Jealousy is an unfortunate emotion. It consumes us. I feel it still, though less so than when I was younger, when it would burn up inside of me like a wildfire. Now it is more a tiny spark of flint and steel striking, more energize than enervate.
Base jealousy is an aimless wandering of the spirit. It poisons a relationship, as well as our enjoyment of what we do actually have. I don't think it ever goes away. Banishing it and willing it away will only make it return, like a boomerang, to whack the unsuspecting wielder in the back of the head. How does one wrestle jealousy then?
Accept it. Accept it, and eventually transform it.
Vocalizing the jealousy helps. It clears the emotion out to make space for new emotions. Maybe more jealousy, but oftentimes not. That was one of my big tools when I was younger for overcoming jealousy. I would vocalize, playfully, oftentimes to the very person I was jealous of. "Ah man, that's so cool, I'm jealous!" It took the venom out of the nasty emotion I was feeling. Otherwise, jealousy paralyzes and prevents action. I become resentful of the person who has what I want. I resent them but I want to be like them- but how could I ever let myself become something I resent?
Eventually I thought, why not flip the whole idea of jealousy on its head? When I felt jealous, I would make a conscious effort to re-frame the emotion- not as jealousy but as inspiration. To reframe it. They have something I want- fantastic. If they got it, that means I can too. It might take a lot of work, but if I really want it, then it's worth it. What can I learn from their example?
First, I began to realize there are a lot of things I don't actually want and that I'm not willing to put the time into to get. Because if something is worth doing, it's worth doing horribly, for a long time, until I finally get it down. It made me seek out people who are better than me and who will force me to improve my game, rather than people who drag me down- which is what jealous complainers (read: me on a bad day) tend to do. Whereas great people are generous with their energy, and want to see others succeed. Being around great people galvanizes action and insight. What can I learn, copy, mimic, synthesize, integrate into my own approach?
I read an article by James Altucher the other day, speaking with author Ryan Holiday about jealousy. Holiday said the issue with jealousy is that we look only at one aspect of that person's life but ignore everything else. We have to ask when we are jealous: would I trade spots, ups and downs and all, and swap my entire life for that person's? I love that thought because the answer for 99% of us will be, hell no. Would we be willing to sacrifice what they sacrificed to get to where they are? Probably not, for a multitude of reasons. In the same article (I think) Altucher asks another guest for their definition of mediocrity. The guest thought for a moment and replied: "Being OK with the result you get for minimum effort." Our time is short, we have to choose carefully where we invest our time. We take for granted certain societal measures of success- high prestige and/or high paying jobs, being a celebrity or athlete, power and responsibility. None of these things are bad, either. But they are not what 99% of us actually want, at least not the whole package, if we thought about our motivations long enough.
Perhaps much of our jealousy is a general malaise stemming from a question we're afraid to ask ourselves: what in the hell am I doing with my time each day? Yet once we feel it, jealousy blinds us to what we really want. It scatters our energies. We compare and contrast ourselves with others without knowing all the details of their history and their struggles and their herculean efforts rather than comparing ourselves to who we were yesterday. Did we improve since then? If I can answer yes to that question, then I try to let that suffice. Oftentimes it does. Sometimes it doesn't.
To a certain extent I've created my own blinders, like a horse, to shield myself from jealousy distractions. I am very conscious about the media I consume, because I know that the more people around the world I compare myself to the more small and insignificant I will seem. And I want to feel important, even if it is just to myself. Call it existential pragmatism: I realize that I'm one drop in a bucket of seven billion, but I see better results when I pretend that's not the case. So I pretend it is not the case. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle. The more I make my own path and go deeper down the rabbit-hole, the more the fires of jealousy dwindle- though I doubt they'll disappear completely. The further I trailblaze- even if no one follows behind me- the more I well and truly have the feeling of living a life no one else could live but me. That is reassuring, at least. I try to embrace Nietzche's idea of Amor Fati- love of fate. We are here at this moment in time because of all the choices we've made up to this point. We can only change our circumstances to the extent that we've accepted that we're here of our own volition. To give in to jealousy in its petty, vulgar manifestation is to deny one's fate, and relinquish our power in the present.
Like anxiety, however, jealousy can be refashioned into something greater. I've repurposed as much of jealousy as I can into inspiration, and I celebrate with my friends when they have wins. The more jealous I am, the more I know that they've done something truly special. The more jealous I am, the more I know I have to learn from that person and the more I should spend time with them. The more jealous I am, the more I am humbled and the more I have to learn from the emotion itself.
Dillon Dakota Carroll
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
...sees much and knows much