Who do you know who’s annoyingly perfect? Maybe it’s a friend who’s given up drinking and carbs for pre-dawn yoga sessions, and looks about ten years younger. An ex-colleague who’s out there killing it and soaking up the praise, while you’re stuck behind the same old desk. Or the mum in the playground frolicking happily with her kids without once checking her phone or losing her temper. It’s an icky feeling, but if you recognize what I’m talking about, you’re definitely not alone. Here’s what to do when you’re jealous of someone.
A while back I joined a high level mentoring program full of scarily successful women entrepreneurs doing big and inspiring things. One of my fellow participants was a really inspiring woman, who had once been a client of mine. I’ll never forget one session where she described the way she’d grown her work.
As she spoke about her business, I remember thinking that it almost felt like watching a virtuoso performance by a concert pianist. She absolutely lit up as she shared her passion.
I took in the amazing wisdom she had about what was going well and why; the trust and sense of purpose coming through in her words; her insight into her process and the theories behind her actions.
Everything about her exuded flow and connection. She evidently deserved her success. And I’d love to tell you I was filled with happiness and joy at seeing her finding her “thing” and doing what she loved, but you know what?
Instead, I felt myself shrinking and shriveling inside. I was comparing myself to her – and the experience wasn’t pleasant.
The truth about competition
When we see someone else succeeding, it is so, so easy for a mindset of competition to creep in.
Competition is a signature ‘masculine’ energy. That doesn’t mean we don’t feel it as women, but it gives us a very different experience to when we’re connected to more feminine energy. Competition can be a really helpful tool to harness – think about when we’re aiming to beat our own performance and improve our results – but when it comes to thinking about someone else’s success, competition can actually be less than helpful.
Instead of thinking about how inspiring it was that this woman had achieved such amazing things, I was starting to ask myself “why am I not as good as she is?”
And before I knew it, I was in a state of complete insecurity. “What have you been doing?” the voices in my head clamoured. “Look how great she is, and now look where you are! Nowhere! You’ve been coasting along taking it easy when you could have been getting results like that!”
Comparison like that is a trap. If you’ve ever found yourself in that kind of mindset, you’ll know how fast it can take over. The criticism we generate for ourselves is rarely fair (in my case, the ‘coasting along’ I was berating myself for included having an actual baby, for goodness’ sake!)
And this is when we can start to get hostile towards the other person. To imagine them judging us or looking down on us. Have you ever heard the phrase “tall poppy syndrome”? It’s that thing where we see someone enjoying success and we want to tear them down, to bring them back to our level.
That kind of thinking is very much rooted in competition, because it places our goal not as rising together, but as needing to get ahead of someone else by any means necessary.
Next we start to make excuses. “It’s not fair.” or “She must have better connections”. All those mean things our brains come up with when we’re feeling less-than someone else, right?
What to do when you feel jealous
So what can you do if, like me, jealousy takes hold and you find yourself in a vortex of insecurity?
1. Replenish yourself first
It won’t surprise you to hear that the first thing I did was to take myself out for a walk. Notice those feelings; have a glass of water; get some fresh air.
Take care of your basic needs and you’ll be far better placed to respond from your higher-level self and not that lizard brain (which might well just need a sandwich and a walk round the block to calm down a little.)
2. Next, go deeper
The simultaneous curse and blessing of our insecurities is that they are the gateway to deep, rich and rewarding human connection. Any time our insecurities come up, it’s usually because we’re opening ourselves up.
So if jealousy has reared its head, don’t dismiss it or try and ignore it. You’re feeling it for a reason – that person has something that you desire. The unkind thoughts we often feel are simply a mechanism by which your mind is trying to protect you. By projecting your insecurity outwards on to the person you’re jealous of, it’s defending you from feeling inadequate or small.
Take a few minutes to connect to what you’re feeling and identify: what is it specifically that you’re jealous of? It might be deeper than you think at first, so give yourself some time to explore it.
If you’re jealous of someone’s business, what does that mean? Would you like to have the sense of accomplishment, financial success, or public profile that the other person has?
Find out what’s at the root of the feeling, and you’ll know where you’re ready to grow.
3. Remember: they are human too
Now you’re clear about what your jealousy has flagged up for you, take some time to remember that however amazing they are, the person who’s brought these feelings to light for you is definitely not perfect. No one is!
They have their own doubts, fears, and challenges. And even if they don’t seem to have any insecurities at all, they are still on a journey of growth and evolution.
4. Recognise your own strengths
Ask yourself: What am I great at? What am I grateful for? At this stage I invite you to, literally, count your blessings!
So your marriage might not be the world’s greatest right now – but you’ve been pouring a ton of energy into supporting your team, and you know that it’s made a huge difference to their lives. Or maybe you’re
- a brilliant problem solver
- a calm and courteous driver
- the best at bringing humour to the driest of meetings
…Or something completely different. Think of all the things you’re great at; all the ways you make a difference to the people around you. There are probably people out there who are jealous of you!
5. Be Vulnerable
Now, return to that desire that jealousy has opened up for you. There’s an opportunity here, for the sharing of wisdom, and for connection. An opportunity for growth, which will only come from being vulnerable and opening up to the person you’re feeling jealous of.
I use this simple script: “I see you’re great at X. How do you do that?”
They might be a great parent.
“You are always so calm with your child. How do you do that?”
Or perhaps they’re great at motivating their team.
“Your team are so loyal. I can see you have an amazing relationship. How do you do that?”
Get curious, and allow yourself ‘not to know’.
Because this is where we really find the deliciousness that lies on the other side of insecurity. Where we are able to use our jealousy to open us up to learning new things.
Jealousy can allow you to receive wisdom from others that might really transform things in your life.
Insecurity and comparison unite almost all of us at points – whether it’s hidden or overt. Learning to spot it can be an amazing opportunity to grow and learn, and is a huge part of us stepping into collaboration instead of competition when we see other women succeeding.
And that’s exactly what I did with the woman in my mastermind. I asked her to share how she achieved her amazing results – and the result was learning I would never have experienced if I hadn’t allowed myself to connect with the jealousy, and move into a vulnerable place of learning.
Could you do with more support?
It can be challenging to dig into feelings we’re not proud of, and to know exactly where to start when it comes to creating the life you really want. If you want to make the most of your time and start turning challenges into opportunities to step up and make a real impact, working with a coach is a great place to start.
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