The question: Recently, a lot of my friends have been getting engaged, having babies and going on cool trips. Although I’m happy for them, I’m also envious. How do I deal with my jealousy?
A former dance teacher used to say, “Don’t bother comparing yourself to others. There will always be people better than you, and worse than you. The most important thing is to ask yourself, “Am I improving?”
Of course, this is often easier said than done. Not only are we constantly bombarded by advertisements preying on our insecurities, but recent studies show that social media sites actually feed jealousy by creating the illusion that other people are living happier, more fulfilled lives than our own. I say “illusion” because, as a Stanford University study seems to suggest, people often underestimate the discontent of others.
Most of us can expect to encounter the ugly green monster from time to time. And while we may never truly slay the beast, the following tips can help keep it at bay:
1) Acknowledge your jealousy without judgment. Envy is a universal human emotion that is at least as old as the Bible itself. The more you can own your feelings, the less likely you’ll act on them.
2) Get in touch with the aspiration and wishes underneath the envy. Are you jealous of your friend’s trip to Tuscany? Ask yourself what steps you might take to make travel plans of your own. It may take time, but setting an intention can point you in a positive direction.
3) Remember that each person has his or her own unique happiness recipe. Some people prefer roller coasters; still others would rather curl up with a book. Being attuned to your own life purpose, needs and accomplishments helps negate the need for comparisons.
4) Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself to the person you were one year ago, five years ago or 10 years ago. Are you wiser, happier, more confident or peaceful? If so, take pride in your growth. If not, explore what has thrown you off course, or how you might improve your outlook.
5) An old saying goes, “Who is happy? He who is content with his lot.” Keep a daily gratitude list of the blessings in your life.
6) Volunteer. Helping those who are less fortunate will not only make you feel good, it will also keep things in perspective.
Kim Schneiderman is a psychotherapist and former journalist with a private practice in New York City. This column is not intended to be used as a substitute for a private consultation with a mental health professional, nor is this therapist to be held liable for any actions taken as a result of this column. If you have any concerns related to this column, make an appointment with a licensed mental health professional. Metro does not endorse the opinions of the author.