We’ve known each other for over two years now, Chalkboard readers. We’ve learned the whats and the whys of wheatgrass, we’ve redefined what it means to get your best body ever, we’ve even explored the would-you-or-wouldn’t-you ritual that is the “V steam” (if you don’t know what that is, you can probably guess). We’ve become like family – the kind of friend family you choose, the one you can swap tips and tricks with and ask even the most personal of questions without batting an eye. So I’m going to let you in on something I’ve told only a handful of people, something I am still mildly ashamed to admit yet fully accept as my own: I am a naturally jealous person.
Ok, so maybe I am not really the jeaous type any more, and maybe I was never the overly jealous type. But my childhood was sprinkled with moment of envy, adolescence and young adulthood speckled with pangs that type of yearning that almost resembles resentment if you let it.
I am a naturally jealous person. And I know you get it – because I know you are too.
And that is not a bad thing.
We throw the word “jealous” around in multiple scenarios, however there are actually two instances we stick under the ambiguous jealous blanket. True jealousy, by definition, is a reaction to the threat of losing something you have. Envy, however, arises when you find yourself lacking something someone else has.
For most of my life, I would beat myself up for feeling these “jealous” feelings. I would not experience them often, but I was (and am) such a highly sensitive being that when those jealous feelings would kick in, my heart and mind would go into overdrive. I would scold myself for being such a “bad” human being, for thinking negatively and harboring ill feelings. I was told jealousy was bad, and so I was ashamed of these instinctual reactions.
In actuality, very few of those instances were actual jealousy. I was jealous when I went to Disneyland and worried Minnie Mouse might like the other kids more than she liked me. I was jealous if my best friend was paired on a team with another girl, fearful that they’d become new best buddies (note the through line of uncertainty, we’ll get to that later). But most of the time, it was envy: a strong, strong desire to be in the position of someone else. To have something. To do something. To be something.
Jealousy and envy are natural and healthy, yet in this culture of constant competition, we’ve come to associate them with negativity. Should jealousy or envy bubble up to surface level, we mask them in words of judgement, of malice, of pretending like we know better or don’t care. That’s when the relationships are hurt and the mood is soured.
That’s what happens when it goes bad. But what if both jealousy and envy were ways to lead us to our true calling, our fullest potential and deepest desires?
There is a saying that goes “Jealousy works the opposite way you want it to.” And it’s true: without a sense of control over your own jealousy, it pushes people away, squelches opportunity, and is one of the most effective forms of self sabotage. Yet learning to harness your jealousy can actually inform you of an important missing link, the most important element of any relationship, including the one with yourself: trust. When there’s trust, jealousy cannot be present, at least for very long. They’re like night and day; neither can exist while the other is around. Of course, we’ll sometimes get jealous-seeming pangs even though full trust is present, but that’s us confusing jealousy with a type of yearning to be in on the action. It’s envy.
Envious moments are little gifts from the universe, informing us of our most sacred desires and all the potential we have within ourselves. Maybe a friend got an amazing new job, or has finally launched the business she’d been talking about for years. Maybe your brother decided to buy that cool condo and downsize. Maybe you see a couple walking together on a warm summer night hand in hand, randomly breaking out into skips or dance parties for a few steps. And your heart grabs in your chest a little and you think, that is what I want.
Does this mean you’re a bad person and wish failure upon the others? Far from it. But something resonates with you, a glimpse of what your life could be like if you were to be fully, wholly expressed in the way you were uniquely meant to be.
I am blessed to have some pretty talented, driven friends in my life, ones who are constantly accomplishing something new (in real life, not just on Facebook). I am president of their fan clubs and celebrate their amazingness to the fullest. I also find myself envious from time to time. These feelings aren’t mutually exclusive, nor do they need to be. I’m not jealous of their circumstance because I feel no threat. Yet I am envious of the aspects I know I long to set free within myself. I am so glad they light a fire inside me and set the example.
Find yourself prey to your own jealous mind? First, determine if you’re actually jealous, or if you’re envious. If it’s the former, it might be time to sit down and have a heart to heart, with others or with yourself. What about your situation is leading you to feel a sense of distrust? Is it a missing link in your connection? Or…is it a story you’ve been telling yourself that is keeping you in a place of possessive hostage-holding? Maybe it’s just that you are scared of loneliness. Recognizing the areas of wariness in your life, whether externally or internally – then either take immediate action to establish dependable trust, or (if you’re weaving stories for yourself or afraid of being an island) be brave enough to internalize all the signs around you that let you know there is nothing to worry about.
In contrast, when you find yourself envious of a friend, coworker, or even stranger, ask yourself – what about what this person is doing or who this person is being is attractive to me? It could be what it looks like from the outside – the actions they’re taking or the connections they’re forming, or it could be emotionally based – how happy or complete they seem. These are all clues to accessing what you truly want out this life. They type of work you do, the type of relationships you have, the type of impact you make and existence you long to lead. We only feel envy when we feel we are capable of the same. These strategically placed clues are signs that you have it within yourself to have everything you desire.
We all deserve a life that’s lived to the max, a life filled with love, success, abundance. What this looks like differs for each person, and is sometimes hidden in a murky haze of dreams and ambition. Let your feelings of distrust clear the clouds of smog and debris – then allow those beautiful moments of yearning to help you see an endless horizon all your own.