Juicy truth: use jealousy as your hidden compass

by yiye

We usually feel very awkward when we are facing the emotion of jealousy. We are told that we shouldn’t feel this way. We are told that it is a little sinful and we should only be happy for other people.

We either sense a hint of guilt, which can lead to self-sabotage – why can’t I just be a better person and happy for others? Or tell ourselves to ignore that feeling, which grows into frustration later on.

We want to be nicer and purer. However to do that, we will have to twist our understanding. We will have to welcome the jealousy first and filter our emotion a bit more.

Once we started to filter, something profound may emerge: jealousy is neither a big deal nor an indicator of how “good” or “bad” we are. Rather it is a clue to point out what we deeply desire. If using it wisely, it will reveal something about us that we might never otherwise think about.

I have a painter friend, let’s call him Nigel. Nigel has many of his pictures at home. One day we were chatting over lunch, he looked pretty pissed off: “my friend sold his paint to a customer for 1,500 pounds. He started painting a lot later than me and his technique isn’t that great, but got 1,500 pounds!” I have known that for a while that my friend was reluctant to sell his work, because regarded selling his work as a dirty trade. So I teased him, “why don’t you sell yours, given that you are more talented, experienced and have a better portfolio? I am sure you will get some well-deserved gains”

“Come on, you know me, this kind of exchange is just not me!” he looked irritated by my insensitivity.

To my surprise, when I saw Nigel again six months later. He was all bubbly and excited about his news: “guess what? I sold some of my pieces!!”

“Wow, you really did that?!” I was so amazed.

“Yeah, I couldn’t get over the fact that my younger friend sold his paint before I did. I found myself keep criticising him. I wasn’t very comfortable with the way I approached this. Then suddenly I thought, what the hell, I will try to sell mine too. Strangely the selling itself was not as bad as I thought. In fact, I didn’t really do anything with my pictures, I only put them away in my spare room. I was very pleased that people who really like my paintings actually bought them. They will be displayed and be appreciated! And after all that, my attitude is lot more gentle towards my friend. To be fair, as a newbie, he is doing remarkably well”.

What a cool experience I thought. Not only has Nigel discovered something new about himself: he thought he is not comfortable with his friend, however the real source is not his friend but his resentment by not allowing him doing something that he might enjoy. As a result the moment he gave himself permission to follow his desire, the source of unhappiness is cleared. It is no surprise that he also appreciated his fellow painter more.

I myself had a similar experience. In general I am comfortable with other people’s success in finance, promotion, relationship and lifestyle. However I found myself having difficulty to be genuinely happy watching those who says “no” with firmness and grace. Why can’t I do it in that fashion? I either couldn’t say no at all, or once I said it, the other party lashed out. Or worse I accepted responsibilities but with resentment, which just complicated things later on.

Until only a couple of years ago, I had courage to ask a co-worker how she did it.

“Well, pretty easy. Just set your boundaries and stick to it. This way you earn respect too”

It did sound pretty easy, but execution took me a while, because defining boundaries requires a lot clarity, direction and personal insight. It was tricky but gradually I made it. Thanks to her advice and also to my jealousy mapping it out for me. As soon as the colleague graciously shared her advice, I released all the negativity towards her and others who display the same quality.

If you are interested, here is a little task for you to play with:

  1. Identify a few people that you are secretly jealous of. Note that jealousy sometimes can be well hidden, it may be expressed in forms of judgement and intimidation.
  2. Take a deep reflection: what exactly about that person you are jealous of. Don’t judge your answer. Remember: the deepest source of jealousy is not the object of your sentiment, but your own lack of fulfilment.
  3. Go and ask them for help. You might be surprised that how many people are actually willing to give you a hand.

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