Jealousy is a powerful emotion. So powerful in fact, that it can prevent many of us from truly living well. I define jealousy in two parts. The first part of jealousy is the thought that someone else has something that I want. The second part of jealousy is the desire for what someone else has can create sadness and envy inside our hearts, and as a result, we suffer.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. Someone may pull up next to us while we’re driving and we may think that their car is a lot nicer than mine. Or we may walk into a store and see someone who is better looking than us and feel envious that we aren’t as beautiful as they are. It’s common to feel these feelings of jealousy as we go about our days, but I’ve observed that the biggest feeder of jealousy is social media. This is because we can log in whenever we please and see that other people are achieving more success, purchasing nicer things, receiving more recognition, and the list goes on and on. The constant access to others' lives can drum up emotions of envy and may even make us feel angry that we don't have what they do.
One of the factors that make jealousy so difficult to overcome, is that no matter the level of success we reach, the money we have, or places we travel, there is always someone who is doing better than us, in any arena. This makes it virtually impossible to win at the game of comparison. And even if we make it to the top, the question becomes how long will we stay there?
Today we’ll discuss how to avoid playing the jealousy game so we can find peace and happiness in our lives. The first step is to acknowledge that jealousy is like a drug and can feel good at first, particularly when we compare ourselves to people ‘below’ us. The second part of this acknowledgment is to also realize that even though jealousy can produce feelings of self-worth, it’s only temporary, and in the long run, jealousy will lead us down the path of suffering. We can choose to feel envious towards others, or lift ourselves up by comparing ourselves to those who don’t have what we do, but we can also choose to avoid this game altogether. Instead, we can choose to focus on what we have in our lives and feel grateful for those things that make it so beautiful. If we don’t choose to quit the jealousy game, we may be stuck in it forever. Let’s use an example to explore this a bit more.
There is a street in Southern California called Rodeo Drive. This street is filled with the nicest, most expensive shops you can ever imagine. A person like us may save a lot of money and go to Rodeo Drive to buy a beautiful outfit. When we’re wearing it in the dressing room we may feel luxurious and special, but when we leave the store, it will be blatantly obvious that other people walking down the street have nicer things than we do. Let’s take this a step further. Let’s say we work hard and buy the nicest outfit our money can buy. When we leave the store, we may notice that our outfit is from a more expensive designer than other people, however, those people are better looking than us and as a result, we feel unattractive. Let’s take this example another step further. Let’s say we are beautiful and we have the nicest clothes money can buy. When we walk down the street, we see other beautiful people with nice clothes, but in that mix, we see people who are also famous. Let’s take this one step further. We’re a movie star with a good deal of fame, we have designer clothes, and we are beautiful. We’re walking down the street and we run into another movie star who has won an academy award, something we haven’t won yet.
The path of jealousy never ends. Instead of participating, we can decide that the comparison game is something we’ll avoid altogether.
Once we acknowledge that jealousy doesn’t create happiness, it’s helpful to explore what is feeding our jealousy. For many people, social media greatly impacts our sense of self and forces us to play the comparison game even when we don’t want to. This is because we have constant access to a small snippet and normally the best parts of someone else’s life. To stop feeding our jealousy, we have a couple of options. We can take a little break from social media and then use the time away to realize that comparing ourselves to others can lead us down the path of suffering. So instead we can choose to focus on our lives and celebrate all of the gifts that life has given us. And when we see what others have, instead of jealousy we may feel gratitude that they have accomplished so much. We have the power to shift the focus off of others, onto ourselves.
Once we’ve gone through this process, we might feel ready to jump back on social media. And when we do, we can choose to feel excited for people who are getting married, buying homes, etc. while also feeling excited about the things going on in our lives. Our lives become more beautiful when we choose to feel gratitude over envy and we choose to focus on making each day a good day. This may mean taking a walk, spending a night reading a book, or eating dinner with a friend. There are so many ways we can make our lives go well and we can do this by focusing on ourselves, instead of other people.
When we live our lives well, whether we live in a mansion or whether we live in a modest apartment, we are capable of achieving true happiness. True happiness comes from the realization that comparison is the thief of joy. If we replace the feelings of envy with gratitude, life becomes a lot more beautiful and enjoyable.