How to Cope with Jealousy

I joined Facebook recently. And like you do on Facebook, you friend people that you’ve lost touch with over the years, and catch up with them. I was quickly faced with the choice of whether or not to friend an ex-girlfriend.

I figured “Sure, why not? We’re both adults now, and everything that we had together was a long time ago. What’s the harm?”

She accepted my friend request, but I stopped myself from really delving into her profile and pictures. I was certain that she’d have a new man, a new job, and a new life that I knew nothing about — but I knew that if I dared to look closely there was a chance I’d get jealous or upset.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I see a status update from her about her workplace. It’s a video of her office headquarters in New York, shot in an “MTV Cribs” style. I watch the video, see the super sweet company she’s working for, and get mad.

My knee-jerk reaction is raw jealousy. Her office reeks of Google-esque perks. The office culture looks young and tech savvy. There’s a break room stocked with video games, a pool table, and holy crap is that pinball? There are countless rooms filled with expensive video editing equipment, filled with young editors doing creative work. The video wraps up with a glance at the cafeteria, which serves great food during the day and transforms into a chill bar atmosphere at night.

She is working somewhere where the office culture and environment is infinitely cooler than any place that I’ve worked in my life, and I’m jealous. What makes me even more jealous is how the video’s comments indicate that it’s her first job out of college, and that she’s been happily working there for the last four years.

My rational mind tells me that she must have worked very hard to get where she is now, and that I should be happy for her. My irrational mind, however, makes me wonder HOW THE HELL DID SHE GET SO LUCKY!?

(My irrational mind is often times much louder than my rational mind.)

Ever since I watched this video I’ve been in a fit of jealous rage. I’m mad because she’s younger than me, but has surpassed me career-wise by landing a super sweet job at a super sweet company. I’m mad because in her very first attempt at finding a career she found something that she’s been excited about doing for four years, whereas the longest I’ve ever tolerated a job was only three. I’m mad that I always get frustrated at my day jobs and burned out by the work that I’m doing, because I don’t have a workplace that I’m anxious to go to. I’m jealous because I’d love to work someplace similar, where the employer not only acknowledges that work should be fun — but encourages it!

These feelings have dominated my subconscious for the last 24 hours. I’ve been bombarded with feelings of anger and frustration and self-pity when I’m trying to work, trying to relax, or even trying to shower. I tell myself that I should be happy for her. I tell myself that I don’t know the whole story, and that I’m making huge assumptions from only one glimpse of what she’s up to. All this considered, I still can’t help but feel jealous.

I tell myself that it’s not a competition, and that there are other things in my life that I am proud of. Perhaps I’m not as successful as I’d like to be regarding my career, but that doesn’t mean I’m unsuccessful as a person. It simply feels like it’s a bigger deal than it is since “work” plays such a large role in who we are as individuals. Consequently, I think that I want what she has.

I have to stop and ask myself: What am I really jealous of?

When I look at her job title, I wonder “is this what I want to be doing?” and the answer is “No, I want to be a writer.” So what is it then?

She’s working with creative minds in an environment that encourages creativity. That’s something I’ve never had at a job, and that’s something I’d enjoy.

So how do you cope with these feelings? You’re faced with something another person is succeeding at, and instead of feeling happy for them, it makes you feel bitter and enraged. Your reaction is raw, unyielding, and often irrational.

Most people cope by complaining about it. I admit that I’m doing some serious complaining this very moment. You think “Oh woe is me life’s unfair blah blah blah.” Aside from venting your frustrations and maybe feeling a tiny bit better, this method of coping is pointless.

The better option is to channel this feeling into positive action. Although I tell myself that life’s not a competition, humans are competitive by nature. You can use these jealous feelings to inspire you to create positive change in your life.

Maybe jealousy is the feeling that you needed in order to finally “wake up.” Maybe it’s the kick in the pants that you needed to start doing something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the courage to. Maybe it’s the motivation you need to really look at yourself and say “This isn’t who I want to be, and now I’m going to do something about it.”

Whatever the case, jealousy is definitely a pool of raw energy that can be tapped. To quote a friend of mine: “Are you drawing from that pool?”

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3 Responses to “How to Cope with Jealousy”

#1 kate on 26, Aug, 2011 at 9:07 pm

haha, I totally understand what that feels like. I have a semi-friend whose blog I check once in a while. She’s a pretty famous romance writer and she writes full time, has a house, husband, kids. We’re the same age! And I have a string of unstable boyfriends, rent an apartment, and a job that stresses me out.

When I was in high school, I wanted to be a YA novelist, a doctor and a lawyer. Well, I only achieved one of the three. I think I’ve had an easier time letting go of the being a lawyer part than the writer part.

Sadly, it occurs to me sometimes that I’ll never be completely happy without being a YA novelist. I’ve written almost seven novels since college and I haven’t managed to publish a single one of them. I know that at this point I can be very comfortable earning ~300k a year in my job as a doctor but then again I know money can’t buy me a publication.

And if this comforts you any, I envy you too because you’re in a relationship that makes you happy. I think I was an idiot in college and I decided that if I could only have a well paying job or the love of my life, I’ll pick the job. It’s really not that much fun going home to an empty million dollar apartment at night. So, maybe everyone gets everything they need but not everything they want. So, pick carefully….

#2 Jessie on 01, Sep, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Hey Shauny, I like this post… I usually like to break down why I feel jealous of someone too… and in the end it is never that I am really jealous of them.. it is always more that I am envious of some experience (s) they have.

But then I always remember that just because they have something I don’t.. and in my case I look at all the pretty girls on Facebook and their fancy shmancy clothes… That they are not necessarily as happy as I am.

For instance.. I am sure that girl has some fancy job that everyone gets to pursue whatever their definition of creativity is… but I guarantee she has not found a love as great as yours. I guarantee that she hasn’t found her mate for her lifetime that would do anything for her or love her as sweetly as you and Cassie. I guarantee that she doesn’t have a passion for something as greatly as yours… I guarantee that she doesn’t have the same charm and genuine kindness that you do. What you have, Shaun, is a beautiful life and a beautiful love. For that she will always be lesser than you !

🙂 Jessie

#3 Shaun Boyd on 01, Sep, 2011 at 8:49 pm

I find your comment fascinating. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have to worry about money so much, and yet you’re speaking as someone who has it and have found a way to be envious of me. It’s interesting how we’re constantly craving “more” no matter what it is that’s seemingly missing in our lives. That said, I do hope that you find someone that will make you happy, and that you won’t live life with regret.

I’m grateful for your comment, but the truth is that I just don’t know if what she has is better than what I have. I imagine that her job is more rewarding and enjoyable than anything I’ve ever had, because it looked interesting, and I haven’t enjoyed most places that I’ve worked. Still, I’m jumping to conclusions without anything remotely certain — and I was fascinated by how powerful my feelings of jealousy were! It was shocking to me that I could feel such anger over someone who’s not part of my life anymore… The point is not that anyone is lesser or better, it’s just that it’s something we must cope with as humans. For me, I thought it would be worthwhile to channel those feelings into a blog post. Glad you enjoyed it!

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