Is jealousy all that bad?

Friday, 26 January 2018

is jealousy bad

Jealousy is a hard emotion to avoid. Annoyingly, it’s also one we’re told to avoid. We were taught that Bible quote in primary school about not coveting thy neighbours house and ass and etc. After giggling at “ass” and bringing up the fact none of us knew anyone who owned a donkey, the teacher clarified their point: jealousy is bad.

In writing, jealousy usually makes its entrance by “rearing its ugly head”. In real life it’s more of a sting, or at least it is for me. Looking at the luxury travels of an influencer on Instagram, hearing so-and-so got a promotion, or seeing a friend dressed to the nines in something you don’t think you could ever pull off and I’m welcoming back that familiar pang in my stomach. And of course, being envious isn’t fun. The feeling’s rooted in comparison which we all know isn’t good for us. It brings us face to face with our own dissatisfaction and often makes us take what we already have for granted.

But recently I’ve been thinking maybe jealousy isn’t the completely unhelpful emotion that it’s made out to be. In fact, it can be a pretty constructive one. In my favourite article ever written on Man Repeller (and maybe even the internet), Haley Nahman talks about how she found contentment. She poses a hypothetical situation to a friend who’s unsure of what to do with her life - imagine someone taking a leap that would make you envious you hadn’t done it, and it’s probably something you want to do too. Her friend ends up quitting her job and moving to New York, meaning said hypothetical came true for Haley, putting her on course to go for what she really wanted as well.

By definition envy is wanting what someone else has, so it’s good for signposting which direction you might wanna take your life in. For me, while jealousy likes to pop-up from time to time, it’s not a completely stubborn emotion. It can be negotiated with, allowing me to figure out if I’d actually like to have something or if I just like the idea of it. In my final year of uni, conversations like this happened a lot:

Friend: “So-and-so got a job offer from [fancy consulting company].”
Me: “Aw that’s nice. I’m so jealous!”
Friend: “Do you wanna work for [fancy consulting company]?”
Me: Not really.
Friend: “Well there you go.”

There's another good thing that I've come to appreciate in those fleeting moments of envy: it means my friends are doing well. Their efforts are paying off and good things are happening, and I’m always happy for them. Or at least 90% happy for them, I just need a few moments to get over that 10% of jealousy.

Obviously, there are still downsides to being envious. It’s not a great feeling, and there’s the risk of it getting out of hand. It’s an emotion that drives people to sabotage others and ruin relationships, after all. If you ever find jealousy bothering you an unreasonable amount, just keep in mind that life isn’t a competition. Also, perfection is an illusion - someone might appear to have everything you want but you don’t know what could be happening behind the scenes.

At the end of the day, jealousy is a realistic reaction and we shouldn’t feel bad for feeling it. But rather than let it consume us, we should let it guide us. Next time something wakes up your green-eyed monster, take a look into it. It might set you up for something great.

(P.S. I put together the image at the top of the post! One of my goals for this year was to learn collaging in Photoshop and this was my first real attempt. I feel like it looks kinda weird, but then again I was going for kinda weird so I'm satisfied with it. Comments and criticisms welcome!) 

Post a Comment

© Belle in Black and White. Design by FCD.