We enjoy developing true, honest friendships with people we can both relate to and learn from. Not only do we intentionally (or unintentionally) surround ourselves with people of similar ambitions, jobs, hobbies or relationship statuses, but also those who may excel in a diverse range of skills and expertise.
In friendships, it’s natural to want the best for one another, but watching awesome things happen to your friends can sometimes be hard. Thoughts of comparison may inevitably creep in and when we start playing the comparison game, everyone loses.
Forming silent expectations that often go unmet can create the perfect ecosystem for jealousy, bitterness and resentment to grow. When those sneaky thoughts take root, it can severely stunt the growth of a full and thriving relationship.
Jealousy in friendships can look different for everyone. Maybe a friend received a promotion at work, has a more flexible work schedule, went on a date that actually seemed promising, bought a car in the exact make and model that you wanted, got married before you did, had kids before you did or moved to a city that you wanted to live in…and so on.
What if there was a way we could channel feelings of envy or jealousy into something more positive and productive?
Healthy friendships can inspire us to become the best versions of ourselves. Here are a few things we can do to learn from those feelings of jealousy, celebrate our friend’s successes and maintain our own self confidence.
Seek out your own identity.
The closer you get to discovering and accomplishing your own sense of purpose in life, the less space you will have for jealousy in your friendships. The freedom that comes from releasing jealousy, embracing your own journey and reaching for your dreams can be contagious.
When you’re thriving, you have more capacity to help others thrive around you. The more we step further and further into what we’re uniquely meant to do, our deep joy, the less and less space we leave for relationship killers like jealousy, pride, arrogance and comparison to set in.
Celebrate their journey.
When we allow jealousy and negativity room in our relationships, it can inescapably lead to a toxic dynamic. Recognizing that a friend’s journey is uniquely his or hers and not our own reminds us that they need our support and encouragement just as we need theirs.
A friend’s success doesn’t have to serve as a reminder of our shortcomings. Instead, we can allow such accomplishments to build us up and inspire us to keep striving towards our own. Celebrating our friends and sharing in their joy is just the kind of positive response we need to prevent any potential toxicity from poisoning our friendships and potentially our personal lives.
When you’re thriving, you have more capacity to help others thrive around you.
Remember what’s important.
Remind yourself of what you saw in a person when your friendship with him or her began. We often gravitate toward people who may have certain qualities we lack or new and different perspectives to offer. Just the same, there may be many things that you bring to the table that they don’t. This is what makes a great partnership.
For example, if your friend is receiving acknowledgement for her strengths or passions out in the workplace, or perhaps in another relationship, recognize that those may be the very things you value and cherish in her too. Maybe it’s her strength or passion that helped you along the way, just as your own gifts and abilities have done the same for someone else.
Ask yourself some tough questions.
It is important to be present and remain honest with ourselves about our wants and needs, making sure they are a true and genuine reflection of who we are and who we want to become.
The next time you notice those ever so subtle thoughts on jealousy creeping in, ask yourself: “Why do I want what my friend has?” “What’s the unspoken expectation I have knowingly or unknowingly adopted?” “Will I choose to accept or reject this expectation?” “What would be so radically different about my life if I had it?” “Why don’t I find my own journey intriguing enough to experience it for myself without wanting it to be different?”
That’s a lot of questions – I know. And the answers to them may not be so simple. I encourage you to work through some of these questions and answers with a trusted guide or mentor.
Ask yourself: ‘Why do I want what my friend has?’ ‘What’s the unspoken expectation I have knowingly or unknowingly adopted?’
Be open and talk about it.
It may be hard, but sometimes all it takes is a moment of vulnerability to break down those barriers of jealousy and pride. When we create a safe space for honesty and openness, we can begin to see someone not for what they have accomplished, but for the friend that they have been to us. Remember to be kind in delivering any constructive feedback, ask questions and be open to listening to their responses in a way that assumes the best in them.
Your story, your gifts, your essence – is enough. You are more than enough! You don’t need to be jealous of someone else’s journey because you are in the midst of embarking on a journey all your own.
This year, let’s surround ourselves with people who will help us grow, people who we can learn from and learn with, and who will speak into us the life we most want to live.
Does this topic hit home for you? How do you deal when jealousy creeps in?
Images via Katie Kopan