify what we do want more of.
So how do we work with it
When you feel triggered, (that is you first notice a reaction via a negative thought or bodily sensation towards something you’ve seen or heard about another) the next step is to get curious.
When curiosity enters the dialogue you can use it to determine if there is something in it for you. Is there something here you desire or something you definitely don’t want in your life.
Kindness and self-compassion are the secret sauce that allow us to get curious. If you’re having trouble feeling open enough to be curious and look into your jealousy then more self-compassion is needed.
The curiosity piece allows us to get REAL and begin breaking down what it may have taken for that person to get where they are. Then the question becomes ‘Am I willing to do that work too?’ and ‘Is it really, honestly what I want for myself?’
Two case studies
Case Study One:
An artist with a regular part time job that is fairly unexciting but pays quite well. She likes her colleagues, does regular hours and isn’t overly stressed. She also earns a smaller amount from her art which she sells at markets and online. She spoke to me about her envy and comparison to another artist who makes a full time living from her creative work and in response my client had decided she is less-than and a failure.
When we became curious and really analysed what it took for the other artist to get where she is, some things became evident. The hours put into self-promotion and marketing were an enormous requirement. Having to go to all the openings and be seen in the creative crowd was a very different social scene to the relaxed one my client knew and loved with her “daggy bookish friends and crafters”. The biggest thing however, was the pressure that going full time would immediately place on her art.
This client mostly enjoys her job and feels secure for knowing she can pay her rent each week and live a lifestyle that she enjoys. It’s not flash but she gets to spend money on things and people she loves. She also acknowledged that her job allows her mind to wander and sometimes inspiration comes as she’s working. She carries around a little notepad for this reason. Then when she hits the studio she knows she has a list of ideas she feels excited to explore.
In the end, she identified that her lifestyle and work/ art balance works really well for her at this point. That being a well-known glamorous full time artist doesn’t feel like something she wants after all but what she does admire about the other artist and could cultivate more of within herself and her work is her ‘boldness’ – putting herself out there a little more, taking a few creative risks.
Case Study 2:
A stay at home Mum who felt jealous and worthless when comparing herself to other Mums on social media who seemed to have it all together. She was feeling triggered by images of other Mum’s in her circle who looked great, had perfect hair, make up and nice clothes and their kids were all perfect too. She felt like she should be that way too but equally it all just felt like a slog.
Again, we dove into this scenario and first imagined what it took for those women to look that way. It amounted to a lot of time and money prioritising their appearance, hair, make-up, clothing, botox, gym or personal trainers not to mention shopping for the latest beautiful home-wear, evident in their domestic bliss photos.
My heart went out to this gorgeous new Mum who was so defeated for not measuring up. We looked at her values and that’s when the answers became clear. She valued things like simple living, health, low consumption/ low waste lifestyle but also learning and intellectual stimulation. No wonder the images and messages she was looking at made her feel lousy and flat, they are so opposed to her own values.
The solution in this case was to change the focus and seek out a community of like-minds, people into growing vegetables, composting, making bags out of recycled clothing, dressing their kids in op-shop gear instead of designer wear, living more aligned to the earth and natural cycles. Eventually this woman and her family moved further out of suburbia and into a semi-rural area where she felt like she could be totally herself. She curated her online content to match.
Her jealousy became a source of truth telling. It pointed out what isn’t important to her and what makes her feel lousy but it also told her what she needed more of. That was community and connection.
She felt triggered when she saw other Mum’s interacting and expressing joy over similar interests and she wanted that. She just couldn’t muster those feelings because she was in the wrong group. Her new focus lead her to a greater sense of connection with a new community but she had to experience what was triggering first.
Nothing to be ashamed of
I hope these stories helped explain why jealousy needs to be put back on the table and given some attention. It’s not a shameful emotion to be immediately eradicated and never talked about unless in a gossipy way with friends. It’s an emotion that contains useful information that could help you move towards your dreams. And who doesn’t want that!