Jealousy: How to Work Through It

Your best friend gets a ribbon at an art festival. You’ve got a booth, too, and don’t get a mention, much less a ribbon. You secretly think your work is better than hers. You congratulate her, but the words feel like sawdust in your mouth. Then you begin to feel bad about yourself. You like your friend, and you are jealous of her success.

That emotion dragging your ego around the house is jealousy–a mix of fear and anger, or, your feeling of lack and attack. Fear (lack) that you are not enough to win and anger (attack) that you are being deprived of something that should be yours.

Whether it’s a friend and a prize, or a colleague who gets a promotion, jealousy is a common problem in a culture that values competition.

Jealousy and envy cause similar anguish, but they have different meanings. Jealousy is an emotional resentment of the success of someone who is in the same profession or in the same office. Jealousy is an emotional reaction to behavior or achievement of someone else.

Envy is the feeling of wanting to have what someone else has, and it belongs in a different post.  This post is about feeling jealousy and working on overcoming it.

What to do with these powerful emotions? The first part is the hardest:

Admit to yourself that what you feel is jealousy, not righteous anger or a fit of fairness. Once you admit that you are feeling jealous, you can start to work on what’s bothering you. You can’t solve a problem until you admit you have one. What we resit, persists.

Concentrate on what you feel and where. Is it a sinking feeling in your chest? A tightening in your throat? A burning feeling in your head? Try to remember if you have felt this before. See if you can find the link between the two events. Is your predominant feeling anger? (“They always get. . . .” “It’s so unfair. . .” ) Or fear? (Why don’t I ever get noticed? Does the boss think I’m incompetent?)

Grab your journal. This is for the morning-pages, real-life journal you keep. It’s not for the art journal until you have processed it a lot further. Write down everything you feel. Write down why you feel this way. Don’t try to be rational until you have written down the anger and disappointment and fear.

Once you have cleared the lack and attack, keep writing. You may be surprised what you discover about yourself, including some reasons you feel so weak and helpless. The reason you don’t want anyone else you know well to do better than you.

Talk to a trusted friend or relative. Someone who already knows you are jealous. Ask them not to give you advice, but to witness your emotions. That means choosing someone truly trusted.  You may be surprised that what you say is not what you wrote. Note any differences in your explanations. See where you place blame. See what shortcomings you mention, both in the other person and in yourself. The ones you attribute to the other person are the ones you blame yourself for, whether you want to admit it or not.

Be by yourself. Make a list of the attributes you admire and wish you had that the other person has. Dig deep, and see where you exhibit those attributes, too. Because you do, and you need to honor those attributes instead of being scared of them. The most likely source of jealousy is not feeling certain of skills, talents and gifts. Or feeling that if you have them, you will be responsible for exhibiting them flawlessly.

Make a plan to support and exhibit those positive traits more often. Start by noticing them. If you ignore them, you can’t nurture them. Start to exercise the positive traits when you notice yourself in action. Emphasize them. Then choose to use them.

Be realistic. Other people will win. Others will get praised. It’s a big world with many people. You won’t get all the attention. Choose the characteristic you want to be noticed for and act accordingly.

Keep your mouth shut. Don’t bad mouth others if they win. Even if they win unfairly. Don’t complain to your friends. Don’t try to make yourself feel better by running others down.

The more you learn to depend on your own skills and talents, the less jealous you will feel. If you don’t win this time, you will know you have done your best, and you will know your next move. That’s already one step ahead.

-Quinn McDonald knows about lack and attack. She knows her inner critic and knows she has inner heroes, too.  Photos: Quinn McDonald, Cloud Series, © All rights reserved, 2012.