We tend to envy those who seem the most in our reach. We envy our sisters, our best friends, famous people who look just like us if we squint hard enough. Jealousy tends to tread in surprisingly obtainable (or at least familiar) waters. We are most tantalized by what is dangling just beneath our fingertips.
My close friend Z is a dead ringer for Charlize Theron, which used to make me want to claw out my eyes and throw them against the wall! I knew I had no right feeling any ill will towards her because she was such an exceptional friend, staying up late with me on instant messenger after I would type things like: “Just three more ims! NONE OF MY OTHER GOOD FRIENDS ARE ONLINE RIGHT NOW! Just stay on until the pizza arrives!” Z was never convinced of her own supermodel-looks and would spend countless hours on the phone complaining about the invisible fat underneath her arm and chin. But still, I knew that deep down she understood that at least others found her to be otherworldly gorgeous and I deemed this alone to be a character flaw. I thought her life was far too charmed for her to ever have enough true depth or feeling. I now realize this was a completely absurd and baseless way to judge someone. But that is what jealousy will do to us. It will cloud our perceptions. It will show us the black amidst all the light.
Jealousy happens when our egos start lashing out. We start to see people only in relation to ourselves. We see them as means to get a better view of what we lack. Do I have that trait? Does she have it more? How much more? What do I have to do to have it as much as her? Not only is this a grim way of approaching relationships. It’s also fantastically boring! Aren’t we sick of ourselves yet? We are stuck inside these dark narrow heads of ours all day long, picking at ourselves, bitching ourselves out! When we get to be around others, shouldn’t we jump at the chance to leave ourselves behind?
I’m not sure why we tend to refract everything back to ourselves. I assume evolutionary factors are at play. But we can certainly make the decision not to get tangled up in the game. I haven’t been intensely jealous of anyone in years. And it’s not because I have crossed over that great gleaming wall of maturity (I mean, really, I still call my mom every time I can’t remember what kind of cold medicine to take!). No, my jealousy subsided simply because I made the patent decision to get rid of it. I told it to pack its damn belongings. Get off my property. Bye!
We have much more control over our thought patterns than we think we do. We really can micromanage our own minds, if we focus hard enough. When our friend lands that chic job in fashion, we can lead our thoughts to where we want them to go. We can direct them towards feelings of good will. We just need to keep our eyes peeled. To brace ourselves for when envy inevitably returns. Grab hold of it right as it tries to inch its way back in. Douse it before it has a chance to rise and spread again.
I often think of the assortment of thrills that come with every interaction. We get to listen to cool stories, experience genuine emotion, feel a connection. It seems preposterous to ever want to use these moments to measure ourselves against someone else. We get nothing out of it. It is sickening, obscene even.
Thankfully jealousy doesn’t have to hold power over us forever. Sure, we might not be able to wipe it out immediately. But if we keep working at it, remain diligent, aware and hyper-focused, eventually we will be able to murder that baby cold.
Featured Image via Paintings I Love