In keeping company with these amazing souls, I have learned a thing or two about jealousy.
I know that when a naturally thin and unfairly beautiful friend plans a visit, I can drop 15 pounds in two months. I’ve done that.
I know that when a childless friend plans a surprise visit, I can clean, reorganize, and RE-PINTEREST my home in 48 hours. I’ve done that.
I know how it feels to want to quit everything. I have wanted to quit writing. Quit blogging. Quit shopping, quit cooking, quit eating, quit cleaning, quit marriage, quit parenting, and go live in a hut on the beach. Because if you’re going to feel like an embarrassment in EVERY SINGLE WAY A PERSON CAN FEEL LIKE AN EMBARRASSMENT, you might as well feel small in front of an ocean instead of in front of other people.
I know about that.
And I know about feeling guilty for resenting GOOD, AMAZING, WONDERFUL people just because your heart can’t handle their wonderfulness. I know how it feels to resent yourself for being so resentful.
Jealousy and insecurity go hand-in-hand. It’s very chicken-or-the-egg. Am I jealous because I’m insecure? Or am I insecure because I’m so jealous? The answer is, “Yes.”
They feed off of each other in a downward spiral, like a whirlpool, taking your confidence, joy, peace, friendships, and focus with them as they go. Like an airplane stealing tree limbs on the way down.
Jealousy is not something you can just live with. You can’t allow it to occupy a little room in your heart, like it’s paying rent, and try to get on with your life while it’s sitting there on the sofa bed you made up for it. Jealously will burn the place down. Jealousy starts a slow burn that will eventually leave your whole heart in dead, white ashes.
A few years ago I decided to quit jealousy.
And that’s what I did. I quit, cold turkey.
And you know what? It really wasn’t that hard.
Here are the four things I do when I battle with jealousy and survive:
The absolute fastest way to kill jealousy in its tracks is to look another person in the eye. It breaks the trance. Sit across the table from somebody, and listen to them talk. People don’t get to edit in real-time conversations, so when you talk to someone you normally interact with online, you’ll be amazed at how … NORMAL they sound. If you are jealous of a real life friend, go to her house more than once. You will notice that her baseboards aren’t always clean, and this will free you. She might even have ants. I will never forget the day that I walked into the house of a childless person and saw an ant. AN ANT! It was one of the most validating, freeing experiences of my entire life. It was like that ant said to me, “I do not condemn you, human. Be free.” When you look somebody in the eyes, you remember that real life doesn’t come with Instagram filters. You might even see traces of hurt, struggle, fear. You might see some of the weight that they carry. You might notice that even the slenderest of people have thigh-meat, and that thigh-meat might set you free.
Take their success before their success takes you. This is public relations 101; he who breaks the story, writes the story. He who makes the announcement, owns the announcement. When someone has a success, celebrate it like it’s yours. The more you practice their joy, the more you’ll feel their joy. Become a good celebrator. You’ll be surprised by how much you mean it.
Remember that your life is yours to live. Remember all the treasures with which YOU have been entrusted. Remember that that THING, or that TRAIT, or that LIFE that you’re so jealous of is not yours to live.
Amena Brown (who is a treasure and my favorite) said it this way in her poem How to Fly.
“You never carry dreams given to you by someone else.
You figure out which things you gotta check and protect,
And which dreams you hold close you to.
You let go of everything that was sold to you as true.
Too much hurt affects your wingspan.
You see flyin’ ain’t about provin’ to someone who is struggling to be somebody
That you ‘gone be somebody too.
Flying is about taking what you got, being who you are,
And doing what you do.“
Know yourself, and dare to like yourself. This is audacious gratitude and it will change everything. Four years ago I realized I was carrying dreams given to me by someone else. I looked around, full of gratitude, and the most amazing thing happened: It dawned on me, like someone walking into a room and turning on the light, I like me. I think I’m smart. Maybe not book-smart, or street-smart, but some kind. I think I’m funny, funny enough that I’m not bored by my own thoughts, so that’s good. I think that I’m cute. I’m no physical specimen to behold or anything, but I think I’m cute and I’m okay with cute. Mostly, I’M ME. I am this whole collection of thoughts and experiences and values and beliefs and quirks and proclivities, and I LIKE ME. I put down all the dreams given to me by someone else, and I gave up trying to prove things to people who weren’t even watching. Gratitude turns your eyes up to The Giver, and you can’t behold The Giver of All Good Things and still be looking around feeling jealous about stuff.
When you love someone, jealousy gets edged out. The love presses it out, occupying the space it used to hold, filling all the gaps. When you love someone, you see their hurt and your heart grieves with them. When you love someone, you see their joy and your heart leaps with them. When you love someone, you want their best, their happiness. You actually DESIRE their growth and maturation – you are on the edge of your seat, breathless to see what their lives could hold. And you want to be on the sidelines, cheering them on, holding them up, because, LOVE. Love causes us to lose sight of insecurity, competition, lust, idolatry, and entitlement because it causes us to lose sight of ourselves.
Kick jealousy out. Stop taking his rent. Quit him.
Connect, celebrate, remember, love – and breathe the free air.