Do you ever feel jealous or envious?
Yeah, me neither. Mostly I just always glow with love and radiate positivity one hundred percent of the time.
I’m a human: I feel jealousy and envy frequently. We are old acquaintances. We go waaay back. I hesitate to say “friends” because, honestly, they’re parts of me that I don’t love so much, though we’ve been working on improving our relationship and I have to say it’s going much better these days.
Feeling jealous and envious can seem like a lonely place to be, but I know I’m not the only one at that party. It’s just that people don’t tend to admit to these feelings out loud. They’re not “nice” or socially acceptable ways to feel. We’re not supposed to feel that way. We’re supposed to be kind and gracious and generous, which is good, not jealous and envious, which is bad.
But you know what? I spent literally decades of my life knowing I was at times jealous and envious, and that that was wrong of me, and wrong with me. I collapsed jealousy and envy in with selfishness and greed. I felt guilty and ashamed of my true feelings, because no one else seemed then, or seems now, to having these feelings.
Maybe there are people who don’t feel jealousy or envy. I mean, platypuses exist, so I suppose just about anything is possible in this big, weird world of ours.
But, I suspect that everyone feels it, even if they don’t allow themselves to own it. However, just because you don’t cop to being a human doesn’t make your humanity disappear. Pretending not to have the very human emotional experiences of envy or jealousy (or anything else we pretend not to feel) just alienates us and others even more when what we really need is normalization and acceptance.
So if you are willing to admit that sometimes you feel jealousy and envy, then you’re in good company here with me.
Let’s talk about jealousy and envy, shall we?
Did you know that jealousy and envy don’t mean the same thing? They tend to get lumped together in the “qualities-we-don’t-admire-or-admit-to-having” category of emotions, but they actually are distinct from one another.
Envy means that you desire something that someone else has. Jealousy means you are afraid of losing something that matters to you, or that someone else will take it from you. So, yes, they’re different emotions, but they both feel yucky.
The reason they get mixed up is because they both involve desire and possession, and they both leave you feeling inadequate and insecure.
What if, though, feelings of envy or jealousy weren’t an indictment of your terrible character? What if feeling envious or jealous didn’t mean you were a bad person, but rather were indications of things that matter to you?
Whether you are feeling envy or jealousy, what is really going on is that you have a desire that is really strong about something or someone that really matters to you.
Well, that’s not terrible, is it?
What if you could feel envious or jealous, without being envious or jealous? Feelings are not who you are; they are emotional states or reactions to circumstances and thoughts.
Maybe your feelings of envy or jealousy are telling you a message: maybe there is action to take with regards to these things that matter to you. Perhaps it’s time to take steps toward creating a future in which you achieve or receive the things you wish you had.
Or maybe your fears about losing what matters to you are a sign that you need to spend more time and attention on the things or people in question, or get supported with the underlying fears and stories that have you believe that you’re not enough.
Maybe your jealousy and envy are messengers of your fears and feelings of not-enough-ness, and they indicate areas for healing and growth.
You have no control over how you feel, and what you resist, persists. So if you’re making it meaningful about who you BE as a person that you’re having a feeling that you’re not supposed to have, then you’re in for a tough time.
The feelings aren’t wrong. You are not wrong to feel them. They don’t make you a bad person. They just make you a person, period. Your feelings are indicators, or messengers, telling you what needs attention. What you choose to make it mean about you is up to you.
How you feel is not who you BE or even what you do, so maybe stop collapsing your personal worth as a human being into the fickle and fleeting tides of your emotions.
Just because you feel envious or jealous doesn’t mean you have to act from those sticky emotions. Just sitting around enviously coveting other people’s lives or jealously guarding your own tends to work the opposite of how you want it to.
Untended jealousy in relationships tends to cause toxic behavior, which can drive away the very people you’re hoping to hold onto. It leads to distrust and suspicion, which are not the bedrock of loving, healthy relationships. Envy without action towards creating your own results kills inspiration and motivation.
If you can separate your emotions from your identity, then you will have a lot more freedom to choose your actions in service of your desires, and not in service of your feelings, fears or doubts about yourself.
The question to ask is not, “Am I a good/bad person?” but rather, “What is the underlying message or desire my current emotional state is trying to communicate with me?”
We can use our feelings of envy and jealousy (along with all the others, too, for that matter) to deepen our understanding of what matters to us, and to help us clarify the actions necessary to move forward towards our desired experience of life, and towards any healing that might be necessary.
Being a good person who is kind and generous and having feelings of jealousy and envy are not mutually exclusive. They can all show up at the same time and co-exist. You can be generous and loving AND still feel envy or jealousy from time to time.
How you feel doesn’t cancel out who you be.
There is real freedom in understanding that you have no control over how you feel, and in understanding that the way you feel in any given moment is not the definition of who you BE.
What are some feelings that you’ve mistakenly used to define yourself? What are some things that make you feel envious or jealous? Can you identify the message beneath the feeling?