How to Make Jealousy Your Teacher
Using your insecurities to practice gratitude
I went on a road trip with a couple friends recently; a chance to escape our daily grind and spend some time in the woods. And as some girls’ trips do, there was one night when we got really deep and started to talk about our feelings (I know, my Virgo Moon is cringing right along with you).
One of these young women, who has been a dear friend of mine for 13 years, is one of those people who seems like they have it all figured out. She is pretty, she is physically fit, her family is close-knit and close-by. She has a loving partner, she grows her own vegetables, she owns her own home (literally has the husband, the dog, and the picket fence.)
In my head, it looked like everything always came to her so easily. She did not have to try to be pretty, accomplished, or to get the man and the house and the dog and the picket fence. To me, it seemed everything just happened for her. It got to the point where, without realizing it, I had silently resented every accomplishment of hers for years… Because it seemed like she had everything and I had nothing.
So we were feeling very hippy dippy on this trip and we started talking and connecting with one another. I opened up to her about how I was always so jealous of her and actually felt some resentment towards her. I felt in my chest how ugly this feeling was and I wanted to rid myself of it and be done with it forever. She took it in stride, with humor and love, and helped me to release those negative emotions that I knew did not belong in my body.
Even while I was experiencing this resentment, I knew what I felt had everything to do with myself and nothing whatsoever to do with her. So what would bring me to resent the happiness of a dear friend?
As it turns out, my jealousy had turned my dear friend into a conduit for my insecurities. I felt unaccomplished and unhappy, and therefore I resented her accomplishments and happiness. I projected my feelings of inadequacy and frustration onto someone who was very simply just living their own life. This is someone I claimed to love, and yet I resented her life. How could I call myself her friend?
And I know I am not alone in feeling this way towards another person. We all see celebrities on social media or in our private lives or at our jobs that seem to have everything. Meanwhile, we think we have nothing. Why can’t I look like her? Her husband is so amazing; why can’t I get a guy like that? His house is gorgeous; why can’t my house be that big and beautiful?
The reality is that these people are fighting their own battles and trying to overcome their own hardships. They probably look at other peoples’ lives the way that you look at theirs. Hell, they might even look at your life that way! But we’re so busy living in our own heads, letting dark clouds form and contentedly letting the rain of self-pity fall on us, that we do not recognize all the blessings we already have.
The key to working through our insecurities and jealousies is to practice gratitude. It sounds cliché, but it is absolutely true. It is the only antidote to the poison of jealousy. Be grateful for what you have and where you are in life, and if you feel that green envy monster creeping into your consciousness, do a quick personal inventory and realize how much you have going for you. Send love and blessings to that person you feel jealousy towards, because you truly have no idea what is going on in their head or in their personal life. Send them good vibrations and improve your mood in the process.
Buddhism teaches us about the gift of suffering; how suffering is actually grace. We suffer under these dark clouds of jealousy and resentment, but these dark clouds are showing us where our awareness is lacking. They show us how we have unconsciously been allowing life to happen to us and falling into victimhood, as opposed to living each moment fully and gratefully.
There were so many moments when my friend was moving forward in her dharmic journey and I resented her instead of celebrating her, which now feels like a waste. But of course, nothing is ever wasted because we are all always learning and experiencing and growing, and now I know what I need to do if those feelings begin to resurface.
Name your little envy monster and wave it off when it comes. Take its presence as a sign that it is time to ground yourself and think about what matters. Envy does not have power over you; you choose your mood and how you react to the things the world throws at you. Don’t let that green creature bury itself in your mind and plant the seeds of resentment. You will find that the more you practice self-care and self-love, that little green monster will make fewer and fewer appearances, and maybe it will disappear altogether in this lifetime.
Practicing gratitude also includes celebrating yourself! Be grateful for where you are in your life and all that you have accomplished. Be grateful for your body and all that it allows you to do. If you have hands, be grateful that you can hold the hand of someone you love. If you can see, be grateful for the stunning landscapes on this planet. If you are able to walk, enjoy the chance to take a stroll down through your neighborhood on a beautiful day. If you have a family you love, be grateful for the time you all spend together talking and laughing. Life is much better when we recognize the simple pleasures that we all have abundantly around us; so why be jealous because you think your coworker is thinner and prettier than you? Practice this positivity and meditate on these thoughts, and you will delight in the joy and accomplishments of others, because you will feel fulfilled in your own life and excited at the prospect of someone you love finding happiness of their own.
It is easy to say we all should love one another, and it is another thing to practice it. But it all starts from inside. You cannot truly love somebody else if you do not love yourself. Love yourself enough to stop these negative thoughts in their tracks. Try to make positivity and love your default emotions. You deserve to feel happy and lifted!