“I know I should be happy for her, but I secretly feel green with envy.”
“I really do trust him, and I know I’m not supposed to feel jealous, but I do…”
“I’m trying not to feel jealous, because she’s my friend, but I can’t help it…”
These are things I’ve heard friends and clients say, and yeah, things I’ve thought or felt myself. Until I learned how to interact with jealousy and envy in a completely new way.
Maybe you’ve had moments like this…
… You’re on the elevator on the way up to your office, having a good hair day, minding your own business, feeling pretty good about the dress you’re wearing, when the elevator stops, and in walks a perfectly beautiful, put-together, poised woman, looking dazzling, and suddenly you feel deflated. You suddenly feel frumpy and plain, and you wish you could feel as confident and look as perfect.
… Your friend’s business has taken off in big ways, she just published her book, AND she has more clients than she can handle. You smile and congratulate her over a celebratory lunch, yet secretly you find yourself thinking “Why does she get all the breaks while I still struggle, year after year?”
… You’re trying to be a good friend, but as you spin your wheels trying to lose weight, your bestie is posting her impressive before and after pics, and dropping sizes like they’re hot. You find yourself harboring some resentment, and then resenting yourself for being such a shitty person. After all, envy is a deadly sin, and she’s your bestie, better than the restie, for goodness sake.
… You’re at dinner with some friends you introduced recently, and you find out over appetizers that they recently got together for drinks, without you! While you knew, and even hoped, they’d love each other, you didn’t expect to get left in the dust of their rapidly deepening bond.
While the words “envy” and “jealousy” are often used interchangeably, there is a distinction.
Envy is defined as the feeling of wanting what someone has. Jealousy is more territorial, and requires three parties, like you, your husband and his hot new assistant, or you, your best friend and her new boyfriend that takes up all her time now, or you, your dad and your younger sister, who he always loved more.
If the feelings themselves didn’t feel crappy enough, quite often, envy and jealousy bring with them another layer of crappy feelings, our feelings about the feelings, because we are judging our feelings and making ourselves feel bad about having them.
We “shouldn’t” feel this way, so we feel guilty and wrong and ashamed. It’s messy and yucky, and yet, if we peel away these layers of emotion, we can find some really deep wisdom and sparkling information. And we can grow.
Wanna know how? Let’s talk about envy first.
Part One: Envy
Next time you notice yourself having that twisty, prickly, uncomfortable feeling of envy, for example, your best friend just got another promotion, while you remain stuck in the same dead-end job, follow these steps…
- Notice and name. “What is this yucky feeling? Why did I suddenly get crabby after she shared her great news? Oh… I’m feeling envious.”
- Open. “I know that envy is informative and Lisa said it comes bearing gifts. Alright. I’ll open myself up to experiencing something different with this feeling. What gift do you have for me, envy?”
- Imagine. What do you imagine the object of your envy is feeling? “I imagine my friend feels proud, accomplished, successful with her new promotion.”
- Listen. Your envy wants to tell you something: Envy is wisdom, pointing you in the direction of your own unmet desired feelings. It’s not as much about what we want as it about what we want to feel. “Ahhh… yes. I want to feel proud, accomplished, successful, too.”
- Brainstorm. “What can I do today/this week/this month that will help ME feel proud, accomplished, successful? I can finally clean out my closet and donate a couple bags of clothes to charity. I’ll catch up on some bills. I can apply for that new position I’m lusting after at work.”
- DO. Do a few of those things and notice the rising feelings of pride, accomplishment and success in you. They’re yours to feel too, and they’re what you really wanted. Envy told you so.
Once you realize the feeling of envy is really just pointing back at your own unmet desire, and even more specifically, what you want to feel, your attention shifts away from your friend with the promotion, and turns toward you, your needs, your desires. Then you can choose to take some action to focus on cultivating what it is you want to feel.
That’s how envy is informative, that’s how you transform the feeling of envy, that’s how you receive its gifts.
Next week, we’ll dig into jealousy and discover what gifts it has for you.
In the meantime, let me know how you’ve used this process and what wisdom was on the other side, waiting for your discovery.
To be continued…