Jealousy, it’s one of my least favorite emotions, an invasive variation of anger and anxiety. We’ve all felt it at one time or another. Jealous of someone’s personal possessions, of someone’s position of authority, or of someone’s knowledge. We live in a consumer-driven and highly competitive society, it could almost feel natural to feel jealous.
There is hope. I think jealousy can be controlled and converted to motivation. As with anything worth doing, it’ll take a little time and discipline but it’s possible.
Jealousy versus your personal vision
“Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.” – Dreyfus & Kelly (All Things Shining)
Source of jealousy
I blame society, the end.
That was easy enough, right? OK, I don’t blame society.
Jealousy, as a form of anger or anxiety, comes from many different interpretations of events and objects but the sole source of jealousy is the individual. I think it’s the interpretation by the individual, based our own self-evaluations (honesty or not), in the context of our wants and imagined goals.
We see others achieve success and gain personal property and we want that too. What we don’t see is the time and effort that went into gaining success or property but we still want it. We become jealous of that person, then attribute their success to luck or some outside force instead of focus, dedication, or clear personal visions and goals.
In the end, we’re only tricking ourselves. The only thing we are doing is taking our feelings about a topic and projecting it onto someone else instead of taking responsibility for our own actions. Doing this protects ourselves from facing the truth about failing, maybe we didn’t put enough time or make the right plans to fulfill our goals.
There’s an idea that everything is a competition. Competition can be a good thing, it can help foster innovation and keep pushing people towards improvement. Yet, competition doesn’t have to fill every aspect of our lives.
I can see my neighbor with their new and expensive car, should I be jealous? No, I don’t know how long they saved for it, what they gave up or why they got it.
We don’t know what’s in their personal vision or if they have one, and we judge ourselves by an imaginary standard. How does this help us? It doesn’t.
We make these mental excuses for our perceived inadequacies.
Straying from your personal vision
We see other peoples possessions and achievements and want that too. But why? When we really think about it, why do we want what they have? It’s this feeling, in my opinion, that arises when we have no personal vision.
Jealousy can get in the way of your personal vision when we start to ignore our vision. When we start to compare ourselves to others, their possessions and achievements, we lose track of our path, our goals change and they are no longer aligned with our vision.
Having a personal vision is a guide for how you want your life to be. It’s something that we evaluate continuously as we figure out the qualities we think are important and compare those qualities to the qualities we think we possess. This has to be an honest self-assessment and it won’t do any good for you to over or underestimate your skills or knowledge.
Straying from this leaves us vulnerable to jealousy and that empty feeling we get when completing goals that have no real meaning to us.
“Such as are your habitual thoughts, such also will be the character of your mind; for the soul is dyed by the thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)
Knowing where you want to go is a great start to any personal journey. Imagine taking a road trip, getting in the car and driving. Without a plan on where you want to go, you have no idea about the time you’ll need or how much money it’ll cost. Having a personal vision can be your road trip plan.
Looking inward to see what’s important to you and then making a plan around these important aspects is the only comparisons we need. By judging our own achievements and possessions against our own plans and goals, we can decrease jealousy by decreasing those outside influences.
Can selfishness be good?
I’m sure there are some readers of Ayn Rand that are going to give a loud yes to this but I’m going to give this a soft yes.
You set up a plan, devise goals around this plan and now you should focus on it instead of giving attention to others. We should stop trying to figure out the intentions of others and focus on our own. As I mentioned above, we don’t know why people want things or how long they worked for it, or what they had to give up. We’ll never know their intentions so why waste time and energy comparing ourselves to them.
If we were to know why they wanted to do things or how they did things, would we have the discipline to follow their steps? Maybe, if their goals aligned with ours but if they don’t then why be jealous? If we are jealous then maybe it’s time to reevaluate our vision and goals.
Jealousy is a natural human emotion but it’s based on a misunderstanding of the motivations of others or misinterpretation of our motivations.
If you really want to know what motivates a person to chase success or material possessions, you can ask them. Though there’s no guarantee that you’ll be satisfied with their answer, what guides you may not guide them.
In the end, in my opinion, the best way to shed jealousy from your mind is to develop a path for yourself. To have your own personal vision and construct goals around that vision. This will provide a base for comparing yourself to what you want to be, instead of grooming insecurities and anxiety of someone else’s standards.
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