When I was in high school, I was a pretty good wrestler. In fact, leading up to the state tournament my senior year, I was ranked first. According to the polls, I was supposed to win.
I wanted to win, too. Badly. I’d worked my ass off for seven years to get to the top.
I didn’t win. In fact, I didn’t even make it to the finals. I had one bad match early on that spiraled into a few more, and by the end of the tournament, I ended up in eighth place.
Standing on the podium, I looked up at the seven people above me, three of which I’d previously beaten, and all I felt was anger. I pictured myself at the top where I thought I belonged, and I was so overcome with envy that I couldn’t even look at all the cameras flashing pictures around me.
That was a bad day. I wish I could say I never experienced that again, but the truth is that I deal with jealousy on a regular basis. Nowadays, I have a much better system in place for handling it, but the feeling still comes, just as it did years ago.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that jealousy can make or break a person, family, relationship, or even a life. It’s a common emotion that’s not often dealt with productively.
I also think it’s counterproductive to ignore it. Why push away something real, even if it’s undesirable? Rather than ignore yourself and how you feel, why not own it and put it to work?
Picking Up the Trash
Jealousy is garbage and needs to be dealt with. When you see a piece of litter next to a trash can, do you pick it up and put it in the bin, or do you walk by it, thinking that your life will be easier if you just ignore it.
If you ignore it, does that mean it doesn’t exist? How many pieces of trash will be there the next time you walk by? If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around, does it make a sound? That’s a stupid question—of course it does. If you push the garbage away, you simply delay the inevitable until it’s too big to be tamed.
And how do you feel if you pick that piece of trash up and toss it in the bin? What feelings do you have about yourself as a person and a citizen when you do something to improve the world?
That’s what I thought.
So it is with jealousy and the rest of life’s problems. Fixing it is just like picking up a piece of trash. The quicker you do it, the better your life becomes, and the easier it gets to handle when it shows up again. You start to build a habit that transforms a negative characteristic into a defining part of your new life.
You actually start to change the neurons in your brain.
Synapses start to fire differently, and the roadmap through your cerebellum begins to transform so that where once there were frustrating dead ends, now there are superhighways of creativity. Is it easy to adopt this new way of thinking? No. But is it worth it? I’d say so; it’s helped me a lot.
Here are a few solutions to the jealousy problem that work well for me. Take what works for you and leave the rest:
1. Crush it with gratitude.
Finding gratitude for the amazing life you already have is the best way I know how to deal with jealousy. A quick dose of reality can show just how much you have and how little you need to worry about what others have or what they achieve.
2. Morph it into curiosity.
I think the word “uninteresting” is one of the most useless in all the English language. I used to get bored when I was presented with something that didn’t exactly match my current identity, but since I’ve learned the usefulness of curiosity, I haven’t been bored for even one second of my life.
I’m not exaggerating, either. It’s been over three years since I’ve even thought about the idea of boredom and, today, I am endlessly fascinated by just about anything. Being able to dissect my own jealousy to understand what motivates it and find ways to work with it productively has completely changed my life.
3. Accept it as a legitimate human emotion.
If you feel it, it’s real and you shouldn’t be ashamed of it. You don’t need to go around telling people how jealous you are and how awesome it is, but you don’t need to apologize or feel bad about experiencing a normal part of life. Everyone else deals with it, too. And you don’t need anyone else’s validation; you’re good enough.
Get over your own fear and assumptions of inadequacy and start being comfortable just being you already.
4. Seek more of it by surrounding yourself with amazing people.
Probably the most powerful discovery I’ve made for myself in my entire life is one of proximity—you end up just like the people you most often surround yourself with.
Today, I try to surround myself with people that are at least ten times more awesome than me. That makes me jealous as hell on a regular basis, but so what? I’m exposing myself to the people that will help shape me into who I really want to be. I’m over it.
5. Harness its most useful aspects.
If jealousy is a normal human feeling and you can’t avoid it, then maybe it’s actually useful for something. Use that curiosity we talked about earlier to really understand your jealousy so that you can harness the parts of it that compel you to work to be a better person, and avoid the parts that plunge you into depression or cause you to lash out at people.
Jealousy itself is benign. How you act on it is what makes or breaks you.
6. Embrace the idea of abundance.
In a world of seemingly endless scarcity, this one is hard, but it’s also life changing. Eliminate the idea from your mind that in order for you to win, someone else has to lose. Eliminate the idea that there’s a limited amount of success to be achieved or that there’s a limited group of people that can have it.
Liberate yourself from those beliefs and replace them with the truth: that anyone can achieve great things, that seeing others at the top of their game lays a better foundation for you to build on, and that the success you have can inspire the success of a limitless amount of others without ever taking anything away from you.
Evolve your brain and solve your own jealousy problem.
Do you ever have to cope with jealosy? What method do you use to deal with it?
Image by: Stéfan