Want to know the ugly truth? Sometimes I feel super jealous. I want to be happy for someone when they have, yet another, beautiful baby. Or their career is going crazy and they just don't know how it is happening so fast! Or when they buy the cutest house with amazing upgrades and I'm wondering if I will ever (let alone now) be able to afford something so nice.
Often before I even realize I am feeling jealous, I find myself being critical. She's too skinny, I think as I wonder WTHeck she does for those arms. I would never want to live in that part of town, anyway, I say as I admire her white countertops and pristine wood floors.
Are you guys judging me yet? It's one of the most shameful things I do and I wish (wish!) it wasn't the truth. But, it's true. Sometimes - especially on Instagram - jealousy overcomes me.
For a long time, I tried to fight it. I would say things like: I want to be so happy with my life that I never feel jealous. Or I would shame myself for feeling it, trying to push it down and strong arm myself into simply being happy for her.
But, I've finally learned that this isn't productive. First of all, jealousy is normal. Super duper normal. And pushing it down or ignoring it just allows it to fester.
A few years ago, I felt distance, for the first time ever, between my sister and me. I felt just a little bit frustrated with her when we'd talk. When she would tell me something exciting, I had a hard time engaging. Finally, one day on the phone, before I even realized what I was saying, I started crying. I'm sorry, I told her. I don't want to feel distant from you right now. But I am just so jealous you get to have another baby and I'm not even married! I want to be happy for you but I just feel so jealous.
Being one of the most gracious people I know (literally) she instantly took my side. That is totally understandable! She told me. You had plans for your life and right now it feels like they aren't panning out. It's totally natural to feel frustrated and jealous. I know you're still happy for me!
The instant the words were out of my mouth, I felt like a new person. The minute I cried tears of heartache for myself, I was able to cry tears of joy for her. The moment I stopped trying to fight my feelings was the moment they stopped controlling me.
I tell you this story because I want you to know, if you're sometimes caught up in jealousy, it's normal. This world allows a lot of space to admire one another from afar at all hours of the day.
For me, a few quick tricks help when it's overcoming me:
- I close Instagram. Put.down.the.phone. It is a dangerous little chaos bomb. Walk away.
- I remind myself that it's not that I don't want her to have it. I just want it, too. I want it for both of us! That makes me feel less cruel and more normal.
- If we are close and it's creating space between us, I tell her. Really good friends will understand. We've all been a bridesmaid one-too-many times or have felt like we're behind everyone else. Everyone has felt jealous and, when it's a safe friend, she won't make you feel bad. Instead, she'll probably say: Girl. Me too. I have been there a million times.
- I try to recognize why I am happy for her. Nine times out of ten, it defuses my jealousy. I catalogue, in my mind, all of the reasons I want those great things for her. I try to recognize why it's so wonderful for her. It helps!
- I try to reflect on what it means for me. Is my life missing something? Do I feel behind? If I am jealous of how thin she is, do I need to keep pushing myself not to covet skinniness? Do I actually even want what she has or has the world told me I should? Again, this really helps ease feelings of jealousy because, oftentimes, I realize - wait - I don't actually want that. Good for her, not for me!
And, whenever you can, keep pressing into the joy in your own life. Keep practicing gratitude, even when it feels hard. Keep pushing yourself to grow and reflect. I look back on some of the more painful days in my 20s - when I felt like I couldn't handle the singleness anymore, everyone else was ahead of me and my life was a mess - and, now that they're behind me, I feel so grateful for them. They were super painful at the time, YES. But, I wouldn't be who I was today without them. And for that, I am grateful.
This is probably (definitely) cliché to admit, but, when things feel superly hard in my life, I always think of the glow stick analogy. Sometimes, we have to break before we shine.