If you’re reading this, you may be reading it secretly. Or you’ve bookmarked it for a time when people aren’t around. I get it.
After all, no one in their right mind admits they’re comparing themselves to someone. No one enjoys envy. It’s ugly. It feels ugly. It eats up your energy.
And worse… there’s always that peer who says something like, “Why would you compare yourself to someone else? You should be happy for other people! I’m always happy for other people!”
….which makes you feel even more like a lump of shit.
One of the things my clients thank me for the most is that no feeling, situation or challenge they bring to our retreats has ever phased me. To me, as a coach, it’s all there for our expansion.
Bottom line: Envy happens.
If you want to judge people who feel it, be my guest – and by all means, go find another article to read today.
But if you ever compare yourself to other people, let’s talk about it. And then let’s explore ways to release it…
Conflicting messages: “Envy this! (But you’re a horrible person if you do!)”
The media needs you to be jealous. It encourages envy. This is what hooks readers and viewers. It’s what gets them to buy things. This isn’t a secret. And it’s not worth discussion. It just is.
For women, the pattern usually starts early.
I started comparing myself to other people by the age of seven. I got my first Teen Magazine at nine. My nieces were hooked into it by the time they were beautiful sweet eight-year-olds.
The flip side is the “Be a Good Person” message that also bombards us.
This is where the real damage happens. This is what creates the shame that locks the jealousy firmly into place. This message comes from our churches, schools, parents, coaches, teachers, babysitters, scout leaders. “Be nice! (But hey, be a little more like her, too, okay?)”
Here’s a quick video about the shame we face as business owners…
Shame locks in the pattern of comparing yourself to others!
Yes, it’s true that opening up to other people’s victories will open you to your own. It’s true that your joy attracts more joy.
And it’s also true that if you can’t find your way to that joyful place, then the confusion and pain that accompany your envy can be devastating.
Let’s move beyond the mixed messages into the actual lessons…
Jealousy and Envy as Teachers
Jealousy and envy are grey matter. They’re simply energy. They’re not black or white. They don’t make you a bad person. In fact, they aren’t even the truth of who you are. You’re not a jealous person. You are not your envy.
Becoming aware of these shadow aspects of ourselves is a process and a slow letting go. It’s not a matter of seeing that your shirttail is hanging out, and quickly tucking it back in. (Though eventually, with some awareness, you’ll get better at saying “no” when jealousy tries to hook you.)
If you’ve been prone to the pattern of envy or jealousy throughout your life, then most likely, these emotions are your spiritual teachers. They will ultimately help you transcend. But probably for a while, you will have to face them, not just tuck them in.
How to Heal the Pattern of Comparing Yourself to Others
1 – Check under the hood
I was talking with two women recently. Both are mothers. Both have boys. They were talking about their relief about having boys, not girls.
One of them said, “God I can’t stand girls. They’re mean. They’re jealous. They’re cruel. I don’t even like women. I’d rather be with men. Women are horrible.”
On the one hand, it’s always good to know where you stand with someone. 🙂 So, I guess I had that in my favor.
But obviously, neither of them sensed the irony in the room.
Well, as they say in 12-step programs: “You spot it, you got it!”
If you’re threatened by women, if you’re surrounded by jealousy and negativity, if your daughters are cruel, then check under the hood.
The only place to begin shifting is inside of you.
Stop wishing the outside were different. Start being the difference.
2 – Stop trying to figure it out
Trying to “figure out why” can keep you stuck.
“Why am I so jealous? Why am I so envious? Why can’t I be more like that guy who’s never jealous?”
Those questions don’t serve the situation. Those questions are just your ego fighting your ego. Your ego doesn’t want you to embrace the actual feeling because it’s unbearably uncomfortable.
So it does what it always does:
It creates a smoke screen by asking why and getting lost in unhelpful thoughts. Those thoughts might make you feel even worse, but at least you’re not having to experience the feeling.
Feeling bad is sometimes easier than feeling uncomfortable.
3 – Go on a media diet
Every morning at the gym, women are on their cross-trainers reading People, Self, and Cosmo.
I stopped reading magazines when I was 22 and finally healed an eating disorder. Even now – when I don’t struggle with this stuff – these magazines weaken me. I can feel it. They don’t honor my soul. They don’t seek to uplift.
Monitoring what you feed your mind is a simple place to start. See what happens when you don’t bombard your brain with mass media messages.
4 – Ask yourself if you can allow this feeling
When you’re having an envy episode, just ask yourself if you can allow it to be there. “Am I willing to let this just be here?” This one step alone will ease up on the shame and the discomfort. Resisting a feeling does not solve it, it feeds it.
Even if the answer is “no,” then you’re at least acknowledging the feeling. Just keep sitting with it and asking, “Can I allow this to be here? What would happen if I just allowed this feeling to exist for a moment?” I’ve done this. It creates space. It shifts the resistance. It releases the shame. Then the jealous feelings have a chance to move and diffuse.
5 – Find the humor
Years ago, I performed on the main stage at a huge festival. I was standing in the crowd with my friend Steve Seskin. Steve had performed the same day as well.
We were watching another band, and the crowd was going crazy. I looked at Steve, and I said, “Look at them. There they were cheering for me and acting like I was the best thing ever. Now they’ve left me for someone else.”
Steve laughed and said, “It’s like a lover who’s in bed with someone else making all the same groans she made with me!”
We giggled at ourselves for quite a long time.
This stuff can be funny. Funny makes us laugh. Laughing makes us whole. Anne Lamott’s essay on jealousy in her book Bird by Bird is one of the funniest pieces on this topic. Here’s a little excerpt from it:
Jealousy is such a direct attack on whatever measure of confidence you’ve been able to muster. But if you continue to write, you are probably going to have to deal with it, because some wonderful, dazzling successes are going to happen for some of the most awful, angry, undeserving writers you know—people who are, in other words, not you.
6 – Ask friends not to agree with you
Often, a well-meaning friend will meet you at the level of your jealousy. She will agree with you that the envied person is, in fact, an undeserving bitch.
Or she will say, “Well you’re better than her anyway.”
These things don’t heal. They keep you stuck at the level of thoughts and reactions.
If you need to talk with someone, then first ask that person to listen and not “go there.”
Or better yet, call someone you know won’t go there. Sure, it feels really nice to have someone bolster you up and tell you that you’re better than so-and-so and that you deserved it more.
But that’s just fixing the symptom. It doesn’t clear the emotion.
You need to be listened to so that you can move beyond the feelings, not so that you can feel vindicated.
7 – Be creative
The best remedy for any negativity, comparison, jealousy or envy is just to get creative. Write your next article. Plan your next launch. Paint a picture. Compose the classified ad for your new Personal Assistant. Do something proactive. Get out of the reactivity. Creativity is a powerful place. It shifts everything.
8 – Are you tired or hungry?
Being tired or hungry can make you more vulnerable to old patterns. This kind of very physical situation can set up an environment that makes you more vulnerable to old patterns. Take a nap. Get a good night’s sleep. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop starving yourself of the basic needs while expecting yourself to be able to sustain equanimity!
9 – Get quiet and centered
Learn how to meditate, even for five minutes. The practice will transform old patterns of reaction.
10 – The enneagram
If jealousy and envy are patterns for you, then I highly recommend studying the enneagram. In particular, check out the number 4 on the enneagram, which tends to face a lot of issues with envy. Just reading about the pattern, and learning to witness it as just that – a pattern – can liberate you in ways that you can’t imagine. My favorite book on the enneagram is The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson.
11 – Mastery
I teach my clients that having a business is like having a vessel for accelerated soul growth. That’s because business brings up everything you need in order to expand in this lifetime.
To that end, you have the opportunity to become a master.
Not just a master of your skillset. But of yourself.
That’s what my clients tell me keeps them working with me year after year. That’s the level I coach them to. I’m not interested in quick fixes, and they know it.
So, if you want to reach, inspire, help, encourage, heal in any way, most likely it’s going to require that you face your own demons in that process. If jealousy comes up, then it’s a teacher for you. That’s all. Let it be. That’s where your biggest treasures will be.