How to Stop Feeling Jealous
This simple routine can train your mind to focus on the blessings in your life.
You walk into a stunning mansion and think, Wow, I could get used to this. Six large bedrooms, a sprawling backyard, full time help… When you arrive back home suddenly your house seems small and dingy. The voice of jealousy whispers in your ear: They have it and you don’t.
It’s easy to get caught up in idealizing the lives of those around us. Jessica has such a great husband; if only mine were half as helpful as hers. If only I had Rachel’s wardrobe, I’d look like a model every time I walked out of my house too. Yep, the grass is always greener.
We even idealize our own lives, looking back at other times or places in our life when we think we had it all. You may have just moved to a new city, and as you face the many challenges of this new location, everything back home -- your routine, the climate, and your friends – all seem so much better.
When the Jewish people were wandering in the desert, their food came to them in the form of manna which fell from the sky. Even though they could imagine their manna tasting like anything they desired, they still complained. Suddenly, miles away from Egyptian captivity, the fish they had eaten in slavery seemed so good. In their heads, the Jews painted a mental picture of delicious fish, but now in the desert, they had nothing. They viewed their lives in Egypt through rose-colored glasses. And all too often, we create rose colored versions of other peoples’ lives as well.
And the proliferation of social media has made matters worse. Everyone else seems to be living such glamorous and exciting lives. Of course, we know their online personas don’t reflect the day-to-day reality of their lives, but those glamorous photos and dream vacation pictures still elicit feelings of jealously.
How do we stop feeling jealous?
A student of mine confided in me that she was having issues with Kim (name changed), an acquaintance of hers who was constantly bragging. Every interaction with Kim left her feeling inadequate, angry and jealous. Kim dressed ostentatiously and spoke about her exorbitant spending habits.
I shared with her a family routine I started a few years ago that changed my life. Every evening at dinner I pose the same two questions to everyone at the table:
- What was the best part of your day?
- What made you feel grateful to God today?
The first question helps us reflect on a positive moment or experience. It’s also the first step to stopping jealousy in its tracks.
The second response engenders a sense of true gratitude and appreciation for all things in your life, big or small. Your gratitude statement can be as simple as the ability to breathe, the sun shining, or taste buds to experience your dinner. This exercise has had a dramatic impact on our entire family (even my three year old), as it forces us to pause and focus on the positive in our lives, emphasizing all the good that God has bestowed upon us.
Although it started more as a parenting technique, this mindful practice has created a major paradigm shift in my own thinking. It’s a work in progress but by focusing each day on the good in my life rather than what is missing, I have begun to realize just how much I have.
Feeling a lack in life creates the perfect atmosphere for jealousy to take root. But when you feel full inside and start to see all the good that you have, whatever anyone else has cannot detract from your happiness.
The antidote to jealousy is to fill yourself with positivity and gratitude so that you don't feel a void. Bring God into the picture and remind yourself of all the good He does for you. This habit creates a wall that jealousy can’t penetrate, and you can be happy for others when they have good in their lives.
It takes work and time. Our instincts are not naturally wired this way. We think that the more someone else has, the less I have. If there is one pizza pie on the table and Jessica takes six pieces, there will only be two left for me. The more she gets, the less I get. That’s the physical reality.
But when you live life spiritually, infused with Jewish values, every person has their own unique pie; what someone else has doesn’t take away from your lot. God judges each person independently of one another, and the potential for your spiritual reward is dependent on one thing only: you. No one can take away anything that you deserve. There is no threat.
My father says, “Don’t look up; look around.” There are always people who seem to have more than you, who are “above you.” Don’t focus on that. Rather, look around at your own life and focus on your blessings.
You can train your mind to focus on the good in our life. Start by making those two questions a family routine and see how it helps you look at life more positively.