The Upside of Jealousy

No one is proud of being jealous.

It never makes you look any better.  It’s not exactly endearing or cute. Because it’s such a negative feeling, it is often assumed that jealousy is to be fully avoided.  After all, being jealous does nothing to improve your life, right?

Worse, since it is seen as a “bad” feeling, most of us will do our damndest to pretend it’s not there at all.  We’ll shove it aside, ignore it or try to out-think it. I’m not jealous!  Of course I applaud my friend’s successes!  We assure ourselves that we’re happy for that coworker who just went on her dream vacation.  We can’t stop smiling about so-and-so’s fabulous wedding. We’re genuinely excited to see that acquaintance’s impressively-ripped fitness selfies! 

Except of course that we’re all human, and watching other people succeed can make you feel like your own life is lacking.  That’s ok. Experiencing jealousy is completely normal. Wait, let me say it again, just in case you missed it…

Getting jealous is normal.

It doesn’t make you bad, or immoral.  It is not proof that you are a terrible person or a terrible friend.  It doesn’t mean that you are weak, or that you have failed. It only means that you’re jealous, which is a thing that happens sometimes, and when it does happen it’s worth exploring.

Why? Because far from being something we should shove aside and deny, jealousy is actually useful. Jealousy shows us what we’re missing and where we can improve. It can illuminate your path for you.  What if your jealousy is really a compass, trying to show you which way to go in life?

You may notice that you never get jealous of people doing things you have no interest in. Instead, people tend to develop envy around others with similar backgrounds, experiences and life goals. You’re more likely to be jealous of someone who is a lot like you, but who has accomplished something that you haven’t. .  

For instance, there is a much greater chance of my experiencing jealousy over someone’s successful writing career than over how well they play football.  I may be able to admire a player’s physical strength, ability and speed, but I can’t imagine watching a football game and feeling envy! But then, it’s not as if I ever dreamed of becoming a football player.  It’s not something I have any emotional connection to.

Jealousy, on the other hand, is deeply emotional.  It awakens a dissonance within us. It reminds us of the distance between our actual achievements and our dreams.   This internal dissonance between reality and our goals is a wonderful clue as to where we should focus our efforts. You don’t need to internally reprimand yourself for being jealous.  The important thing is how you deal with it.

Because, yes, there’s definitely a wrong way!  There’s a reason why jealousy has a bad reputation.  Shoving down your jealousy until you can’t take it anymore, denying it or letting it fester will almost certainly produce disastrous results.  Instead, we must strive to hold jealousy up to the light for further examination.  

Notice that I am not talking about blaming yourself, I am only saying that you should acknowledge those feelings.  Observe them without judgement. Ok, this person has inspired this uncomfortable feeling. Why? What’s this person got that you ain’t got? (Be as specific and detailed with yourself as possible!) What do you feel is lacking in that area of your life?  What can you start doing to change that? This type of analysis is insanely valuable. Your jealousy is really motivation in disguise. Use that jealousy to help you uncover what is making these successful people so successful, and then channel that fire into your own efforts.

A funny thing happens when you analyse jealousy, too.  It tends to fall apart. Seriously! Typically, once you’ve teased apart your jealousy enough to understand your own motivations, you’ve taken all of the vitriol out of the feeling.  After all, YOU got jealous because something is unfulfilled in YOUR life. Now that you’ve acknowledged this (instead of burying it), it’s easy to see that the target of your jealousy is not the problem.  If anything, they were just the messenger.

Once we take on the jealousy and work through it, it will lose its power.  Then the jealousy becomes a little friendlier. Softer. Much more socially acceptable. Boil jealousy down into its component parts, and I believe that you’ll ultimately be left with inspiration. And feeling inspired to work toward the life of your dreams is something you can be proud of!


Nagging Little Things

I had a nagging little thing going on in my life. I’m ashamed to say that I lived with it for a few weeks. Just a small, nagging little thing; something that needed to be done that I somehow couldn’t get myself around to doing.

You know how anxiety can make the slightly unfamiliar seem insurmountable. This thing was on my “To-Do” list, but I still managed to avoid it. In my case, my “nagging little thing” was a slow leak in the left rear tire of my car.

This is the kind of stuff that isn’t a big deal until it is. Obviously, I can’t go around with a flat tire, but it wasn’t flat. Just a little low. Inconvenient. The first time I noticed it, I buzzed by the gas station to put in some air. I have sensors on my tires, and I’ve had a slow leak before, so this part doesn’t intimidate me. (Due to prior tire experience, I know that in the time that it takes for me to say “one-one-thousand” slowly to myself as I inflate my tire, I gain about 20kp of pressure.)

I didn’t rush out and properly address the tire issue. Instead, I became even better at inflating my tire by feel. I can put in the air, hop back into the driver’s seat, turn the key to check the tire gauge on my dash, and be right where I want to be without overfilling, all in a matter of seconds.

So I just kept doing that. Every couple of days I had to make a date with an air hose to get my tire back up where it needed to be. Real cool.

So, why not just get it seen to right away? Like a sensible person? I could tell you that it’s because I work full-time, making it a bit of a hassle (true!), or I could say that I wasn’t keen on maybe having to buy a new tire (also true!), but mostly I was just procrastinating about having to do something mildly uncomfortable. I mean, to fix my tire, I had to take action. I would have to find a garage to look at my tire, find a time during which they could do that and not leave me stranded, physically drive to the garage (a place that I know shockingly little about), and then maybe buy a new tire. Car stuff is always a whole thing.

So I repeated the every-two-day tire-filling process ad nauseam. It almost became part of my routine.

I was being haunted by a tire. (Ok, it wasn’t a killer tire, but still…)

Well, Friday morning I stopped for air at the gas station. Again. On my way to work. Again. I told a guy there that I was going to get my tire fixed or replaced over the weekend. I guess I only blurted it out because I felt awkward, knowing he had seen me come by for the exact same thing many times before.

Well, damn. That changed things a little. I might have had it on my ‘to-do’ list, but it’s different when you say something out loud, even to a stranger who probably doesn’t care about it one way or the other. Add in any accountability at all, even accidental, blurted accountability, and it changes the pressure in your mind.

I would recommend that all people with a “nagging little thing” build in some kind of accountability. It really lights a fire under your ass. Even if that fire is only there to convince you that you don’t want to have to go back on your word, or back to the hose at the gas station again, because now you’ll feel stupid.

Saturday I had some errands to run, and you know how crazy it gets driving around on Saturday afternoons! I wound up trying to turn left onto a main road at the height of traffic. When I realized the futility of this attempt, I changed tactics, indicated to turn right instead, and planned to use the next available street on my left as a way to turn around and join the flow of traffic in the opposite direction.

I turned right and headed up the road. I came into the next available turning lane on my left, and made my way onto a side street.

Right in front of a garage.

I mean, seriously, even I knew I would be silly to pass up this opportunity. Briefly, I imagined having to once again pull off the road during the Monday morning rush to inflate my tire. In front of that same gas station guy. Ugh. No thanks. Before I had a chance to convince myself that I was ‘too busy,’ or whatever, I pulled into the lot, headed for the reception desk and managed to get booked in for a couple of hours later.

I got my mom to come back out with me, and we actually turned car time into coffee and quality time together. Not half bad. We headed back to the garage together later, and…

It was only a dented rim! They knocked it back into place and everything was fine. I dropped it off and had my car back in a little over half an hour. No new tire required. Simple. Shoulda done it ages ago.

Have you also got a “nagging little thing”? If so,consider this your ass kick to make that call, book that appointment or take that next step. You’ll feel so much better when you do! Start by building a little accountability, (i.e. tell someone), and then take that action. It might be a whole lot easier than you expect!

Light, life and love,