Could jealousy be healthy? I mean, we would think it is not one of the best feelings to experience right? As we say in yoga, too much attachment, too much desire, Raga, leads to suffering. So whether it is that we are holding on to a friend, a husband, or a title, jealousy isn’t clearly the way to happiness.
Or maybe it is?
Note to the boyfriend: you do not have to choose between the Marinoni and the Marianne
I am very lucky to have a boyfriend who rarely comments other women’s looks, or whatever I could be jealous of. In fact, if I had to be jealous of an other object of his attention, it would have to be either the cat or his Marinoni bike, which both receive much more care and love than anything else, except for myself (and even that is not always true).
But still. The second I would sense that he might be interested in another girl, if he talks about her in a way he doesn’t about me, I know I’d get worried. I wouldn’t probably act upon that strong desire to crush this girl’s face, but I would for sure get jealous. And I will suffer.
Why is that? Because jealousy is based on comparison. When we feel threaten, when we feel like we are about to lose something we deeply care for, we sometimes tend to hold on to it for dear life. That’s where the suffering comes from, from that holding on too tight. It often comes from our own insecurity, because if we were confident enough in ourselves, knowing that we do not have to be afraid about a boyfriend cheating on us let’s say, we wouldn’t nurture that jealousy feeling that makes us suffer.
“The problem with jealousy is that it masks other feelings and attitudes that are even more hurtful to us and those closest to us. Its intensity is often shielding deep-seated feelings of possessiveness, insecurity or shame.” – Lisa Firestone, What Drives Jealousy?
Is jealousy becoming social?
With social media, this envy thing can take gigantic proportions. You probably know by now that Facebook can be linked to depression and increases our envy, triggering the green-eyed monster of jealousy, when used in a passive way (a.k.a scrolling down your newsfeed to watch people’s lives without engaging creatively with them or sharing).
I am fully aware of it, and yet, I get caught sometimes in that snooping on social media. Again, it is not what I don’t care about that gives me that tingling sensation. I get it when I find a very cool business project like Happy Fitness (these girls are simply amazing), or a very cool person like Elizabeth Plank (this woman rocks). It happens as soon as I start to look for too long at my Facebook feed, or Instagram account, I begin to imagine all the great lives of people I know, as soon as I start comparing myself with others.
The Social Comparison Theory implies that we are basically always comparing ouselves with others, and then evaluate our life based on those comparisons. When before we were taking a look outside at our neighbor’s grass to see if it was greener, now we don’t even to stand up to compare ourselves, a glance at our iPhone gives us instantly an update on how we are doing in life, and if we are having success compared to the people we know, and even sometimes to people we don’t know, friends of friends, people we met over trips, or simply strangers we added on LinkedIn to extend our network.
I believe this is where it gets even trickier. We know when we are watching TV or reading a magazine that these people are not real, or that they might look like they have an amazing life, but that sometimes behind the scenes things aren’t always that easy. Simply look at the tabloïds that enjoy showing up all the mess some celebrities go through. However, when we look at our personal social media accounts, we can feel like the life of the friend we used to know, or that person we just met last week at that business conference, is more accessible. Therefore, the comparison may hit us harder, because we are not looking at some Photoshop model anymore, we are looking at our neighbor, and it is not only the grass that is greener, but his/her entire life that looks more fun than ours.
In order to feel better, happier, some suggests we avoid upward comparisons, like when we are looking up at someone’s success story, or someone who seem to be doing better than us, as much as we can, and maybe even extend that idea to focusing on downward comparisons, when we are comparing ourselves with people who are doing worse than we are. And I have to say, it does make you feel better. Whenever I am confronted to difficult realities, when I am volunteering for example, it always gives me perspective on my personal life, and makes me feel better. I also believe it is a great way to get over yourself and develop some compassion along the way, which is always great.
“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Recognize it, then act upon it. But not the way you think.
“Jealousy is both reasonable and belongs to reasonable men, while envy is base and belongs to the base, for the one makes himself get good things by jealousy, while the other does not allow his neighbour to have them through envy.” – Aristotle
Overall, even if envy shows up from time to time into my life, I do not consider myself to be a jealous person. Envy for me is very healthy indeed, as I choose to take it as an indicator of what I care about. When I experience jealousy, I take it as a clear message that there is something going on. It helps me distinguish what is important to me.
I use jealousy as a guide. Through experiences of envy, I can recognize the things that I have and that I deeply want to keep in my life, and the things I might want to work towards achieving.
“When you compare yourself to others, it is fine to envy what they have, as long as you use that envy to make yourself better rather than to tear other people down.” – Art Markman, Ph.D, The power of (benign) envy
I love my boyfriend, and I want to grow with him. If our relationship was compromised, I would care, so I will work to make us both as happy as we can (giving without expectations).
I am passionate about entrepreneurship and health. The work that the girls at Happy Fitness do combines both, and I admire their strength and courage to pursue their dream vision. Same goes for Elizabeth Plank, who speaks up for women and our generation. I admire her for her hard work and guts. The values these girls act upon are similar to mine, and I would like my work to be as determining as theirs. They inspire me.
Therefore I believe jealousy can be healthy. It is a lot more about the way I react to that emotion than the emotion itself that causes suffering. I choose to get the most out of my jealousy experiences, by determining what touches me, and then use it to inspire me to live fully and pursue my own dreams.
An ode to envy
Because through books (you know I love books), we get to understand our reality in another way, I’m proposing to you this very great TED-talk about envy through fiction.