The Gifts of Jealousy
It began for me in the blogosphere. I’d scroll through picture-perfect blog reels of big happy families enjoying summer reunions at their lake cabin compound—complete with watersports, tennis tournaments, fear factor food competitions plus opening and closing ceremonies—and find myself feeling a wee tinge of jealousy. As an only child, I couldn’t give my kids the rich experience of summer holidays with gaggles of cousins sporting matching tees and gleeful grins. I wanted this for my kids. I wanted it for me. I don’t think of myself as a jealous person, but every year as I scroll through this gorgeous family’s summer blog, experiencing vicariously and virtually a life beyond my reach, I get bitten by the green-with-envy bug. And I’ve grown to realize that maybe it’s not such a bad thing.
Many of us have learned that jealousy is wrong and to be avoided. Let’s challenge this. When we believe our uncomfortable or “negative” emotions are inherently bad, we either try to resist them, or load up on a heavy dose of guilt. Both reactions only compound the problem and wreak havoc on our joy and inner peace. The trouble with avoidance is that emotions we resist, persist. They get stuck and swell and snowball out of control, which only serves to ratchet up normal human emotions to a level of disorder. And when we pile guilt on top of jealousy, we don’t free ourselves from it—we amplify it with yet another uncomfortable, secondary emotion. So what are we to do instead?
Instead of avoiding jealousy, what if we allow ourselves to feel it? Emotions, after all, are just sensations in our bodies—a quickened pulse, burning chest, sinking stomach—created by our thoughts. Realizing we don’t have to fear something as minor as a sensation in our bodies, we instead turn our attention to jealousy’s function. Like all “negative” emotions, jealousy is like a professor who teaches us about the thoughts that created it. Thought sentences like “My life will never look like theirs” (scarcity) and “I wish I could give my kids that experience!” (desire). When we recognize thoughts of scarcity and desire that create jealousy, we get some leverage over how we feel and tap its wisdom to create a better life.
Gratitude & Desire.
When jealousy is tethered to thoughts of scarcity, a simple shift to gratitude heals our minds and broadens our perspective: “I’m grateful for my small but mighty family.” When the jealous thought is linked to desire, we can explore ways to pursue and awaken our latent desires and dreams. For my family, it meant building an extended tribe of close-knit neighbors and planning trips together. Our get-togethers might not look exactly like that blog family’s, dozens-strong at the lake compound, but we’ve got our own thing going … complete with matching t-shirts. Through gratitude and desire, we alchemize envy into its emotive cousin: inspiration. Thank you, jealousy!
Wendy Connelly, M.Div., is a podcaster (MoJo For Moms podcast), life coach and mother of two from Overland Park. You can find Wendy’s latest podcasts, retreats and more at MoJoForMoms.com.