Begone, Green-Eyed Fiend!!
May 20, 2011 2:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I let go of my jealousy?

A close friend of mine just got what is essentially my dream job. I'm really happy for her, but at the same time I can't help feeling twinges of jealousy. I think this partly has to do with the fact that:

1) people around me are going through new and exciting transitions in their life, and it makes me feel restless/makes me want something to happen for me, too.
2) this dream job comes with a bit more prestige than my current job in the industry. It would definitely help her toward becoming a more "recognized name" in the industry. I guess the reputation is appealing.
3) I guess maybe I'm also kind of afraid of she was talented enough to get the position, but am I?

I currently have a very nice job, which I love...a great place to work and great co-workers (which I know is not to be taken lightly). I know that even if I were in her shoes now I have no idea whether I would like this new job better or worse. I could hypothetically end up preferring my current job, or feeling restless even at this 'dream job'. Also, this dream position has an annual application period (that I missed this year due to work busy-ness), so I also know that it's kind of a timing issue, and I could always hone my skills and apply next year.

So really, I should not feel that jealous at all. But I do (and I feel terrible about it)! Because this is actually happening for her, right now.

She's a wonderful and talented friend and I'm so excited for her, and I know that her being within the company can only benefit me in the future (as an industry connection) what are some things that I can tell myself to help keep the jealousy at bay? Anyone have any helpful mantras or thoughts to help dispel these feelings?

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (26 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
One small accomplished and wonderful a person you must be, to have such high-caliber friends!
posted by xingcat at 2:07 PM on May 20, 2011

Time and knowing the reality of any job is much different than the perception.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:12 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Actually, I think the jealously is absolutely normal. As long as you don't let it consume you, all is well.
posted by COD at 2:12 PM on May 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's a school of thought that maintains that jealousy is fear of loss. I have found that world view tremendously helpful my whole life. You may be well served by looking at your friend's success and analysing both emotionally and practically what loss that success has caused you to lose.

Should you find the answer is "nothing" this may resolve itself.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:14 PM on May 20, 2011 [18 favorites]

One small accomplished and wonderful a person you must be, to have such high-caliber friends!

I see xingcat's point, but I have some "high-caliber" friends and I'm basically a loser, so I don't know if I'd go with that one personally:)

I would say that jealousy in a situation like this is OK as long as you make it a positive thing ("Now I see what I want to acheive, what steps can I take to get to where she is?") rather than a negative one ("Grr, I hate that bitch.")
posted by DestinationUnknown at 2:18 PM on May 20, 2011

Normal! But Use it, and other people making changes, as an opportunity to sit down with a journal or a blank document and look at your own goals for the next five years. DO you want to apply for that job next year? Do you want to take up a work/life balance project? Basically, make your life even more awesome, so that you're focused on your own life and accomplishments instead of others'.
posted by ldthomps at 2:25 PM on May 20, 2011

I'm not proud of this but I frequently feel jealous of other people too. One thing that you might do, depending on how secure you're feeling, is tell your friend. My husband told me that he was a little jealous of an opportunity I had, in a very gracious way, and just hearing that from someone I think of as super and accomplished and all that was really nice.

When I feel jealous, I try to use that energy for something good, even if it's unrelated to the thing that I am specifically jealous about. And I try to remind myself that life, even work life, isn't nearly as hierarchical as it seems from the outside and that I'm simply at a different place in my life and career than that person and that everybody's different.

Hope that helps!
posted by kat518 at 2:26 PM on May 20, 2011

Anyone have any helpful mantras or thoughts to help dispel these feelings?

Yes. Here's what I said in an old thread (under a different username):

No matter what you do in your life, the rest of the people in the world are still going to exist. Your friend and everyone you've ever met are going to have the same talents and successes and failures and strengths and weaknesses no matter what you do or what your connection is to them (with the exception of situations where you play a role in those successes/failures/whatever). So, once we've taken note of this point, why would you think you'd be better off not having these people in your life?

For instance, I have a friend who went to Yale Law School, widely considered the best law school in the US. I went to law school but could never have gotten into Yale. Is that worth me spending one second of my life feeling jealous about? Of course not, because after all, no matter who my friends are, Yale Law School is going to have a couple hundred new law students, year after year after year. Why does it matter that one of them is this friend of mine? I should only feel good about the fact that I know the outstanding people I know.
posted by John Cohen at 2:27 PM on May 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

Have you told her how you feel? I think simply saying to her something like "I am so jealous of you! That's my dream job." (And saying it in a frank and friendly way, of course) may help you defuse that nagging sense of negativity. It's normal to feel the way you do! Accept it, laugh at it, and be happy for your friend.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:27 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having an uncomfortable feeling, and then feeling awful for having that uncomfortable feeling, just doubles your discomfort. Remove that second layer of suffering by accepting that you feel jealous and not judging yourself for it. Then act as if you're happy for your friend (because you are) and the jealousy will dissipate on its own.
posted by desjardins at 2:30 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's worth noting here that you're actually experiencing envy, not jealousy.

A similar thing once happened to me: I heard that a friend had been hired at a company I'd longed to work at for years and had applied at in the past. I actually cried when I found out. When I saw him, I said (lightly--please adjust your tone to whatever is appropriate for your relationship with your friend) "I heard you got hired at Xcorp. You suck! I would kill to work there. Is it awesome?" And after getting that out there we were able to talk about it in a normal way. I think it was important for me to tell him that I envied him, otherwise I would have been seething whenever he mentioned his work and our friendship would have been damaged. Bonus: After a couple of months a position opened up there and his recommendation got me hired. Yay!

Whether or not you hash it out with the object of your envy, I think envy is a really useful emotion because it reminds you of what you want. Envy highlights the areas where your life could use some improvement and lights a fire under you to attack those weak spots. Take advantage of that.
posted by milk white peacock at 2:44 PM on May 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

It's not a crime to be jealous-- you wouldn't be human if you didn't get a little green-eyed from time to time.

But please don't tell fortunate friend that you're jealous (having been on the receiving end of these sorts of cutesy but clawed admissions, there's no good way to respond.) She didn't set out to make you feel bad. Or good. Or anything. You might feel better for having said something, but she won't. So dummy up.

And just because she got a great job, doesn't mean there's one less great job in the world for you.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:46 PM on May 20, 2011

I always try to look at it this way--if my friends and peers are getting what they want, it means that what I want is probably just around the corner. Think of it this way: if the opportunity was there for her, it will be there for you, too.

I think it's perfectly fine to express your envy, as long as you couch it in lightheartedness and (sincere) congratulations. She'll take it as a compliment. And maybe she'll help you get what you want someday, too.
posted by tully_monster at 3:36 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dream jobs usually aren't.
posted by milarepa at 3:45 PM on May 20, 2011

Sounds more like envy than jealousy. Think of this way, she is now an excellent resource and has first hand insight regarding the company/position. It's almost like you get to "try on" the dream job by observing it at a distance.
posted by tar0tgr1 at 4:18 PM on May 20, 2011

Adding to the high-calibre friends point, is the friends in high places aspect. It's natural that people you know will have their careers move at quicker and slower paces, and changing paces. But a critical thing for a high powered career is having lots of people who know you and trust you, who are well placed and potentially influential.

In the real world, where things aren't always decided on merit, and openings not always advertised, her career advancement is a win for you as well.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:34 PM on May 20, 2011

I had *terrible* envy when I was just starting out career-wise, a good friend got my dream job. But then, like others have said above, said friend helped me get a foot in the door at the dream job. So we all ended up great.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 5:22 PM on May 20, 2011

Read the Dhammapada.
posted by dougrayrankin at 6:26 PM on May 20, 2011

Worth keeping in mind that the folks on the 100th floor of either of the two World Trade Center towers probably felt pretty smug about having such great views. And mayhaps a guy who got fired a week before 9/11 was realllllllly depressed about having lost his job there.

All pain is desire. Bhudda up, man.

(It is envy, I agree. It's just a feeling. You may want to practice displacing it with delirious happiness for your friend, and by doing something every day to make her (him?) successful in the new job. Rejoice in your friend's good fortune and hard work. Find out how the gig really is vicariously, and use that info to judge if you really want that job. This is a great way to find out, before you give up the good one that you have for an unknown.)

Also, the whole 'talent' thing is bullshit. Pure, golden bullshit. Hard work, preparation, initiative, and plain old luck (i.e., being there) are real things and real things you can do. If it were 'talent' (i.e., native and unearned ability) you could just give up now. There will always be someone with more. Ability is different. Experience is different. They can be acquired. Acquire them. Prepare for the job. Seek it. Hope for the outcome you want, but take action to make it happen.

'Lack of talent' is a convenient excuse for laziness. Don't fall for it.
posted by FauxScot at 6:28 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's what changed my life when I was feeling low and envious of friends who seemed to be 'winning' while I was floundering. I read a wise person's take on envy: it eats your heart out. It limits you, because you wind up focusing only on the measuring up, on the winning/losing - robbing you of joy in both your own and other peoples' accomplishments. The only way to root it out is to be as proud of other peoples' accomplishments as if they were your own. You can absolutely do this.

And from what you say, your friend's dream job didn't come at your expense - you didn't even apply, right? So keep on being happy for her, and be happy for you that she might help you find out whether this job really is dreamy enough for you next year.
posted by likeso at 7:08 PM on May 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here is a different approach. Take some time to sit with the feeling of jealousy. Try to focus on the feeling (emotional and in your body) of being jealous. Notice the thoughts that come up and instead of following that train of thought, just observe what kind of thoughts go with being jealous. Especially notice any new feelings that come up. (Don't argue with the jealousy, just track what is going on inside of you - sort of like an anthropologist observing the natives inside your head.)

For example, you might think "I'm feeling jealous. It feels kind of angry and knotted up. I have tension here. And fluttering here. I notice I'm thinking "why her and not me?" That thought seems to have sadness in it - maybe I'm feeling like I lost something I wanted. But there's also anger. And when I think about my anger, the feelings in body change. And I'm kind feeling like a kid who dropped his ice cream cone. How old do I feel? Dropping ice cream - am I thinking this is my fault?....." So the goal is to be a curious observer of what is happening inside of you when you have jealousy.

YMMV but one thing that might happen is that you will understand your own jealousy better. This may lead you to figure out what it is you want (if anything) to do differently going forward. The other is that the observer stance shifts your relationship to the jealousy. You look at it and say to yourself "Oh yes, that my jealousy acting up again. It happens." and the jealousy is still there but it doesn't take over and there is nothing wrong with a little jealousy as long as it doesn't make you act badly.
posted by metahawk at 7:21 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

And then, you can let it go.
posted by likeso at 7:35 PM on May 20, 2011

You're comparing yourself to the wrong person. There are lots of people unemployed and underemployed. Starving children and such. There's always someone doing better than you. Stop looking at what she has and make a list of the things you are thankful for in your own life. When those jealousy feelings start to surface, pull out your list and remind yourself that you have a hell of a lot.

Because fundamentally you can either:
1. Let envy build up and end up filling you with friendship-killing contempt OR
2. Rejoice with her.

You say you're happy for her. I don't get that when I read your post. If you aren't happy, make steps toward changing. When someone truly wants something no "work busy-ness" gets in the way. You need to reconcile the fact that she got something you wanted, but not enough to pursue it.

I know this sounds more harsh than I'm intending. But envy/jealousy will kill you inside. Let it go. Please.
posted by guster4lovers at 9:08 PM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thank you for asking this; I struggle with the same problem on a regular basis.

Something I try to tell myself is "You are not responsible for your emotions - only for how you react to them". It's not your fault that you envy your friend. The important thing is how you deal with feeling this way.
posted by ceribus peribus at 10:30 PM on May 20, 2011

"Do not compare your inside with someone else's outside"
posted by storybored at 9:08 PM on May 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd like to second what milarepa said that dream jobs usually aren't. I have had two and they are not without issues. Chances are she will have new colleagues who have similar jealousy but will be callous enough to try to undermine her. I have actually been happier at my un-glamourous jobs where the pressure is off. I also agree with xingcat. People are usually friends with others who are as talented and as intelligent as they are although gifts may be expressed in different ways. I also encourage you to look at it this way: if you have such talented friends then you have an invaluable network of people to learn from, associate with and later to be recommended by them. Your friend's success now can likely benefit you later on especially if you are supportive now and show genuine happiness for her.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 8:26 AM on May 28, 2011

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