I’ve always heard jealousy framed as a very negative emotion. Being jealous or envious of something someone else has is taught to us as a sin. We should ignore these emotions and be content. What I have learned over the years, however, is that if leveraged properly, jealousy can be a tool.
It’s so very important to slow down enough in life to be aware of what we are feeling. When emotions pass through our body, they are telling us something about ourselves. I used to bury those instinctual reactions and try to live from the logic center of the brain. However, when I meditate over why I have emotionally responded to something a particular way, I can learn so much about myself. This can apply to a vast array of emotions, but let’s use jealousy as our example today.
When I was a teenager, the things that stimulated jealous emotions in me were quite shallow. I was jealous of girls who had a boyfriend, which was simply a reflection of my desire to receive affirmation I was beautiful and worthy because I lacked the confidence to believe it on my own. When I would see someone driving a VW Beetle I felt a twinge of jealously because it was my dream car and my family couldn’t afford to buy one. Before I was 21 I met and married a guy who loved me unconditionally and purchased a brand-new custom ordered Beetle. Those things no longer fueled jealousy in me because I had it for myself.
Fast forward to my thirties and after years of watching the patterns change of what stirs up this emotion in me, I realize I can use it as a guiding post. A way to listen to subconscious thoughts I may be too busy to otherwise hear. I’ll give you two examples.
I very, very, very rarely ever feel jealous for something someone else has on social media. I am quite content and grateful for the life I live. One day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw a friend post “I just finished my life coaching certification!” Despite the fact I am usually super encouraging of anyone pursuing their goals I had a negative thought about her post. “Yeah…good luck with that pipe dream,” I thought to myself sarcastically and kept scrolling.
Then, less than year later she posted again on Facebook and said “I just quit my full time job because I have replaced my full time income and can support my family of five on my coaching business.” The biggest pit grew in my stomach. Completely uncharacteristically of myself, I couldn’t be happy for her. I was jealous. I closed out of Facebook and moved on with my day.
Later I was meditating over why I couldn’t be happy for her and realized how much it said about me. I had entertained the conversation in my mind of being a life coach. I had shared with a few friends that I found it an interesting career path and thought I would be good at it. What I didn’t realize until that moment was that it really mattered to me. It was something I deeply desired. I was not taking any actions toward the goal because it was just one of my million ideas floating around in my head space. My inability to celebrate my friend’s success revealed to me that this was actually an idea I cared about and something I really wanted. After that realization I began taking small actions. I started sharing with my husband how much it mattered to me to pursue this goal, and I started researching the path I wanted to lay out to get me there. Step by step I am laying a foundation and a groundwork that will get me the results I want. I no longer consider it just a pipedream in my life. It’s a goal that I will accomplish…it’s just a matter of when, not if. And I leveraged that experience of jealousy that day to springboard my actions. (By the way, I have continued following her journey and am so, so very happy for her. The jealousy was completely released once I took ownership over my feelings)
Now, in a contrary way, jealousy taught me something else about myself. About five years ago I set a career goal that I cared deeply about. I rearranged almost everything in my life to pursue this goal. I poured blood, sweat, tears, money and everything I had into pursuing this goal. I often had to check and re-check my priorities because the goal kept climbing to #1 on my list at the expense of self care (my physical and spiritual health practices), family time and other things that should stay at the top.
Then, around 4 years into the journey and over half way to goal, I lost my desire to pursue it at all. It was one of the strangest journeys I have been on yet in my life. It took me at least a year of meditating on it almost daily over, and over and over again to give myself permission to let it go. I am not a quitter. Everyone who knows me well knows for a fact that when Sophia decides she wants something, either help her get it or get out of her way because she isn’t stopping until she’s arrived. I pursued this goal with that stubborn energy for four years and then without notice other things popped up in my life that mattered more to me. As I began to evaluate what options were out there and how much time, energy and resources I possessed, I realized it didn’t all fit. Something had to go. And it was this massive goal that took the back seat.
I struggled with it for such a long time. Was I a quitter? Was I making a mistake? Was this really what I wanted? Am I a liar because I spent 4 years saying I wouldn’t stop until I hit the goal and now I’m walking away? Does this mean I don’t have integrity? Do I have to prove to myself or someone else I am capable? Will I look back in my life and completely regret changing directions? And then my answer came to me in the form of jealousy, or lack there of. Over the course of a few months I witnessed a few friends achieve the goal I had been working towards. Friends I had been working alongside of for years who hadn’t detoured and were still on the path were crossing the finish line. As I watched them cross the finish line and celebrate, there was not one piece of me that wanted what they had. I had absolutely zero jealousy. I didn’t long to be in their shoes. So what emotion did I feel? Relief. I felt relieved that I wasn’t running anymore. I felt relief that I wasn’t on that road and my new road had different scenery. I was so genuinely happy for them, but no part of me could see it for myself. In the past when I would see others accomplish this goal I would celebrate for them and also long for the day it was me. Those emotions were non-existent. In that moment I again used jealousy to leverage my path. Realizing that no part of me wanted what they had, I finally felt free. I gave myself full permission to walk away. I gave myself permission to lean into the new path and the new goals and look back at the years gone by as a gift, a learning experience to get me to this place in my journey.
It’s quite interesting how maturity can completely shift the things that motivate us. As I shared…in my teens it was boys and cars that caused jealousy to creep in. In my twenties it was career ambitions. Now? Do you know what stirs up that little emotion in me sometimes? The only times I witness someone else’s journey and think “Man, I want that to be me one day” is when I hear of people who are living completely debt free, including their mortgage. What freedom that opens up. When I hear of people who have a garden in their back yard and grow all their own vegetables, I long for that. Especially if chickens are running around back there too. And ironically, even though I am writing this post with a baby in my womb and am 32 weeks today, I also feel that little voice when I see someone announce on social media they are adopting. I have this calling inside my soul to adopt from foster care and firmly believe there is, or will be, a child in this world that is mine but grows in another woman’s womb. So when I see others posting about their adoptions I envy that they have gotten to meet their children and it’s not my time yet. I realize some people may think I am crazy because the classes are available year round and there are adoptable children today, but my soul tells me it’s not time. That if I start today my child will not be there. So I am waiting. Waiting until it’s my turn.
What experiences stir up jealousy in you? Does this tell you anything about yourself? Have you ever reflected on the emotion of jealousy or envy and learned from it? I’d love to hear your experiences too!
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Much love to you all!