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Be Happier with Your Life: 6 Ways to Let Jealousy Guide You

“Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own.” ~Unknown

My friend Kayla and I ran a student organization together at our graduate school. One day, we were sitting at the local café, talking about plans for the organization. Kayla had an idea for a major creative project she would drive and lead.

The idea was fabulous, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the idea of her doing this fabulous thing, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Over our coffees, I shared this concern and that. It wasn’t in line with our goals for the year. It would send the wrong message to our members. It probably wouldn’t work.

As I shared each concern, Kayla responded, eloquently. And bless my friend Kayla, then she said, “Tara, I’m listening to everything you are saying. I’m really trying to understand it, but the words are not making sense to me. You don’t sound like yourself. It feels like you are jealous.”

Whoa. What? Can you hear the little screeching to a halt sound in the background? Things just got hazy with time-just-slowed-down-and-I-sure-didn’t-expect-that wooziness.

Because Kayla is the amazing woman she is, she said this without a hint of accusation. She didn’t sound hurt or angry, righteous, or victimized. She said it as if it were a neutral observation.

In the moments she said it, I began to realize she was right.

I thought, here I am, jealous of a friend. I’m being that kind of person I’ve been hurt by. I’ve been on the other side of the table—sharing a creative idea, an ambition, and feeling it squelched because the other person was threatened. How did I get here?

But I didn’t say any of that. My ego couldn’t go there. I think I said something like I was so sorry she felt that way, that of course I supported her, and that we’d talk more and figure it out.

Kayla’s words changed the trajectory of that period of my life. I went home wondering, “How did this happen? How could I have gotten so far from my own happiness, so off track, that I can’t be present to the flourishing of someone I love dearly?

I was coming off the first grueling year of grad school, and through it, I had lost a lot of myself. I was out of touch spiritually. I was emotionally wound up about all kinds of things that had happened during that whirlwind year. As a result of that spiritual and emotional disconnection, I had started overeating, and I was caught up in compulsion around food.

Chaos was ruling. Soul was going underground.

Kayla’s words woke me up to that. When I went home, I saw crystal clear: if I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t support this person who I adore, who is doing a project that will advance a cause I’m passionate about, things have gotten pretty bad. I must have gotten very far off from doing my own right work, following my own dreams, cultivating my own happiness.

It was perfectly obvious to me in that moment that our ability to celebrate and affirm another’s brilliance, creativity, ambition is exactly correlated to how much we are honoring and standing with our own.

Within a few days, I started making changes. I surrendered my struggles. I decided things had to change. I got back on my own side again. I started resting, giving myself more reflection time and remembering my dreams.

I gave Kayla my support in moving forward with the project.

I gave up sugar, and all the other foods that I can’t handle, that make me a crazy person who can’t stop eating. (I’m happy to say that I haven’t had refined sugar in the six years since then, so this was a powerful change that stuck.)

I also started to look at how I turned to food to cope with stress, and to develop alternative ways of coping: talking with friends, journaling, spiritual practice, and the not-to-be-underestimated solution of napping!

Using Jealousy As a Gift

There’s a lesson here for all of us. When you feel jealous, instead of identifying with that feeling or beating yourself up for feeling it, let it serve as an important message.

Here’s how to do that:

1. When you experience jealousy, turn your focus from outward to inward.

This is hard, this is big, and this is where transformation begins.

2. Ask, what part of me is having trouble witnessing the x (success, brilliance, boldness, popularity, beauty, wealth, etc.) of another person?

Connect to that part. Focus in on the discomfort. Shine the light there and explore it.

3. Ask yourself: What message does that part of me have to share?

What does that part want for me? What does it want to create in my own life? What does it feel hurt about, prevented from doing, stuck around? Reflect on these questions by journaling about them or exploring them in meditation.

4. Feel the feelings fully.

Speak them. Process them. You can share them with the person you are jealous of, if that feels right in the relationship. Though I didn’t do this with Kayla because I was a scaredy-cat, I’ve done it with others since and it goes a long way to immediately diffuse the feelings of jealousy.

Once you’ve shone a light on it, it can’t run you in the same way. Or, share with another supportive listener, journal, or process the feelings by sitting quietly with them and feeling the sensations of them in your body. We forget all the time in our doing-focused culture that when it comes to feelings, just feeling them fully causes them to shift. It really does!

5. Explore: What am I willing to do to get back on track with myself in my life?

What would I need to be doing in my own life to be completely at home with—delighted by—this person’s glory? Your answers here point you toward your own glory.

6. Finally, consider: What do I need to do, in order to be the person I want to be in this relationship?

The first five steps are an important part of this. You may also want to put in place some boundaries for yourself like “no teasing this person” or “no comments” on the thing you are jealous of. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to take a step back from the relationship until you can be the source of support they deserve.

When you give yourself full permission to shine, to try, to experiment, to fail, jealousy of others subsides. When your stand for your own dreams, and do the hard and brave things required to make them happen, you won’t feel that twinge of jealousy in the presence of others going after theirs.

And when you do feel jealous? Treat it as a powerful messenger. Jealousy shows you just where you need to go next on your own journey.

Photo by Mizrak

About Tara Sophia Mohr

Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer, coach, and personal growth teacher. She’s the creator of the global Playing Big leadership program for women, the author of The Real Life poems, and is a regular writer for the Huffington Post. Visit www.taramohr.com for more.

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  • Pamela

    Tara, this is brilliant. I’ve been reflecting on envy a lot lately, intending to write a blog post about it. I too realize that envy is a spiritual cue to own and appreciate our own strengths and glory. You have said it far better than I ever could. Thank you.
    Pam Picard
    http://www.reinventing64.com

  • Pamela

    Tara, this is brilliant. I’ve been reflecting on envy a lot lately, intending to write a blog post about it. I too realize that envy is a spiritual cue to own and appreciate our own strengths and glory. You have said it far better than I ever could. Thank you.
    Pam Picard
    http://www.reinventing64.com

  • This is a beautiful article and I really really appreciate it! I will be printing it and posting it somewhere I will be reminded of this daily. Thanks again!

  • Alison

    Thank-you Tara. I find your article incredibly helpful!

  • Fantastic and useful post, thank you!

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  • Mcturra2000

    In his book, “Scr*w work – let’s play”, the author argued that jealosy can be used as a constructive tool to find out what you really want and perhaps should be persuing. So, instead of dwelling on the jealously, take it as a clue that what you might want to do is drive a creative project yourself. If that’s true, then you should seek a way, no matter how small in scale, that you could persure that goal.

    Just a suggestion.

  • Varugoyal

    after reading this article I felt as I have taken a medicine or a healing therapy. Thankyou very much , It is very important that i learnt how to use my negative attribute for achieving my life’s targets.. 🙂

  • Hi Tara,

    I just found Tiny Buddha today and your article is very honest and soulful. Thank you for writing it. I’m going to share it with my Goddess Circle.

  • Aditi

    I appreciate your perspective on jealousy. I love that you accepted an emotion, and dealt with it in a positive way. I keep trying to fight these ‘negative’ emotions and feelings in my life whenever they creep up, and this article encourages you to accept where you are and channel emotions/reactions so they’re stepping stones to a better you! thank you for this.

  • Aditi

    I appreciate your perspective on jealousy. I love that you accepted an emotion, and dealt with it in a positive way. I keep trying to fight these ‘negative’ emotions and feelings in my life whenever they creep up, and this article encourages you to accept where you are and channel emotions/reactions so they’re stepping stones to a better you! thank you for this.

  • Aditi

    I appreciate your perspective on jealousy. I love that you accepted an emotion, and dealt with it in a positive way. I keep trying to fight these ‘negative’ emotions and feelings in my life whenever they creep up, and this article encourages you to accept where you are and channel emotions/reactions so they’re stepping stones to a better you! thank you for this.

  • Aditi

    I appreciate your perspective on jealousy. I love that you accepted an emotion, and dealt with it in a positive way. I keep trying to fight these ‘negative’ emotions and feelings in my life whenever they creep up, and this article encourages you to accept where you are and channel emotions/reactions so they’re stepping stones to a better you! thank you for this.

  • Valerie

    It takes a brave and wise person to recognize what jealous does to relationships and how to trade it in for happiness. Very well written.

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  • Sasalool

    I know that I am late in commenting on this post, but just today I’ve been struggling with feelings of jealousy myself, this is hard for me since I’ve been the center of envy all my life. Recently, I faced alot of life changing events that left me injured, wounded and questioning my own way of life without realizing it. I get envious of people who are sure of themselves, sure of what they want, and not afraid to ask for it. I feel like I was on the right track and suddenly I got derailed.

    One of the things that I learned and you put it so eloquently is that jealousy is a way for you to know what you want, and to do something positive and productive about it.

    I really thank you for your post

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  • Guest

    I just love this blog. 

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  • Vanessa0709

    Thank you so much for writing a beautiful article on something so ugly and destructive. I have been dealing with feelings of jealousy for quiet some time now and it has been slowly destroying me and my relationships… I just never looked for a solution until now and your article seriously helped guide me to organizing my thoughts to be able to start working on this destructive emotion. Again thank you so much!

    -Vanessa

  • Sandy

    Wow. This post is so amazing! Thank you for this. I’ve been trying to figure out my feelings for so long and only recently was able to pinpoint that jealousy and envy runs and ruins my life and others who I share my life with.

    I feel like a pre-schooler in trying to understand these concepts and put them into practice, but I will do my best!

    Thank you again!

  • kavin paker

    One of the things that I learned and you put it so eloquently is that
    jealousy is a way for you to know what you want, and to do something
    positive and productive about it.
    Alpen hotel

  • Laurence

    Thank you

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    As someone who is perennially tormented by envy and jealousy, your words have etched themselves in my heart – thank you, Tara! #HUGSSS

  • Guest

    Thank you for writing this – it really hit home for me. Jealousy can be your brain/soul/etc telling you where you need to go. It can be a reminder to make what you want a priority. As long as you aren’t pursuing these wants to one-up someone else and you’re doing them to fulfill your own emptiness, I think jealousy can be a great compass.

  • Helen

    This is supremely helpful. Thank you for shining the light on the positive here, I’m so grateful to have found this.