The last time you want to have to deal with the green-eyed monster is when someone close to you breaks really awesome news. It’s a terrible ordeal: smiling through the pain and trying so hard to feel really good for the person when all you really feel is jealousy. And then there’s the guilt that comes with feeling envious or jealous instead of happy for them. Why aren’t you happy for them?
What is wrong with you?!
Nothing, as it turns out. Everyone feels this way at some point, usually when the news pertains to something we are struggling with, too. One blogger writes: “A few years back my closest friend told me she was pregnant. I responded with appropriate excitement, said the right words, and showed the right emotions. But with each smile, word, and act of joy, I died a little bit inside.
The first chance I got to be alone, I wept bitterly. It seemed so unfair that while I’d been trying unsuccessfully for over four years, she got pregnant within a month of getting off the pill. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted a baby yet!”
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to free yourself from envy and get back to the happiness and joy you want to feel for your friend. Here they are:
1) Recognize and validate your feelings
Envy is a tough feeling that can’t be willed away; in fact, by trying to will it away you are actually inviting more of it in. The easiest way to release yourself from the bondage of envious thoughts and feelings are to recognize and accept them for what they are. It doesn’t make you a bad person or invalidate the feelings you have. In fact, by giving those feelings some weight and validity, by recognizing them, you’re actually forcing them to loosen their grip on you.
2) Figure out where they’re coming from
The source of your feelings of envy or jealousy isn’t your friend’s good news. For the blogger mentioned above, she was upset because of the feelings of failure and defeat she was experiencing due to her own efforts to have a baby. Her friend’s good news was just a catalyst. Work on nailing down the source of your envy, so that you can…
3) Make a helpful choice
Here you can choose to give into your feelings, which generally leads towards bitterness, resentment and further despair, or you can make peace with things as they are.
Life doesn’t always hand us what we want, but we can always choose how we handle what life gives us. Often, we can even surprise ourselves. By making peace with her friends’ news about her baby, the aforementioned blogger was better able to focus on her own efforts instead of becoming resentful towards her friend. She was also able to enjoy the excitement of her friend’s baby coming into the world and the experience of her friend’s pregnancy as well.
4) Address the source of your envy
Figuring out why you’re feeling the way you are is helpful, but it will continue to have negative consequences unless you address those feelings. In the blogger’s case, that meant making the choice to start infertility treatments. After a few months she was able to conceive, and her friend’s baby was born a few months before hers. Their friendship withstood this tough test, and the friend was by her side through the difficult choices that infertility treatments bring.
So, take action to address your feelings. Acknowledging them and sourcing them out is helpful, but addressing them by taking action is crucial to overcoming them.
Envy isn’t an emotion we ever get rid of entirely, and it can crop up anytime. But by using these experiences as learning guides and creating tools to use in future instances, we turn what feels like a difficult and miserable fail into an ultimate interpersonal success. A dear friend of mine once said no experience is a failure if you learn something from it, and I think in dealing with envy we get to take this tough truth head on, and become better people by doing so.