Do you ever feel that familiar pang of jealousy when you see someone seemingly doing ‘better’ than you or when you witness another person having, being or doing something you wish you had? Most of us have experienced it at some time or another. After all, we’re human, and it’s an entirely natural emotion.
Think about the things that activate you, for example:
- The colleague who got the promotion you should have won.
- The neighbour who’s just bought a brand new car and had an exotic holiday this year. (What? Have they won the Lottery?!)
- The person who left their 9-5 job to set up their own business.
- The ex-colleague whose career seems to be going stratospheric.
I know I used to get triggered when looking through social media. I’d see people seemingly doing ‘better’ than me or achieving success at things I’d tried but hadn’t quite managed to get to work. Then, I would experience that unmistakable uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. I even know clients whose negative emotions can be so strong that they can’t bring themselves to ‘like’ or comment on another’s celebratory posts!
So, why does jealousy feel so bad, and why do we often experience guilt because of it? I know this will sound crazy, but one answer could be fairy tales! Think about it. We all grew up hearing how the Wicked Witch coveted Snow White’s beauty so much that she sent the woodsman after her. Cinderella’s stepmother didn’t much appreciate her stepdaughter’s good looks and charm either, and there are countless other examples where only evil characters were jealous. The point is that we learn from a very early age that jealousy is wrong. But what if there was another way to look at it?
Before I go on, it’s important to note:
We are only jealous of what we want but haven’t yet managed to get.
Let’s face it; if you didn’t care or want the ‘thing’, those feelings would not have been activated!
Use your jealousy as a signpost
Instead of feeling bad, sad, guilty, etc., when you feel triggered by jealousy, use it as a signpost, pointing you in the direction you need to go. Reframe it as a signal that you aren’t yet living up to your potential and there’s more for you to achieve.
It’s also important to remember that if someone has something you want, then there must be a way to get it! So, instead of feeling bad, GET CURIOUS. Take it as a huge red flag to redirect you to where you are meant to be.
Now, of course, going after something you want will inevitably involve change and uncertainty, which is uncomfortable for most of us. However, nothing will ever be different unless you do something different…
‘Always do what you’ve always done, always get what you’ve always got!’.
To achieve great things means stepping out of your comfort zone. I appreciate that it can be scary to do things that are new, but those who already have what you want likely had the same fears and discomforts as you, but they felt the fear and did it anyway!
Reframe your jealousy
If you’ve done any work with me, you’ll already know a LOVE a good reframe, i.e. taking something seemingly negative and turning it into a positive. There aren’t many situations I can think of where it’s not possible to change how you feel about something by using this deceptively simple yet powerful tool.
To reframe any undesirable situation, ask ‘what’ ‘where’ ‘why’ ‘how’ ‘who’ type questions. The shifts you can achieve when you choose to see things from a different perspective, challenging your old, often outdated ways of thinking, can be amazing. This brilliant tool works perfectly when it comes to understanding and challenging feelings of jealousy.
Whenever you notice that pang of jealousy, ask yourself:
- What’s going on here?
- Why do I feel like this?
- What is this feeling telling me?
- How can I use this information?
- What can I do to get the ‘thing’ I’m jealous about?
- What actions can I take?
- Whom can I speak to?
- Who can help me?
- Whom do I know who’s done this before?
These are brilliant questions to help you move out of learnt helplessness and into action.
Reframing and taking action may trigger your autonomic nervous system (ANS), causing you to self-sabotage or trigger imposter syndrome (I’ve written about both in earlier articles). Your ANS is your internal safety system that constantly scans new environments (including new thoughts) for any actual or perceived threats.
If it finds one, it will likely activate your fight, flight, freeze response (procrastination is a form of freezing which explains why you might want something, but it feels too scary to go after, so you find something else that’s easier to do instead!). However, avoid letting that stop you—almost everyone who tries something new experiences uncomfortable emotions.
Finally, the greatest reframe of all when it comes to stepping outside of your comfort zone is instead of saying to yourself, ‘What if I fail?’, reframe it to ‘What if I succeed?’!
If there are any topics that you’d like me to cover in upcoming articles, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org.