Ah jealousy, the green eyed monster. So much to say about this topic yet where to begin? We all know about this because we have all been there. We have all been jealous of someone or something and we have been envious of the opportunities, possessions, etc. of others. But what does jealousy do exactly? Some say it inspires them to work harder, to move faster, to be “better.” Jealousy has never done this for me. It has always eroded my soul, feeding the thoughts that I am not _______ enough and that was due to my own deficiencies.
But lately I’ve been studying jealousy as if I were a scientist; noticing the effects it has on my mind, body, and spirit and how others deal with jealousy. I think of my Dad, not because I believe he is a jealous person, but because of his success in life. He came from a very modest background from a family that did not have many financial resources yet he had big dreams. He grew up in the south, in Georgia to be exact, and he ended up moving to Colorado with a friend of his at the age of 18, living in his friend’s older brother’s garage for a while working different jobs before he could find a place of his own. He worked in a country club as a chef’s assistant (and subsequently is pretty much a gourmet chef) but eventually became a CPA (an account) and got a Master’s degree and now, many many years later, he’s a partner in a successful business.
When I was young, he told me about something he created called a “success file,” where he tore out inspirational stories about those who worked their butts off and became successful at whatever they chose to do; whether they were musicians or businessmen. An incredible work ethic and desire to succeed motivated my Dad, even when he was at one point the lowest paid worker in a company, working in the mailroom while other young men his age were making much more money and had much more prestige in their careers than he did. Now my dad has truly earned his success, and I owe every opportunity I’ve been given (traveling, studying abroad, my education, and even my ability to go back to treatment last fall) to him. I don’t know if my Dad was ever jealous, but I’m sure he was, and it motivated him. Me on the other hand, well that’s a different story.
Jealousy doesn’t motivate me, it cripples me. Yes, I have my own drive to succeed (at what exactly I’m just learning, but I like the path I’m on and can’t wait to share it with you all) but jealousy and envy are not useful for me. I look at someone else’s successes and the first thought I have is
“They’re better than me. I’m not ________ (good, pretty, smart, resourceful, motivated, thin, funny, etc) enough.”
It’s not that I am not genuinely happy for friends who succeed and have things I don’t, quite the contrary. I’m happy for them because I see how hard they worked and yet at the same time, I feel like there’s a limited amount of success in the world, and that if I don’t get there fast enough, it’s going to run out. It’s kind of like when you go to a restaurant and you’ve been waiting for that one amazing dish and when they finally get to your table, they tell you that they sold out, and you have to pick your second or third choice on the menu. For some reason that’s what I’ve always believed about success…whoever gets there first gets the prize and the rest (meaning me) are shit out of luck.
Where did this belief come from? I have no idea. People become successful all the time and I fully understand and acknowledge that “success” has a multiplicity of definitions. Success is defined differently by everyone, but I feel comfortable saying that in our western society, it means “wealthy, well-known, thin, and beautiful.” To step away from that limited, packaged, contained notion of success is difficult because you risk not getting external validation, and who doesn’t want others to validate their triumphs?
Gaining self-esteem and confidence for me has been all about validating myself, even when I don’t believe it. It’s like a saying that I actually really don’t like, “Fake it ’till you make it.” It’s cliché and rhymes too much and I don’t like the phrase but I appreciate the message. Of course if you haven’t believed that you are worthy and beautiful and important and valuable, are you going to all of a sudden believe it when you say it to yourself and WANT to mean it?? No, you’re not.
So how do you go from wanting to mean the things you say to yourself to actually, sincerely meaning them? It’s a tough task but you slowly, step by step, affirmation by affirmation, begin to convince yourself that you can be what you want to be.
Life is like a mirror, and whatever we do and say is reflected back to us in our experiences. By slowly shifting out our old lenses of self-hate, deprecation, and worthlessness, we can replace them with feelings of self-acceptance, worthiness, and maybe one day love. The relationship you have with yourself is the hardest and most rewarding relationship you’ll ever have. It will take energy, strength, courage, bravery, and most of all, patience to retrain your brain. But can it happen? Does this actually work or is all this a bunch of hocus pocus? I think it works because I’ve seen it work with myself. No, it hasn’t been a constant upward trend for me, but it’s been an overall upward journey. There are peaks and valleys but I work as hard as I can to get out of the valleys, remembering that this will take time.
We all have the choice to settle with where we are or we have the choice to grow. Even if you are mostly happy right now, you can always choose to get more out of life, as long as it doesn’t negatively impact you in the end. Jealousy doesn’t have to motivate or cripple, it’s just an emotion. It’s just part of the noise that our minds make and it grows when we give it more attention. Acknowledging the jealousy and setting it aside lets us move on with the activities that make us feel better about ourselves and allow us to grow into the people we want to be.