What Jealousy Can Teach Us

There’s a good chance I’ve been spending too much time on the internet. Spending too much time staring outward at what everyone else is doing, and too much time berating myself on the inside. My thoughts feel a little scummy as I scroll.

Have your thoughts ever turned kind of judgy and mean while poking around social media? After a few posts go by, that good mood of checking what’s new with friends and followers suddenly turns flippant, defensive, and a little snarky. Oh, that’s just me? Well, this just got awkward.

Another polished photo, call-to-action post, progress on a new business venture, a heart-felt article, successful home remodel. Ugh, they think they’re so special.

Before I distract myself to get rid of the feeling, I sit with it for a minute. Start by calling it what it is, for crying out loud. Jealousy. And then after some discomfort, realize, “This isn’t about them, is it? This is my shit. I wish I could do what they’re doing.” Figuring out what’s actually going on is a real slap in the face. But jealousy happens. Naming it is a good start, but going a step further is where change happens.

Why am I jealous of this person?
What prompted these feelings?
What’s the thing in my own life that doesn’t compare to this?
Why do I care?
What can I do about it?

I’ll tell you, most of the time jealousy is a mirror reflecting back at you the things you’re NOT doing but wish you were. It tells us that we’re not quite living up to our potential. Often the solution is working on your own projects and towards your own goals.

But there’s an important and often overlooked aspect: Sometimes jealousy is just a magnifying glass pointed out at the world. Hell, your whole phone is a magnifying glass. (Telescope, microscope, whatever.) It amplifies external expectations, broadcasts them directly to your brain. Society tells you to want that, be that, do that; by association social media does the same. But do YOU really? Is this an unnecessary case of the “shoulds?” I think it was Amy Poehler who said, “Good for her, not for me.” It’s okay to admire what someone else is doing and at the same time know that it’s not for you, but it can be hard to remember the difference.

Here’s an example: I see really strong, really muscular women lifters on social media and immediately think, “I should go after it harder in the gym and clean up my diet. I should train for a meet.” I feel bad for sitting on the couch, having eaten waffles for breakfast yet again.

But wait a minute. Do I actually want to overhaul my diet for performance, cut out alcohol, and commit to rigorous training 6 days a week? Do I really want to train for a competition, or do I think I should want to because someone else is doing it? There’s a huge difference. And when I dig a little deeper, it’s just a matter of should. I’m pretty happy where I’m at, I don’t need an overhaul.

Here’s another example: I see people starting new businesses, writing articles, or expressing their creativity online. I think, “Must be nice to be that brave.” Or worse, “They think they’re so special.” Meanwhile I’m still on the couch poking through social media on a constant loop, accomplishing nothing. (Probably after more waffles.)

I ask myself if I actually want to write articles and blog posts. Do I want to talk about new opportunities and the things that I’m doing? Would I like to start expressing my creativity again? Absolutely. I miss those things; I feel stagnant and in need of growth. Well, this time the jealousy has been informative – it’s told me to get off my duff, starting living in the world, and DO THINGS. (Ta-da, you’re reading this post!)

So don’t just run away from the sleazy feeling of judgment or simply say “I shouldn’t be jealous. I shouldn’t judge.” That’s not realistic. Don’t shove the feeling into a closet, open the door and find out what it wants. Listen to it for a minute or two. Jealousy can be incredibly useful – sometimes it’s a mirror, and sometimes it’s a magnifying glass – either way, find out why it’s there.

2 thoughts on “What Jealousy Can Teach Us

  1. At any given time there is always someone on your feed enjoying better weather, hitting the gym hard, visiting a new town, and doing something interesting. But, they are posting not consuming during their adventure.

    Whereas when someone is consuming social media, they have downtime in that moment or are killing time, or just feeding their addiction. So no matter what, everything seems better than what they are doing at that moment.

    Just thought of an interesting experiment! Wonder what someone would feel if daily they scrolled through their own posts – looked at their own highlight reel more often. I would be curious what emotions and feelings would come from that?

  2. Good thoughts on “jealousy.” Never thought of it that way. I feel depressed because I have had to give up the business (money) and power I once had due to old age.
    You made me understand my own situation better.

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