Friday, February 28, 2014

Jealousy: The Worst Human Emotion

This is going to be one of those posts where I constantly wonder if I'm over-sharing. I can tell because I've written and rewritten three different introductions, which I've since deleted. Whatever, I'm just going to dive right in. No take-backsies.

This last weekend, I got the opportunity to speak with a group of high school girls about what it means to be women -- as in, what makes women unique? In what ways might women struggle? As women, where does our value lie? Where do we try to find value instead? What does the world say about who a woman should be?

All of that stuff.

It was a conversation I have been a part of many times, both as a speaker and as a listener, but this time it struck a new chord in me. Or maybe an old chord. A chord was struck, but I'm not sure which kind.

In leading this discussion with these girls, I realized that their answers to what they struggle with are not that far off from mine. In fact, if I really think about it, my current fears don't stray all that far from the ones I had when I was their age. Sure, these concerns manifest themselves differently now (for instance, my fears of inadequacy no longer lead me to rehearse obsessively for the spring musical), but the point is I still have them. And, guys, I'm practically a million years old at this point.

I know that as human beings we learn and relearn the same lessons over and over again, but I don't know, at some point, I guess I just expected one or two to stick.

Anyway, the struggle I've been working through a lot lately is one of jealousy. I made that word look big, fat, and imposing for the sake of impact. It's a gross word, arguably one of the worst possible human emotions. It has synonyms such as "envy" that sound slightly better, cute almost (imagine a baby german shepherd named Envy. Adorable.), but I'm sticking with "jealousy" because it kind of sounds like it could be a disease of the intestinal tract, and I think that's more fitting to the way I experience it.

If you are not of this planet, and you don't know what jealousy is, simply put, it is anger inspired by the success, possessions, or status of others. If you need to see jealousy personified, here you go:


If you need to see a scenario in which jealousy might occur, here you go:

If you need to see a picture I drew of the expression, "jealousy rearing it's ugly head", here you go:

I'm not an artist.

If you need to see a list of 20 stupid things that make me jealous in life, here you go:

  1. Jennifer Lawrence
  2. People who can afford to take taxis 
  3. People who can afford to live in Park Slope
  4. That person who got that opportunity I didn't realize I wanted
  5. That person who got that opportunity that I definitely did not want, but now they are happy, and I wish I was the one who was happy
  6. People who are able to sleep on airplanes
  7. Girls who can french braid their own hair
  8. Men who eat garbage all week long and are able to still look like Disney princes
  9. People who can barely spell their own names yet they have some kind of exclusive, high-paying job
  10. Dinosaurs because they know what happened to the dinosaurs
  11. People who live in Hawaii
  12. Birds because flying
  13. Toddlers who can wear tutus and no one thinks it's weird
  14. People who travel
  15. Bloggers who just seem to understand how to run their blog
  16. People who enjoy exercise
  17. People who are eating Tex Mex right at this very moment
  18. That girl wearing that dress I wish I was wearing
  19. College students who don't yet know the rejection that awaits them after graduation
  20. The guy in front of me in line who got the last croissant 

All of these jealousy-triggers are crazy, and when I see them all written out one-after-the-other, they seem even crazier. The thing about this twisted feeling is that it pulls from two other incredibly powerful emotions, anger & fear, and it confuses them so much that processing rationally is out of the question. Even if we don't want to admit it to the people around us, it is easy to assess whether we're starting to become jealous. There's that hot feeling that goes to your head, that punch-in-the-gut sensation that happens in your stomach. It's much more difficult, however, to diagnose where these feelings are actually coming from.

I would argue that our jealousy stems from one simple, yet very toxic lie -- that if we have this thing/opportunity/status in the way that someone else does, we will somehow become a more complete person.

And it really is a lie. Ugh, intellectually, we know that! Somehow, though, jealousy has the power to bypass our logic and fester in the ugliest parts of our mind. It defies reason, common sense, and it thrives on all of our deepest insecurities. It seriously is the very worst emotion, come to think of it. 

So how do we fight it it? How do we keep jealousy from rearing its ugly, stupid, wrinkly head? 

Well, first off, allow me to remind you that I'm no expert. You saw that list up there -- it's not pretty. Still, I have found that there are a couple of things that I can do to help me stay in check. 

One is to remind myself, as a mantra even, that none of the things that make me jealous are ever going to be the things that fulfill my life. Not Park Slope, not traveling, not Tex Mex, not tutus -- ultimately, none of those things have the power to save my life. None of them. And to crave them so outlandishly is nothing short of idolatry.

The second thing that helps me is exactly what I'm doing right now -- confessing. It sounds crazy, I know, but seriously try it: admit your jealousies. Tell the person whose life you want that you want their life, and watch as they tell you about another person, maybe even you, whose life they'd swap for in a heartbeat. Allow it to be a conversation that reveals everyone's brokenness instead of yet another chance to try to one-up our neighbors. Try it, and see if you don't feel just a teensy bit petty. 

Still, even as I say these things, I know that creeping feeling is far more clever than I am, which is why I'd love even more perspective on all of this. How do you fight jealousy?


  1. Totally yes! And as much fun as I have on social media, that doesn't help either -- seeing everyone's highlights and feeling like you don't measure up.

    I have one thing for #16 though -- I was super asthmatic, non-athletic, and thought I was doomed to be that way. I've broken so many fitness promises to myself over the years and figured it must just be fate because I hate running and am terrible at sports. The good news is, those aren't the only things you can do to be fit. If you WANT to, there are so many fun other ways -- martial arts and parkour and hiking and zumba and weightlifting and rock climbing... etc.

    Personally, I hate going to the gym. I enjoy yoga on occasion, but I've discovered weightlifting is what makes me feel empowered and strong (and better looking than ever). Most days I still go "Really, self? You? Weightlifting? How did that happen?", but it's such a blast. I'd even say that it's the highlight of my week and my biggest stress-buster. So maybe you ARE a person who enjoys exercise, and you just don't know it yet! :)

  2. "That person who got that opportunity I didn't realize I wanted" -- YES! I think social media definitely doesn't help with jealousy, either! For a while I was majorly restricting how much time I spent on the internet because it truly was making me feel bad about myself!

  3. Blogging sometimes creates jealousy for me - especially those travel blogs. I try to just switch gears whenever I find myself feeling like that. It's really hard when you're actually having a conversation with someone. I am so on the same page as you on all of the above - except sleeping on airplanes (which I've finally learned to do) and Hawaii... never been, but it's not the highest on my list.

  4. I've been that girl that stands at the side, jealously watching her friends take pictures of themselves. Lame, I know, but a true story. What I did? Stopped hanging out with them, because I got the feeling they did it intentionally, and those are not real friends. That solved that problem.

    I have this little trick I use whenever I feel jealous about somebody's seemingly perfect life. It is similar to picturing the audience naked when you have to do public speaking.
    I simply assume that they must be hiding something bad when they put so much effort into appearances: a dysfunctional marriage, messy house, debt, insecurity - whatever. It may be slightly psycho, but it helps!

  5. I have it bad.. stupid things make me jealous but you're right. I just paid four grand for plastic surgery bc of jealousy and now Im focusing on something else... its a never ending cycle.

  6. I am jealous of your awesome blog posts! I always enjoy reading them and wish I could sound as smart and funny! :)


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