Learning to Use Jealousy as a Catalyst for Change.
We’ve all been there — wanting something we do not have. And that’s a good thing.
Jealousy and envy are natural emotions. We all feel jealous from time-to-time, wishing our lives were more like other peoples’.
And while it’s easy to view jealousy as a negative feeling, if we learn to channel it and us it as motivation to change, it can be incredibly powerful.
Instead of fighting against feelings of jealousy, we can use them to help us grow and develop. Here’s how.
1. Choose Your Battles.
Being human, our wishes and instincts often take control of us. We become intoxicated by desire, feeling as though we have to have something, be it money, status or a romantic partner. These things feel like essential components to our happiness — but they’re often misleading.
Though they may bring us short-term satisfaction, fulfilling these desires rarely leads to true, long-lasting contentment.
The same applies with jealous and envious thoughts. Sometimes, our jealous desires are actually false; they’re aspirations that seem like they’ll make us happy but instead, like a mirage, they never actually lead to true satisfaction. Each false desire we fulfil only leads into another, and another, in an endless chain.
Often, our desires mask a deeper, more genuine craving. A desire for wealth, for instance, may reflect dissatisfaction in other areas of our lives and not a true, genuine want for money.
Let’s get clear about the distinction between genuine and false desires.
- Genuine desires are desires that lead to true, long-lasting contentment. The desire to improve our romantic relationship, for example, would be likely to make us feel genuinely happier.
- False desires are desires that seem like they’ll make us happy, and may fulfil an immediate craving, but that do not lead to true, long-lasting happiness. The desire to be unfaithful to our partner and be intimate with somebody else would be unlikely to lead to genuine happiness. We may sleep with hundreds of people in an attempt to satisfy this false desire for intimacy, when actually, our genuine desire is to have a healthy relationship.
When jealous of something another person has, consider these two categories. Are you jealous of something that will lead to genuine happiness, or something material that will only delay true satisfaction?
Is your desire superficial and surface-level? If it is, contemplate what the underlying, genuine cause of your dissatisfaction may be.
- A false desire for status may be masking a genuine desire for higher self-esteem
- A false desire for more money may be masking a genuine desire for job satisfaction
- A false desire for sex may be masking a genuine desire for love and affection
Channel your energy only into those desires that are genuine. Strive to attain things that are intrinsically good; goals that, when achieved, will bring certain joy because they are good within themselves.
2. Refining Character
Once you’ve learned to identify the desires that will lead to genuine, long-lasting happiness, it’s time to work on obtaining these.
Ask yourself, ‘Why aren’t I genuinely happy yet?’, ‘What behaviours do I need to change?’, ‘What is making me feel jealous?’
To answer these questions truthfully requires detachment, because the truth is, we all hold biases about ourselves. We think we’re the best we can be, even in cases where we’re far from it.
In reality, none of us have any idea how our appearance or actions come across to other people. All we have is our perception of ourselves from our own biased perspectives. Our biases are so defined, in fact, that some scientists argue that if you saw yourself on a train — you wouldn’t even recognise yourself.
The first step to using jealousy to bring about change, therefore, is to observe your behaviours without these biases; to see yourself as the person you truly are, not that which you believe yourself to be.
This requires you to take a critical and objective approach to analysing your behaviour, away from any preconceptions that exist. Consider yourself through the eyes of another person. If you struggle to remove yourself from your biases, ask a friend or colleague to describe how your actions come across to the external world.
And, when you’ve determined who you really are and where you’re at right now, compare your current behaviours to those that you strive to adopt.
Maybe you’re jealous of somebody else’s kindness and warmth. Consider what it is about that person’s behaviour that you admire and how this differs from your own behaviour, and then work to close the gap between your desired and current state of being.
By doing this, you’re not chasing after false desires. You aren’t mindlessly pursuing material goods or mimicking behaviour superficially, but critically analysing your own beliefs and adjusting these to create long-lasting changes that bring about true happiness.
To avoid the endless pursuit of false desires, you must learn to cultivate genuine appreciation for the things that you do have.
‘Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.’ — Epicurus
Is the glass half empty or full? What areas of your life do you have to feel truly happy about? What areas of your life might other people be jealous of?
Take a step back and appreciate the friends that surround you, the warm bed you sleep in and the food you have at your table. Recognise that jealousy creates a sense of lacking, even when you already have a lot to be thankful for. By cultivating gratitude, a deep appreciation for that which is yours, perhaps you will cease to feel jealous at all.
‘Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.’ — Harold Coffin.
Jealous tendencies are natural, and although often perceived negatively, can be used to shape you into a better, more rounded and happier person.
- Pursue only the desires that will make you happy and avoid chasing false desires — those that only lead to further cravings.
- Observe your current state of being, free from any biases, and guide your actions according to the difference between how you act and how you would like to act.
- Cultivate genuine appreciation for what you do have before searching for more.