I am going to be honest: there was a time when I unwittingly lived with jealousy on a day-to-day basis. I would resentfully survey my social media feeds, watching all of my peers and friends take the next steps towards graduate adulthood (moving to London, embarking on new relationships, taking fabulous holidays…etc, etc). And sure enough, I would feel the curdle of envy twisting its way through my gut.
I was unable to summon any kind of positive emotion towards those who were doing well because every time they succeeded it only seemed to highlight where I was failing. Someone doing something that I desperately wanted to do myself felt like that person had literally taken my dream and made it into their own.
As I sat sobbing and choking down a cup of tea (because I’m all British like that), lamenting about how ugly and green I felt inside, my dad would say, “Deborah, who cares what they’re doing? You’re not going to be happy until you’re happy with Deborah.”
Well, it’s only now that I am happy and relatively content that I can truly say, “Dad, I get it.”
“You are only going to be happy when you are happy with you.”
The root of jealousy is you
The truth is that when we are happy with who we are, what we are doing and what we have, we feel goodness towards others. When we are content, someone attaining something, even undeservedly, (for instance, someone getting the promotion at work because they’re family friends with the boss), we may note the injustice but ultimately it doesn’t ruin our lives.
When you are happy and content with your life, the envy that you harbour diminishes.
Jealousy solves nothing
Being resentful won’t get you the job that you want. Stalking someone’s Facebook profile won’t post anything more interesting on your own timeline. Staring daggers at a person’s new spouse is not going to generate your soul mate. You cannot control other people and you cannot magic away social and economic inequality – the only thing that you can control is yourself and your life and where you are going.
The moment I realised these obvious facts, I switched off my computer, wrote down what I thought would make me happy, and booked a bunch of plane tickets. For the first time, I did what would make my life truly better and more fulfilled. And now when I look at people are doing or see a great opportunity that has come my friends’ way, I say, “Great – good for them!” with full sincerity. Because I am happy with what I am doing and where I am going. If I feel any strong pangs of jealousy and resentment, it’s a sign that I’m not happy. Instead of getting angry I ask myself what I can do to make myself happier and more fulfilled.
So, what steps can you take to curb your green-eyed monster?
1. Ask yourself why you are jealous. Is it because they are going on holiday and enjoying the time of their lives? Or is it because you need a break yourself? Look at what it is in you that makes you jealous of others.
2. Realise what you can do to change that. You can’t stop that person from having a holiday, but there is a chance that you could aim to have one of your own. If a person has what you want and it makes all green eyed inside, write what it is that they have that you want and figure out how you can begin getting it yourself. Write a list of steps and ideas about how you can achieve this goal.
3. Write down steps to your “Happiness”. Your overall happiness and well-being are the only real long-term cures for jealousy. This means that you need to think about what your Happiness looks like and how you can harvest it. And I don’t mean just the big goals like “I want to be my own boss”, I am talking about those small everyday things that bring joy to your life. Even if it’s only making sure that you save enough money to have a decent haircut every few months, taking a luxurious bath once a week, or inviting friends round for a dinner and a movie.
4. Give that person a compliment or “good on you” comment. I know it’s painful sometimes, but try and feel a positive feeling towards the person that’s making you jealous. Not only will it make you feel like the bigger person, but it’s a much better and nicer feeling to have than poisonous resentment. Say it and fake it until you make it.
5. Think about what you can learn from that person. So that individual on your Twitter has your dream job: see them as an inspiration. When someone is doing something that I want to do, I put it into my piggy bank of “Things-that-I-want-to-accomplish”. If you’re feeling particularly positive and good willed, you can even ask that person for tips and advice.
6. Delete the people that you can’t harbour good feelings towards. Perhaps they are arrogant and boastful in their successes and belittle other people. Maybe they refuse to acknowledge the help and support that they have received from others. Sometimes there are people that you don’t like and can’t bring yourself to hold up as deserving individuals. So delete them! Get them off of your social media and out of your social circle. If they’re not adding to your life, they’re taking away. Move on.
7. Be productive about what you feel is out of your control. As I said, we cannot control people and take their latest golden moment and give it to ourselves. However, if you honestly see your lack as part of a larger social injustice, be productive about it. Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Join or support an organisation that tackles those issues. Go to schools abroad and help teach disadvantaged children. You might not be able to change things automatically, but you can start to be productive about what you don’t like in the world.
8. When you start comparing yourself, focus on yourself. One thing that I do on social media sites is stop mid-newsfeed to click on my own profile. I look at the captions and comments that make my life positive. I bring my focus back onto myself and the wonderful people and moments that I have in my life.
9. Write a gratitude list. It’s as simple as it sounds, write as many things as you can about the things that you are grateful for in your life.
10. Say “fuck it”. If all of this fails and you can’t be productive or think on a spiritual “breathe in the positive and exhale the negative”, then just say “fuck it” as though to say “I don’t care” and do something that you enjoy.