Sometimes I describe myself as a jealous guy. I use it to speak about how I feel about how I am with regards to my relationship with my wife. But in a lot of ways outside of my relationship, I am learning that jealousy is not only a bad emotion, but a toxic one. It is making me reconsider a lot of how I view jealousy, of how I view a lot of things.
Let’s start with a nondescript person and situation in my life. A person I know had something really good happen to them. When it happened I found that I was extremely jealous of said person’s success. Of the person. And in that jealousy I also found that I was angry. I directed that anger towards that person in an internal way, poisoning my opinions toward them. It led me to begin to imagine myself as having should been granted the same success while trying to justify the fact that I wasn’t granted it. Worse, I began to articulate negative beliefs, trying to delegitimize the person who did achieve that success. In addition, it led me to stop performing in other areas of my life. I was ruminating on it. It was poisoning me, yet I hadn’t even realized it.
At some point during all this I decided to make a conscious change. I don’t know why, but one day I chose to ignore the success when I interacted with this person. It wasn’t easy at first with the jealousy and anger sitting right there on the edge. Eventually that jealousy lessened though. It was beaten back by my insistence on behaving without it. (There’s another topic on using behavior to drive emotions, but for the sake of this post, I won’t dive into it.) With this emotion, this jealousy, eventually placed in the trunk rather than any seat in the car, I began to inadvertently examine the real reasons I was jealous and why it turns out to be so damned toxic.
A few facts stuck out at me at first.
- I was not pursuing the goals that this person was. Where at first it was a dismissive answer given to justify my negative beliefs, it became a blatant fact. I can’t succeed in an area that I am not trying to succeed in. I wasn’t putting in the work to achieve said goal, so not achieving it is nothing more than not winning a race I didn’t run in. I might want to win the race, but if I don’t run it, why worry about it?
- I didn’t want to achieve the goal. This was a bigger revelation when compared to my emotions. Why was I wasting time over someone getting something that I didn’t want? Simply put, what that person got, I wasn’t even aiming for. This ignores any presumption that I’d even put any effort into it. I just didn’t want the thing. Why be jealous of it then?
- It ends up not being the person or the particular success that the emotion grew from. Not really.
I was angry at myself. I was jealous because this person found success in a pursuit of theirs while I am continuing to sit in stagnant waters in my own pursuits. I was not having success of my own, in my own ways. I found it had nothing at all to do with the other person. But because I was mad at myself, I treated them, directly and indirectly, unfairly. All because of my own inadequacies. What was that saying about me?
Jealousy breeds contempt, anger, and all those negative feelings. And while we simmer in that stew of negative emotions, it only focuses us on the end goal of something. And not really the culmination in happiness when we strive towards something and get it. No. It’s just the thing of it, almost a materialism of sorts. If we focus too much on it, we lose sight of what we are trying to do ourselves. Or the lessons that can be learned.
And that got me thinking more, how much of that emotion permeates through our society?