Everyone suffers from jealousy. Even that friend of yours who is big on meditation, lectures you on never comparing yourself to others, and seems so sure of herself—yeah, even her. She’s just better at hiding it. It would be nice if we could just put on blinders, put our heads down, and simply focus on what we are doing—on our own progress, and our own achievements, and not on what anybody else has. But, that’s not how life works. We are often in competition with others—society imposes it on us. And it’s human nature to compare and contrast. Not just one person to another, but yourself to the world. And because it’s nearly impossible to ever have all of the pertinent information that would answer those questions of, “Well, why does that person get that and not me?” it’s only normal that sometimes, we’d feel jealous. That person may have what you want because she is well-connected, she worked ten times harder, she fills some slot required for diplomatic reasons, or who knows what else. If only we knew this information—it would be much more calming. The world would make more sense. But often, we just see that someone else has what we want, we don’t know why, and we feel jealous. Jealousy can make us do some silly, petty, and even reckless things. The good news is that you aren’t alone. Everybody can be weak and give into some immature instincts when envy takes over. You may just not know it, because they’re embarrassed, and don’t tell you. Much of what we do when we feel jealous, we can hide from the world—unless it has consequences. Even still, everyone’s done something they’re less than proud of when feeling envious. Here are things we all do when we feel jealous.
Investigate foul play
You begin to think there is some conspiracy at play. If someone got a career opportunity you wanted did she…pay someone off? Was there blackmail involved? Maybe they made a deal—she’d scratch their back if they scratched hers. Perhaps there is some secret society of gatekeepers, controlling things. You start investigating, certain this didn’t come about in a fair manner.
Blame it on politics
You become certain this was all about politics. You are convinced this person didn’t get what she got based on merit but something else—they had to give it to her because of some relationship her family has with the organization or because of the beneficial way it makes the company look by giving it to that person. When you get something, it’s because of your merit—you’re sure—but when someone else gets it, it was the politics.
Claim we didn’t want it anyways
You start talking badly about the thing that you didn’t get, saying you really didn’t want it anyways. If it was a career opportunity, you start to sh*t on it a bit. You say things like, “Remember this person who got it years ago? And look where they are now. It really didn’t help them that much.” You begin to belittle the achievement, and even find reasons it would have been bad if you got it.
Criticize those in power
Whoever had the power to choose the winner in this situation, you criticize them. They’re old-school, aren’t up to date with the trends, and don’t know what they’re doing. They’re too conservative. They aren’t intelligent. They have a bias for this reason or that. You start to criticize the system at large, claiming that it is broken and unjust.
Tear the winner apart (privately)
You start to tear apart the performance of the winner. You point out every single tiny mistake that she made. You hone in on the areas where she could have done better. You refuse to admit that this person honestly just did a good job. You become her harshest critic, picking apart every little thing she did wrong (forgetting, of course, that you made the same mistakes and then some).
Compliment them to their faces
Even though you’ve been, on the sidelines, criticizing the winner, you’re so sweet to her face. You’re all hugs, smiles, and congratulatory comments. You offer to celebrate with her—“We need to get a drink and celebrate!” you say—and you even start listing all of the wonderful things you know this win will do for her career. To her face, you’re her biggest cheerleader.
Get others on our side
You seek out the others who wanted the same thing and didn’t get it. You form a group for what you call “camaraderie” but it’s really about commiserating. You find power in getting others to agree that the system is broken, that dirty politics were at play, and that this person didn’t really deserve this win. You want the winner to feel isolated for the very fact that she won, because she isn’t part of this group you have formed.
Look up their past mistakes
You begin to dig into the winner’s past. You want to learn of times she went after something that she didn’t get. You aren’t sure why. If you find that she lost out on many things, it only makes you further question whether or not she was worthy this time. If she has always won, then you think, “Well, it was someone else’s turn this time then.”
Do some social media stalking
You become fixated on this person’s social media. Every time she puts something on her Instagram story, you watch it. Part of you is watching to make sure she doesn’t have some new, great thing happening for her. Part of you expects that you will find more reasons to be jealous. It’s almost like you’re addicted to the jealousy—to following this person’s progression and seeing her do better than you.
You may become this person’s new best friend. While you’ve over here, on the sidelines, talking sh*t and social media stalking, you’re also scheduling coffee with this person and cozying up. She probably believes all of your social media likes are genuine, but you’re actually doing it out of some twisted way of getting close to your enemy…or something like that.
Nominate a new contender
You start to tout the praises of someone else who you believe should have received this win. You don’t even say that it should have been you—that would be too obvious—but you just really want to get everyone on board with the idea that the winner shouldn’t have been the winner. So you nominate someone else, pointing out all the reasons she should have won.
Insist we aren’t jealous
Of course, all along, we are insisting we aren’t jealous. People will say we are jealous, and we will indignantly, angrily, insist they are incorrect. This is about justice, we say. This is about the principle of the matter, we argue. We don’t even want to have won—we say—we just want there to be some reason and rationale in the way the world works.
Decide the world is unfair
We decide the world is quite unfair, and that we will never have a chance of winning. We refuse to look at our own efforts—to find the holes in what we did and look for ways we should improve—as the possible reason for why we didn’t win this time. It’s certainly because of the system, and the biased powers at be. We decide there is little we can do about it.
Take them down a peg
When we see the winner, we find passive aggressive ways to make her feel bad about it. We give her the best seat at the table saying, “I wouldn’t dare claim it—I’m not the true royalty in this room” or we say things like, “I’d invite you but, I assume you’re busy with better things, since you had that victory recently.” We find ways to make the winner feel ostracized and guilty.
Admit it. And feel silly.
In the end, we admit we are jealous. Fine. We say it. Perhaps I’m a little jealous. Admitting we feel jealous is the first step to A) admitting we do want what that person has and B) asking ourselves what we can do—how we can change and improve—to boost our chances of winning next time. It just takes a while to get to that phase.