“I can’t believe she’s wearing that!”
“I wish I had the money he has.”
“I want my life to be more like hers.”
Jealousy can have a variety of different faces. From a psychological perspective, when we feel jealousy or envy, we typically do one of the three following things: 1. Have a negative emotion towards the person and put them down because they have something you don’t have. (You are jealous.) 2. Glorify them because you believe they’re further along or better than you and put yourself down. (You are envious.) 3. And the third is what I want to focus on today, which is using the emotion of jealousy to actually help you feel more clear, focused, driven, and inspired. Let’s investigate the psychology of this a bit more.
As a coach, I’ve listened to many clients create elaborate stories about how they’re not good enough or even worthless in comparison to others. Then they give examples of people who have achieved things that they haven’t reached yet and long lists about how they’ve “failed” in some way.
It’s wild—and terribly sad—how unkind and impatient we can all be with ourselves!
It’s in our nature to be evolutionary beings, and to be that, we are constantly striving to learn more, do better, grow in some way. When we see someone with something we would like to have—whether it is a beautiful house, a kind partner, a prosperous bank account, or a cute butt, our systems react and there’s an energetic pull in that direction. We will usually want to move towards it and achieve it. This is very similar to how adamantly a plant will grow towards sunlight, or how your mouth waters when your favorite dish is near.
It’s coded in nature to simply move towards the things we desire. Ideally, we would keep it simple and just use it as a marker of a desire we have, and move towards making it happen. We should only feel inspired by the person who already has the things we want.
But instead of simply responding with “here’s an example of what I want and I’ll grow towards it,” the human mind makes all this much more complicated. As human beings with overly-active and often-not-helpful monkey minds, we create this emotion of jealousy, and we back it up with elaborate stories. There are typically two types of stories. The outwardly directed stories about the people you are jealous or envious of. And secondly, the inwardly directed stories about how you’re not good enough.
If we were functioning in a more awakened and evolved state, we would quickly realize that sometimes jealousy can be inspiration in disguise.
When that little twinge of jealousy comes, instead of feeding it, explore it.
The next time you catch yourself bad mouthing someone or even wow-ing over them, check in with yourself to see if there might be something you’re jealous about. Do your best to be honest with yourself and be willing to see some of your shadow behavior. Don’t worry—we all have our light and dark behaviors! No one is exempt, and your vast light and dark make you a full-spectrum, dynamic being.
Instead, be curious. Just be an observer and courageously own your behaviors without judgment.
Ask yourself some deeper questions about why you’re feeling that way.
- What do they have that you wished you had?
- What inflated stories might you be creating about them? These can be either positive, negative, or a strange mixture of both.
- What negative stories might you be creating about yourself?
- In what ways have you been holding yourself back?
- What excuses might you be creating?
- If you are doing your best and haven’t achieved _______ yet, can you be kind and compassionate and patient with yourself?
With practice, you’d very quickly learn what important lessons jealousy has to teach you, you’d learn them, and then simply move into inspiration and growth, like a graceful plant growing towards sunlight.
You would no longer project all kinds of negative stuff onto them simply because you’re jealous and not yet consciously aware of your own behavior yet. 😉 You would just say really nice things like: “Wow. I love how elegantly she dresses and I’d like to dress more elegantly” or “I like how he runs a disciplined and productive business. Maybe he’d be willing to share some tips with me so I can learn too.”
With this powerful reframe and perspective shift, notice how jealousy can be such an educational and helpful tool to use for your own growth and expansion. Afterall, we are all reflections of each other. If they can do it, so can you.