Unless you’re a total narcissist, you will feel envious many, many, many, many times in your life. This is just how it goes. There is no sense in expecting yourself to not feel that bubbling of jealousy that tingles in your throat. IT WILL HAPPEN. Likely, it happened to you today or yesterday or some day in recent memory. It’s sort of a fundamental nature of being on the internet—comparing yourself to the snapshot life of someone else. It’s easy to project onto others the toxic belief that they are doing things much, much, much better than you are, and in less time, effortlessly!
People will tell you that you shouldn’t be jealous, that envy stems from personal insecurity. They will be right, but they will also make you feel like shit about yourself. Everyone has insecurities. If you think you’re doing everything right one hundred percent of the time, then you are insane. Like, seriously, go see someone about that. Go. Now. For the rest of us? Insecurity, doubt, and the inevitable creeping in of envy is simply a part of evolving and growing as a person.
Telling someone to “not feel jealous” is like telling someone that it’s healthy to eat vegetables. Like, oh, really? WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT! You mean it’s probably better that I don’t feel like my entire life is a failure because of one Instagram picture from a stranger on the internet? Or, that it’s not great to feel jealous if one of my friends receives an opportunity that I really, really, really wanted, as well? OH OK. I WILL STOP THEN.
Right. Because that’s how humans work.
Because, the truth is: jealousy is healthy to a certain extent. It can be counterproductive to stew needlessly in jealousy and to let envy truly dictate your life, but there is a healthy dose of it that will give you something nothing else can: an indication of what you really desire. There is no better way to wake up to latent desires than to be forced to face them in the form of envy, because if someone else is living an aspect of a life you desire, why can’t you? Sure, there is useless jealousy rooted in a masochistic flavor of self-hate, but even that envy is worth something: it will force you to reexamine your values and what you think keeps you from peace, joy, love, happiness, fulfillment.
For example, if you have uncontrollable jealousy toward celebrities and you are not a celebrity, nor are you even putting any effort into becoming one, then it would help you to examine yourself and your beliefs about what constitutes a beautiful and big life… for you. Likely, you have some belief milling about in your mind that says wealth, fame, and status makes a person happier. (You can replace [happier] with anything you might believe you lack in your current life.)
The jealousy that is centered around more attainable desire is the most incredible signal to you that YOU WANT MORE OUT OF YOUR LIFE. It’s really just an opportunity to quickly see the gap between what you’re doing right now and what you still aspire to do in the future. So, while it can feel demotivating at first to have that jealousy hit your bones and sting your face, you can transform it into something that will make you less susceptible to feeling envious about other people’s lives.
I used to feel so competitive and jealous about other people’s writing. Like, it was a problem. I would just stew in it, letting myself get angry and mean about other people’s success. I had a very difficult time being happy for anyone. I still sometimes struggle with those feelings, but I notice that the only time I am susceptible to that jealousy is when I’m not writing. When I’m stuck or have been allowing my writing to be undermined by other things in my life, then it’s like my brain frantically looks for people who are more successful at the things I want to be successful at. Not doing the thing I want to be doing is when that jealousy has a perfect breeding ground to just fuck up my whole day, which then makes me even less likely to write.
The answer to everything is always the same, it seems: more self-awareness and more understanding of why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. Once you understand the WHY, the feelings have much less control and bearing over your everyday life. When you can identify that, oh hey, I’m feeling like a jealous monster right now because I’m looking at a picture of someone in a beautiful yoga pose and I’m sitting on the couch waiting for my muscles to just completely atrophy, hmmm, maybe I should get up and go for a walk? Take the damn walk and you’ll feel so much better. Identify the feeling, let it have its moment like a kid throwing a tantrum, turn it into something useful, and go on with your life. Simple. Not easy. But simple.