I like to think I’m not a very jealous person. Most of the time, I am happy to celebrate others’ successes and support their accomplishments and goals and opportunities. I know how important this is to healthy relationships, and I genuinely want the people in my life to do well.
But on occasion, jealousy gets the best of me. I have some really amazing, smart, talented, and fierce females in my life, who are out in the world doing amazing things. These ladies inspire me on a daily basis. And sometimes, I find myself envious of their successes.
Last week, I was hit hard with feelings of jealousy.
I was taking my kids for a walk around my new neighborhood later that same day, and I found myself brooding over the situation. As we walked and I pondered, I looked around and noticed the leaves just starting to turn, edges of red and yellow and orange emerging. The sun was casting deep shadows through the trees, and I could feel the crisp cool air on my face. It was a picture perfect fall evening. I soaked it in and thought of Anne of Green Gables’ “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
As we walked, I began to think through all of the things I love about October: sweater weather, pumpkin spice, candy corn, bonfires, Halloween and trick or treating with my babies — the list goes on. I decided that every month should be October. But then I thought about my favorite month – March – and decided I had to have both. I appreciate them both for what they are, but wouldn’t want one to change to try to be the other. It dawned on me that I should view my friends and their strengths and talents the same way. I should appreciate and celebrate them for what they are, without feeling the need to compete or change myself in any way to be more like them. One is not so special without the other. If every month was October, it would lose all its magic.
Over the years, as I’ve dealt with feelings of envy and jealousy, I’ve realized that there are specific things I can do to help myself gain a broader perspective. These tools help me re-loadcenter myself and re-focus my thoughts and remember my priorities. As I walked, I realized I needed to use them now.
These are the three things I do when I am feeling envious of someone else:
- First, I try to identify exactly what it is about this person or their accomplishments or situation that I am actually jealous of. I narrow it down to a specific thing rather than just being jealous of a person in general. Then I really try to think about all of the challenges and sacrifices and obstacles she must have faced on her journey to be where she is today. No one achieves anything of any significance without some serious sacrifices. I know this is true, yet I forget it sometimes when I’m blinded by envy.
- Then, I try to center myself, meditate, and ask myself if the particular thing I’m jealous of is even a part of my plan for my own life. Sometimes it is, and that means I need to pay close attention to the jealousy. If it is in fact something that I want for myself, then I ask myself these questions: Am I willing to do what she did to achieve this thing for myself? What would I be willing to sacrifice to make that happen for myself? Time with my family? Nights and weekends? Tacos? More student loan debt? And then, what do I need to start doing now to be able to have this thing? And then it is time to make a plan and take action to achieve this thing. But sometimes it’s not actually something that I even want for myself, and I’m just admiring something that is not meant for me and wondering if the grass is really greener somewhere else. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that you should do the same thing that so and so is doing, because she’s over there killing it and making it look easy. But over time I’ve learned that it’s never the things that you try to do because someone else is successful at them that bring the greatest benefits to your life. True and lasting success usually comes down to looking at your own unique set of talents and skills and experiences and resources and opportunities and doing something that makes sense for you.
- Finally, when I’m no longer deep in my feelings of envy, I make a point to wish her well. I try not to offer a half-hearted congrats because I know I should. But instead, I wait until I am able to offer a genuine compliment or praise. Because that’s the kind of person I want to be, and I hope she’ll do the same for me someday.