One of the most persistent, annoying, and unattractive things I’ve learnt about myself during lockdown is my new-found proneness to jealousy.
Jealousy isn’t something that is typically in my nature. I run a mental health consultancy specifically because I WANT other people to do well. I’m always quick to encourage, support and cheerlead other people – sometimes to my own detriment as my team will attest to. (Grace must have lost count of the number of times I’ve ‘popped to the kitchen,’ only to have me skulk back 90-minutes later after an unofficial coaching session with another business owner.)
But recently, I’ve found myself getting horribly jealous of other peoples’ success, or ‘perceived success’ as I should say; an Instagram grid is rarely representative of how well someone is truly doing. But damn it, sometimes I feel sick to my stomach when I see someone get the progress, recognition, or achievements that I’d love for Dark Coffee.
Wow, he’s doing really well – he’s clearly been way more focused than I have and used the lockdown time more productively.
She’s just signed another new client. She’s so good at getting found by the right people. I really need to work on my marketing strategy.
She’s already got her merch line live and she started way after me. She’s so much more organised with her time and I’m all over the place.
Urgh. It’s lame.
My next reaction after the jealousy is ALWAYS embarrassment. I feel horrified that I can see someone else’s good news and turn it into an attack on myself. In less than a second, my brain converts something amazing into something toxic, and I genuinely hate myself a little bit every time I do it.
This is something of a problem, because then I have a secondary layer of shit balanced atop the first.
It’s become both more frequent and more potent since we went into lockdown.
Recently, I’ve become painfully self-conscious of some of the decisions I’ve made around the business, and working in isolation has given me a lot of time to dwell on this.
Whereas I’d usually have a bunch of friends and peers to voice my concerns with, I now have endless conversations with Insecurity, Self-Doubt, Imposter Syndrome and Procrastination.
It makes for a pretty shit work environment.
Jealousy is like that seagull at the beach that lands uncomfortably close to you when you’re eating your chips. There’s no ignoring it – it won’t leave you alone – it’ll aggressively sidle towards you until it completely ruins the day you were having. Jealousy will take your lunch right out of your hands and rip it apart in front of you, cackling the whole time… wait, that’s an actual seagull.
Terrible analogies aside, jealousy is a motherfucker, so what can we do about it? What can we do when this horrible, torturous emotion rises up in us, threatening to shit on our day?
Here’s what I’ve been doing:
1. THINK ABOUT WHAT IT’S TELLING ME I WANT
Yes, that’s really basic, I know. But it’s not always as straight forward as you’d think. It’s not necessarily the case that you just want the exact same thing as the person you are jealous of.
Sometimes jealousy is indicating a deeper-rooted feeling, or something a bit more abstract.
Here’s a journalling exercise you can do to help excavate it. To illustrate the point, let’s pretend that you feel jealous of someone’s new car:
Imagine you are in the other persons’ shoes. What feelings do you think they have around that new car? Do you think they feel a sense of achievement from having bought it? Do they feel proud of all the work that they’ve done to be able to save up for it? Do you think they’re excited about being able to go on holiday twice a year or to go out to the countryside on the weekends? Are they excited about the reaction they’ll get from other people when they admire it?
Your answers will give you more of an insight into what your values are and what you’re really looking for, e.g. a sense of achievement, freedom or the approval of others. There are no right or wrong answers here; just observations to make.
2. EXPLORE YOUR VALUES
Once you’ve realised what these values are, you can start evaluating whether you are lacking in these areas, since we usually feel a sense of dissatisfaction in our lives when we’re not living in line with our values.
For myself, freedom is one of my highest values, so working in a 9-5 job felt overly restrictive and uncomfortable. Working for myself has enabled me to regain a sense of autonomy, which was equally prevalent in roles where I was employed but had flexible working hours.
Interestingly, we may not be a million miles away from our core values. This is a big subject which I’ll go into more detail on another day, but just thought it was worth mentioning.
3. THINK ABOUT WHY YOU DON’T HAVE THE THING YOU WANT
Sounds horrendous, but bear with me!
Using myself as an example again, I normally notice jealousy when I see another business owner hitting a certain benchmark. So, once I recognise this, I’ll give myself a bit of time to explore why I haven’t got that particular thing yet.
It’s important to say ‘yet’ because we have to realise that just because we don’t have things right now, doesn’t mean we never will. This is a great activity for generating more clarity around our goals and, crucially, help identify any barriers that could currently be in the way.
A few days ago, I felt jealous because one of my peers launched a beautiful range of branded t-shirts. My jealousy was rooted in the fact that it’s always been part of the plan to have a merch range for Dark Coffee, and about 4 weeks ago I started designing them and researching how to set up the shop.
But since then, my focus hasn’t been there.
It’s still on my to-do list and I still have the intention to get it sorted, but the momentum has gone. Seeing my friend make excellent progress in this area made me reflect on my own shortcomings, and that made me uncomfortable.
But therein also lies the solution.
Now I’ve identified what I want and why I don’t have it yet (the lack of focus and attention,) I have the rudimentary insight into how to get it… I need to make it a higher priority and pick the project back up again.
Once I’ve gone through this kind of thinking process, I’ll often find that the nauseated feeling of jealousy has ebbed. Something about thinking things through logically takes all the drama out of immediate knee-jerk reactions. Funny that.
That’s not to say I’m flawless at this. I’ll periodically fall into an Instagram hole looking at everybody else’s branding, photography and service packages which are just SO MUCH BETTER than mine and ohmygodwhycantijustbelikethemalready?!
The main point to remember about jealousy is that it’s not a reflection of other people; it’s other people reflecting something back to us.
As unpleasant as it may be to face up to this, it’s also incredibly useful.
For me, the people I envy are the ones that are holding a mirror up to my perceived weaknesses, losses or failures. That’s not something I should be ashamed of, but rather something I can work towards either getting and making an action plan around, or even just reconciling.
I don’t think that it’s a bad thing to want things for ourselves. I know I’m ambitious, have big dreams and want to experience a lot of things during my lifetime. Jealousy is a reminder that some of those dreams are a long way off. This can feel shit in the immediate short-term, but there’s also a sense of anticipation that comes along with it. I have so much to look forward to. How boring and anti-climactic would it be if I had them all right now?
Jealousy can give us the motivation and fire-power we need to keep playing the game.
You want that house? Cool, you can have it, but you’ll need to work for it first.
When that bratty part of our brain is throwing a tantrum, we can give it a space to vent openly, which can help us gain clarity around our goals, ambitions and values.
It may not be a pretty emotion, and not one that I’m especially proud of, but I’m learning to appreciate the insights that it’s giving me and viewing it as a catalyst for change, rather than just an angry seagull.
Alice x x
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