This is a blast-from-the-past article, which I had totally forgotten about until @tenaciousleigh reminded me of it! I originally wrote it way back in 2007 — yeah, four years ago! — but it is no less relevant today than it was then…
From a reader: “I really think you should do an article on dealing with jealousy. I just got hit really badly today with jealousy since my friend got accepted to this school and I got rejected from mine, even though the ones I applied to are way harder to get into. I just feel like it is unfair since she has not-so-great grades and doesn’t try, while I put my all into everything I do and have straight A’s. It’s hard to explain. But the green-eyed-monster affects us all sometimes…”
This is such a huge topic, & even though the request was for advice as relates to jealousy between friends, I’m going to include some things regarding jealousy in an intimate relationship too.
“The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” (William Penn)
Jealousy is an incredibly destructive emotion. If it gets out of control, it can rip your life & relationships apart. Sark has some great things to say about jealousy in her book The Bodacious Book Of Succulence. She says that we should think of jealousy as a gift — that, ultimately, it is helpful because it points the way towards where we might like to go.
Jealousy teaches us a lot about ourselves. If we can step back from the emotions flaring up, a more thorough examination of the situation can be a complete revelation. Why are you jealous of Jane? Do you think she’ll leave you for someone else? Do you feel unpopular in comparison? Does being around her make you feel like a dunce?
I also learnt from Sark that jealousy gets bigger if you try to keep a lid on it, or pretend that it’s not there. She wrote that saying, “I am so jealous!” aloud — especially to the person you’re green about — removes all its power. I don’t completely agree with that though. Doing this might make you feel a little bit better, but it won’t completely remove the emotion, & you have no control over how the other person is going to react to you. For all you know, they could be completely snide & hideous about it, which would only make you feel worse. Use your judgement if you decide to express your jealousy!
The reason jealousy is so destructive is that the whole reason it exists is because you are comparing yourself to someone else. We all do this at some point or another, but we could devote our lives to making comparisons between ourselves & whoever — it doesn’t alter reality in any real way! You will still be you, & they will still be whoever they are. I remember reading Freaky Friday when I was a kid, about a mother & daughter swapping places — fortunately, life isn’t like that!
Another thing about jealousy is that it can be so all-consuming that it can completely blind you to reality. People feel jealous of others because they’ve made a value judgment (“Sarah has wealthier parents than I do”) & attached importance to it (“I believe having wealthy parents is significant”). In this example, why is having a well-to-do family important to you? Additionally, your assumption that so-&-so is better off than you isn’t even true for everyone. The Crown Prince of Brunei, for example, would probably think Sarah’s parents were little more than well-dressed vagrants. The whole thing is very subjective.
How about Kate Moss? If you compare yourself to her, you might feel bad about yourself. She is probably slimmer, more photogenic, more stylish, wealthier etc. However, she has dated a string of men who treated her terribly, & has a slew of paparazzi who follow her everywhere & document her every move. This is not to even mention her past battles with drugs. If she was actually happy & liked herself, somehow I doubt she would have dated such deadbeats, or consumed drugs so ferociously. Hopefully, she is happier these days, though it is almost impossible to know.
So it may be that Sarah’s parents have more money than you, but her father is never around & her mother drinks herself into a coma every night. Do you see what I’m getting at? No one really knows the true story of anybody else, & it is ridiculous to assume you do.
Deep down, you know all of this already. The problem is that feeling jealous is an effect, not a cause. Really, regardless of the reason you’re jealous — that worry about being abandoned, feeling scared of being stupid, etc. — all comes from one place.
Jealousy stems from the fear that you do not have value or any special attributes of your own. It is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy in that, because you believe you have little or no value, you will be constantly looking to reaffirm this. So you see people who appear to be doing better than you, & it “proves” to you that you were right — you really are useless.
It is so easy for us to feel bad about ourselves in this society where we are told we have to consume to be cool, we have to guzzle diet pills to be beautiful, we have to be straight fall in love get married have children make lotsa cash fall in line OR ELSE!
While identifying your jealousy is worth doing, there aren’t a lot of practical steps you can take to get rid of it. The only way to really remedy this whole thing — the source of your jealousy — is to concentrate on yourself. You need to practice some major RADICAL SELF LOVE, baby! Learn to love & value yourself — then you won’t be constantly seeking people to weigh yourself up against. Stop comparing yourself to other people, for your own sake.
Make a decision right now: that you will put yourself first, & that your personal happiness & security are your top priority. Then go about making that your reality, in a 100% healthy, constructive way. Work on yourself from the ground up, in a holistic manner. Start journalling & sorting out your feelings. Read up on the concept of radical self love. Listen to what your mind & body are trying to tell you, then act on it. If you need to see a nutritionist, a therapist, a spiritual guru, do it! If you need to get in touch with your estranged family & clear the air, start now! If you need to cull negative people from your life, please go right ahead!
Improve yourself every day! Take your radical self love bible, go to a cafe & make yourself some goals. Make a list of things you like about yourself & refer to them all the time — if you can’t write the list, get a good friend to start it for you! Think about things that would make you happy, & write them down. Do you want to study in Paris or become a famous photographer? Start making steps in the right direction — take an extracurricular class or make it your aim to shoot 5 great photos a week.
Do whatever it takes to make you feel good. That might mean weird changes occur, like you stop going out drinking with your friends every weekend, or you turn down that girl you’re really interested in, because you know she’s cruel to her lovers. Do what you have to do. If you have to pretend that you care about yourself, do that. It’ll get easier.
In the meantime, try to be happy for your friend. Something that we can easily lose sight of is the fact that just because this or that wonderful thing has happened to someone, that doesn’t mean their life is all beer & skittles! They are still going to have challenges & difficulties, sometimes related to this jealousy-causing event, & sometimes not. They still need your friendship & your support. Don’t pull that from them just because you are dealing with your own stuff.
Continue to concentrate on you, you, you. Discover who you want to be & what you want to do. It’s such an exciting process, which makes the whole thing worth it. Sometimes you might find it scary, but push through. It will make you a better person. As you go through this process, you could find yourself backsliding a bit. Jealousy might start to rear its ugly head, but now it will be much less painful, & you’ll shake it off quickly.
The more you know & like yourself, the happier you will be. You’ll be more in control of your life, with the ability to steer it anywhere you want to. You will no longer feel the need to criticise everyone you know. The coat of jealousy will slip from your shoulders into the street, & you will walk on oblivious.
Working on your self-esteem is not a cure-all, but it is an essential building block. If you don’t have it, suffice to say that life will be much harder. Baby, you don’t need that! Do yourself a favour!
You are an incredible person with your own uniquely brilliant qualities: know that, & trust that. It might sound crazy, but maybe your friends are jealous of you too, sometimes! Being able to deal with these irrational emotions in a mature way is all part of growing up & becoming a healthy, happy person. You’ll get there! I promise!