In this day and age it’s easier than ever to be jealous, because we have more access to each other’s lives than ever before. But we don’t have access to their real lives; instead, we have access to the idealized, filtered, highlight reel of their lives. And even though we know that what we see on social media isn’t “real,” it can really have a strong, often negative, effect on us.
Jealousy can be directed at many sources, and doesn’t just come from social media. We can be jealous of friends, family members, co-workers. We can grapple with jealousy in our relationships…when he talks to another girl, looks at another girl, mentions another girl.
Jealousy is an impulse, an emotion that sometimes leads to action. If it doesn’t, then it just festers within us and causes misery. You never feel at ease; you can never fully appreciate what you have; there is always that sense of lacking, a void that demands to be filled. Jealousy can range from being a hindrance in your everyday life to being dark and destructive, causing humans to do heinous things.
But where does it come from and how do we fix it? How can we stop being jealous and learn to truly love and embrace our own lives?
The social media effect
I only recently got more active on social media—my main impetus is my job, but I found that it’s pretty fun! I started making boards on Pinterest (this actually helped a lot when I was planning my wedding!) and posting inspiring quotes on our ANM Instagram, engaging more on Facebook, and even joining Snapchat (username sabrinaalexis23, it’s strangely addicting!).
At first, social media enhanced my life. I kept limits on it; I used it to promote good and to get ideas to enhance my life. When I moved into a new apartment and was overwhelmed about how to decorate, I spent hours on Pinterest and got so many amazing ideas and now I have a home that I love (and that is, dare I say it, Pinterest-worthy!). I used social media for decorating ideas, healthy recipes, style inspiration, and new quotes—and it was great!
But then things started to turn. In time, I no longer felt inspired by this inundation of information. Rather, I felt defeated and I started feeling bad about myself. I would compare myself and my life to these strangers with seemingly picture-perfect lives and it didn’t feel good. On social media, there is always a way to feel bad about what you have. There will always be someone with a better body (especially those fitness bloggers!), a nicer home, a bigger wardrobe, shinier hair, smoother skin, perfect makeup techniques, and some girl on a perfectly sanded beach somewhere gorgeous and exotic with a piña colada perched between her thigh gap.
Hanna Krasnova of Humboldt University in Berlin, co-author of the study on Facebook and envy, has studied the effects of Instagram and she told Slate: “You get more explicit and implicit cues of people being happy, rich, and successful from a photo than from a status update. A photo can very powerfully provoke immediate social comparison, and that can trigger feelings of inferiority.”
On social media, you’ll find a better version of everything because social media is, in many ways, a fantasy. It allows us to create and filter the absolute best versions of ourselves.
Plenty of women will post pictures when their boyfriend buys them roses and makes them breakfast in bed (#luckiestgirlever), but who is going to upload a photo on Instagram of their tear-stained face in the midst of a fight with this perfect boyfriend, or include a clip in their Snapchat story of doors slamming and insults being hurled?
Trust me, I have known a lot of people in my life. Top editors, celebrities, socialites, trust-fund babies, best-selling authors, people at the top of their game in life, people who have it all…and you know what I’ve learned? No one has it all! Since I write about relationships people usually feel comfortable opening up to me about their problems, and I’m always happy to help. But through that, I’ve seen just how sad a lot of people are deep down. Just how much they wish their life was some other way. We’re all going in circles being jealous of what others have. As the saying goes, the grass is always greener…
It’s a really miserable way to live. I’m writing this article for you but I’m also talking to myself here!
But let’s go deeper…
Get to the root of it
Jealousy usually stems from a feeling of lack within yourself. You feel like there is some sort of void within you and that once you fill it, you’ll be complete and happy. The best way to counteract this feeling is to focus on appreciating what you have…but this isn’t always easy.
I am married and pregnant and so happy and excited for all the changes that life will bring (in only a few short months!). At the same time, I sometimes struggle with those feelings of something missing. I miss traveling and going out with my friends and living an exciting, fast-paced life. During the first few months of my pregnancy, when I was feeling really sick all the time and was basically chained to my couch, unable to move, I found myself getting sucked into the spiral of feeling really low, of spending hours on my phone seeing what everyone else was up to and wishing I could do those things too.
And I felt guilty about it because I know there are many, many women out there—especially those who struggle with infertility, and I unfortunately know a few and have seen how brutal it is—who would trade places with me in a second. I also felt guilty because this is the life I wanted for so long and now I finally have it!
It was a really icky feeling and I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer. So I decided to stop thinking about all the things I can’t do right now and enjoy the phase of life that I’m currently in. This is my first baby…and my last chance to be selfish and live for me because I know (and have been told by basically everyone I know with children) that when this baby comes, those days are over! Right now I can focus on work, on writing, on my new book, on spending time with my husband. It isn’t always easy (especially thanks to Instagram and seeing tight and toned tummies on beautiful beaches with delicious-looking alcoholic beverages…ahh, but there I go again, thinking about what I can’t have right now!), but it is so important. It is the most important.
This is just a personal example based on where I’m at in my life right now. But no matter what you’re struggling with, it’s important to recognize that jealousy usually stems from a void. The best way to cure it is to fill the void with other things and to really try and hone in on how good you have it, because you probably have a lot going on in your life that other people wish and pray they had.
Realize where happiness comes from
Things don’t buy you happiness. I’m sure you’ve noticed this in your own life anytime you’ve splurged on an item, maybe a handbag or pair of shoes. Yes, it’s thrilling at first, but it wears off quickly and swiftly and soon enough you’re coveting something else. Happiness doesn’t come from the perfect body or being in a relationship, even with a guy who does all sorts of romantic, hashtag-worthy things. These things can enhance your level of happiness, but that’s not really where happiness comes from—not the real stuff, anyway.
Happiness starts from within. It comes from accepting and appreciating who you are and your life circumstances and using that to fulfill your potential, to live a meaningful life that makes you fulfilled. We all have that something that makes us come alive, that reminds us why we’re here and what we’re meant to be doing with our time. Focus on those things!
You have exactly what you need
Not everyone can have everything—we can’t all be smart and beautiful and talented because then none of those things would exist. If the world was full of geniuses, there would be no such thing as a genius. There would just be one state of being.
What we all need to realize is that we were given a unique toolbox to be the person we’re meant to be. And there is no one else like you in the entire world, just like there are no two snowflakes that are exactly the same (a fact that I still find staggering, and how do you ever prove that concretely? But I digress…).
We all have different gifts; that’s what makes the world run as it does. Some people are beautiful, some are brainy, some are funny, some are serious, some are outgoing, some are introverted, some can sing, some can paint, some can write, some are tall, some are short, some are thin, some are curvy, and some are a combination of a few of these things, but no one can be all of these things. It’s just not possible and it doesn’t exist.
Figuring out what to do with my life was easy for me because I’m not someone who is good at a million things. If anything, I’m mediocre at a lot of things and really good at one thing. I can write—it’s easy for me and I think I’m pretty good at it. But my whole life I struggled with wishing I was better at other things. I wished I was good at math (I still need my fingers to help me add, no joke!), wished I was good artist (painting just looks so fun!), wished I could play an instrument, and wished I was better at certain sports. But as I’ve gotten older I realize that I’m not good at those things because I don’t need to be good at those things! That’s not my purpose in life. My purpose is to write and share insights, and that’s what I do.
We can’t be everything. This was a big struggle for me, and such a relief when I really realized and internalized it.
Choose your reactions
Jealousy is an emotion, and like other emotions, it can be controlled. You can choose to not give in to your jealous feelings. You can choose to be happy with what you have instead of wishing you had what someone else does.
When you feel that green monster being roused, you have two options. You can either feed it with thoughts such as, “Why can’t I look like that/have that/be that?” and then feel really bad about your life. Or you can say, “Wow, that’s awesome for that person, good for them,” and go about your life. If they have something you want, then use it as inspiration to get it—maybe inspiration to work out more, eat healthier, or pursue your passions. The point is, you can choose what thoughts to engage with. If you go down a negative path, then the thoughts will keep flooding you and will keep wedging themselves in this empty space, making it even larger and making you feel even worse.
Be happy for other people
Jealousy stems from being upset that someone else has something we want. Even if it’s something we already have, we might get upset that they have it too! I don’t know why, but it can be really challenging to be genuinely happy for other people. What you need to realize is that someone else’s good fortune doesn’t take anything away from you (unless they physically took something away from you!).
If your friend gets engaged, be happy for her! Yes, maybe you are beyond sick of the single life and it isn’t fair that she found a great guy so easily, but if it happened for her, it can happen for you, or maybe you’ll get something better. If your friend lost a ton of weight, don’t envy her. Use it as inspiration to get to the gym and eat better. If your friend got a promotion…great for her! It’s not like you were up against her for the job. Try to be inspired by the fortune of others, rather than discouraged and resentful. Trust me, you’ll be a much happier, better person for it.