Jealousy is a normal emotion that everyone experiences. But not everyone experiences it the same way. Some feel it more intensely than others.
Still, it’s common to look at someone you perceive as doing better than you and think, “I wish I had what they do.”
That can extend to work, relationships, personal life, or any place where you may feel you’re lacking and should have more.
However, jealousy is a problem. It’s a big problem because you’re not always going to get what you want.
And chances are pretty good you already know that jealousy hurts your life. It can ruin friendships, relationships, opportunities, and rob you of your happiness.
But what can you do about it? How can you stop being competitive and feel less jealous of others’ success?
1. Stop comparing yourself to other people.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt
President Roosevelt got it right when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” By comparing yourself and your life to others, you cease to appreciate what you have. Instead of feeling happy for what you have, you replace the feelings of happiness and joy with anger and resentment.
And guess what? Those feelings cannot coexist. You can’t feel happiness, joy, anger, and resentment all at the same time. It will either be positive or negative, mental illness notwithstanding.
Nowadays, it’s so easy to compare yourself and your life to others. All you need to do is scroll through social media for a few minutes.
What do you see? Well, you see people who might be more attractive, who seem to have more than you, and who are having more fun than you.
But never forget that what you see is a carefully curated highlight reel of their life. It’s rarely a complete or accurate reflection of their life. Few people post about all the times they messed up or failed. They also may not be honest about what they have. Some influencers will go as far as to rent sports cars or fancy houses to take pictures in. They may also buy fancy clothes for a photo shoot and then return them to the store afterward.
Stop comparing your life to others. If you find yourself doing it, separate yourself from the source of your comparison and remind yourself that you have your own life. Audit your social media. Do you see people or businesses that cause you to feel jealous of what they have? Hit the unfollow button now.
2. Reframe your scarcity mindset.
A scarcity mindset is when you believe that there are limited resources available, and that you must get your share (or more than your share to be on the safe side).
And while that may be valid in certain circumstances, it’s not valid when it comes to success and accomplishment. Anyone can create success and accomplishment through hard work and a little bit of luck.
The success of another does not mean you cannot succeed. Someone else’s success is not your failure. They didn’t just take some limited resource away from you.
For example, let’s say you work hard at your job. You’re angling for a promotion that you really want. But then Mark gets the promotion over you! Granted, there may have only been one promotion spot. So that specific avenue of success may be closed off to you. However, that doesn’t prevent you from pursuing success elsewhere. It might be time to apply to different companies where that particular role is available.
You can choose to bury yourself in jealousy of Mark’s success and even feel some resentment toward him. But what does that accomplish other than making you miserable? Your journey isn’t over just because something didn’t work out how you hoped. Embrace flexibility, adapt your goals, and pursue something else. That’s as complicated as it needs to be.
3. Look at the big picture.
Many people have a bad habit of focusing on the details rather than the big picture. It’s easy to envy the person standing on the podium with a gold medal around their neck. You may experience jealousy for that person’s accomplishment, the accolades, and your desire to have that medal around your neck.
However, people often forget what it takes to get there. Many Olympic athletes begin training when they are children to hone their bodies to compete on the world stage. It’s hours and hours of practice day by day. That person likely sacrificed their personal relationships and other opportunities to get to where they are.
That’s to say nothing of the pain, doubt, and losing so many times to other athletes that may be better. Or maybe the other athletes weren’t better. Maybe that athlete injured themselves and couldn’t compete or train while healing. So much goes into winning that gold medal that may not be clearly apparent.
The same is true for relationships, friendships, education, a career, and anything else. Most people don’t have things handed to them on a silver platter. Some do, but not many.
Take some time to consider all the sacrifices a person might have made when looking at their success if you find yourself jealous of their prize. Then, try to see the big picture to stop being envious.
4. Don’t cling to the idea of fairness.
There is no such thing as fairness in life. Sometimes things will be unfair. You will have moments in your life when you think you have everything lined up perfectly to succeed, and some random circumstance will topple the whole house of cards. It stinks, and it’s unfair, but it’s also the way life sometimes goes.
The more you cling to the idea that success and accomplishment are fair, the harder it will be to swallow the setbacks. Your ability to swallow the pain, learn from the setback, and pivot to a different approach will determine your success or failure. Or it might not. You might pivot to something else, and that fails too.
And you know what? You can spend a little time feeling angry or resentful. Feeling sad that things didn’t work out how you wanted or envisioned is okay. It’s alright for you to have negative feelings.
The key is to limit the time that you dwell on those feelings. The more time you spend on those feelings, the more happiness you sacrifice. Remember, positive and negative feelings typically can’t exist in the same space.
Yeah, life isn’t fair sometimes. Mourn it, and then move on.
5. Define your own success.
Too many people cling to the idea of the success of others. Nowhere is this more apparent than in society at large. For a long time, success looked like a white picket fence with a stay-at-home spouse, 2.5 kids, and two cars in the driveway. That was the standard that so many people were competing for. Did everyone get it? No. There were still plenty of poor and disadvantaged people when the American Dream was the goal.
But was that success right for everyone? Not necessarily. Some people didn’t want a spouse. Others didn’t want kids. Maybe they weren’t interested in having a car or the upkeep required to keep a house. Some may not have wanted one single place to call home. Maybe they wanted to travel and live in different places before settling down.
The point is that you must define your own success. What’s good for society, an influencer, or your Aunt Margaret may not make sense for you. Furthermore, you can define success as goals on the way to the crowning achievement you want to aim for.
“I want to lose 100 pounds and be healthy.” Okay, so is success losing the 100 pounds? Because that can take months to attain. Or is success healthily limiting your calorie intake day by day? Oh, look! In doing that, you’ve lost ten pounds! That’s something to celebrate! That’s one step of success on your way to your greater goal of losing that 100 pounds!
Success doesn’t have to be what other people want. In fact, if you operate under those conditions, there’s a good chance you’re not going to do all the tedious, difficult work that goes into succeeding. Why would you? This isn’t what you want for your life. It is your life. And you have to decide what success means to you.
6. Celebrate the wins of others.
You may feel like you can’t be happy for others. It may seem impossible to not only feel happy for their success but also celebrate their win.
This is where we must make the distinction between malicious envy and benign envy. A person experiencing malicious envy may actually want to see the successful person lose that success and the rewards it brings. They may even wish to take that success away from them in order to have it for themselves.
Benign envy, on the other hand, is more along the lines of, “when another person succeeds, I ask what I can do to have success like them.” It’s a healthier mindset that doesn’t begrudge the other person for their success but rather uses it as motivation. This relates to the point above about reframing your scarcity mindset and seeing success as something many people can enjoy at the same time.
If you can be happy for others when they have a win of their own, it will take you far in relieving the jealousy you feel.
So how do you do that?
Is there some celebration for their victory? Participate if you can. Every time you tell yourself why they don’t deserve the win, force yourself onto a path of different thoughts or think of reasons why they do. Then, walk up to them, give them a firm handshake and a bright smile, and tell them you’re happy for them. Even if you’re not, this action will attempt to force your brain in a more positive direction.
7. Practice gratitude for what you have.
Appreciating what you have is one of the most powerful tools for improving your happiness. Gratitude is a trendy buzzword in the self-help space because it’s actually an effective tool. You may roll your eyes at the use of the word if you’ve been constantly beaten with it. Still, let’s talk about how gratitude can help you defuse your jealousy.
Gratitude is to be grateful for what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have. By focusing on what you do have, you allow yourself to be happy that you have those things. In addition, the more time you spend practicing gratitude, the less time you have left to focus on your negative feelings of jealousy.
And “practicing” is an important word often paired with gratitude. Why? Because you do have to practice at it. There will be plenty of times when life sucks, you want or need more, and it’s hard to find any silver lining in the clouds. And when you get into more extreme experiences, there are no silver linings to be found.
Pause to take a moment to consider what you are grateful for when you are jealous of another. What is it you have that other people might want? Is it health? A place to live? A job? Food in your stomach? Is it loved ones? What about your life makes your life livable, even if it isn’t great right now?
We suggest making a gratitude list when you don’t need it so that you don’t have to come up with something on the spot. Then, when you do feel jealous, you have that list ready to go.
Jealousy is a perfectly normal emotion to feel. However, it doesn’t need to rule your life. A little bit of work and shifting your mindset can help you defuse your jealousy and start feeling more positive.