JEALOUSY AND ENVY
As a society, we associate jealousy and envy with Disney villains. But jealousy and envy aren’t really about languishing in front of mirrors and poisoning apples. Many of us experience jealousy and envy in our daily lives. So what’s really going on here?
First, let’s talk about what “jealousy” and “envy” mean. Jealousy is an emotion that comes when you fear someone is going to take away something that you already have. If you’re in a relationship and you see a beautiful person eyeing your partner, you may feel jealous and anxious that they will take your partner away from you.
Envy is when you want something that someone else has. The Evil Queen is envious of Snow White because Snow White has something she doesn’t – youth, beauty, innocence (don’t get me started on the profoundly f*cked layers of patriarchy that went into the making of that trope!).
So envy is wanting what someone else has and jealousy is worrying someone else is envying what you have. But both jealousy and envy share the belief that you need a thing – or person, or experience – in order to be happy.
That’s where they go wrong. Because remember, our core truth is that your thoughts create your feelings. What you have, or who you’re with, or what you own…none of that creates your feelings. It’s not about how many wrinkles the evil queen has, or how beautiful Snow White is.
Right now, there are people living in what you would consider challenging conditions who are happier than you are. There are people who have everything you could possibly want, but are miserable. At any income level, in any life condition, there are people having different experiences because their thoughts are different.
Jealousy and envy are created by your thoughts, not your external circumstances.
To explore this more, let’s look at the thought process that creates jealousy:
- You have something in your life that you think you need in order to be happy.
- You think that “something” is a limited resource. There’s not enough to go around and if someone gets yours, you’ll be unhappy.
- You believe your grip on that “something” is tenuous and someone else might get it away from you.
Pay special attention to that last condition. Jealousy is about believing that someone else can take your fill-in-the-blank away because you aren’t good enough to keep it. That’s what makes it so maddening! Not only do you need something external to feel ok. You also can’t guarantee keeping that thing, and if you are unable to hang onto that thing, it means that whoever took it away from you is better than you.
These thoughts, of course, lead to you being hyper-vigilant and anxious about any possible threat. A competent underling at work. An attractive person in vicinity of your partner. And so on and so forth.
Envy is a little more straightforward – it means that you want something someone else has that you don’t. Why? Because of how you think that “something” will make you feel.
Are you single and envious of people in a relationship? If so, you most likely envy them because you think that being in a relationship will make you feel happy. Why? If you said “because I’ll have a partner” go back and re-read this post. The real reason you think it’ll make you happy is because of your thoughts about having a partner – and mostly your thoughts about what that means about YOU (e.g., that you’re finally good enough).
I coach women everyday who are in relationships who believe that being single would make them happier, and vice versa. There’s nothing intrinsic to being in a relationship or being single that determines whether or not a person will be happy.
Now that we’ve talked through the root cause of jealousy and envy, what the f*ck do we do when we experience them?
One of the most critical thought shifts that will help you deal with jealousy and envy is to find a way to internalize that there is nothing – nothing – that will save you from experiencing negative emotions, or give you eternal happiness. Sorry, kid. It’s just not on the menu for us humans.
My personal interpretation of this back when I was working through my envy of thin, conventionally beautiful women, was to walk around Manhattan for a whole summer thinking “all being suffer” every time I saw a thin woman and felt envious of her.
If “all beings suffer” isn’t your flavor, try “even Beyonce gets cheated on” or make your own mantra. The point is that negative emotion is a part of life. And both positive and negative emotions are caused by your thoughts – not your job, your partner, your money, your complexion, your weight, your friends, your style.
You only want those things because you think they will make you happy.
But happiness is available to you now. All you have to do is think the thoughts that create it.