Picture of the word jealousy

Is Jealousy a Wasted Emotion?

I recently read an article from The Minimalists, which I normally love, but one thing written in this article stuck with me. Joshua wrote, “Jealousy is a wasted emotion.”

Reading these words makes me think of a poet I’ve seen a few times at poetry readings. There are no other words to describe my feelings when I hear her read than comparison and jealousy.

I sat in the audience (pre-pandemic) and she stood at the mic, easily reciting one of her more popular poems. Her words slid through a large smile and floated over the crowd.

Words were floating around inside my head, too. Words like, “I could write that.” Or “Why is she up there and not me?” Words of comparison and jealousy that I couldn’t hold back no matter how happy I was for her success.

And I was happy for her, even as I stewed in my self-pity for not having my own book of poetry to recite from. Self-pity that I threw onto her in full shades of green.

As I sat there listening and wishing it were me at the mic, I knew the only reason why it was her up there and not me, or not her up there AND me, was because I had not done the work.

  • I had not labored over words until I liked how they felt.
  • I did not share my poems with others to get feedback for improvement.
  • I did not write poems often because I was too drained from my daily life to sit down and concentrate on creating anything.

I had nobody to blame but myself. I wasn’t giving myself the time, space, and permission I needed to allow the words to bleed onto the page.

So, I looked at how I could reframe my jealousy and self-pity. What could I do differently that would help me get on the path that had me reading words from my own book – in front of people?

Comparing myself to her, feeling jealous of her success shined a pinpointed bright light on the fact that I wasn’t doing the work and lit the path for me to be the one on the stage. My jealousy of the poet was not a wasted emotion because it forced me to look at what I wasn’t doing to make my dreams a reality.

But jealousy can be tricky if we don’t examine it fully. We can feel jealous of a life we don’t even want. In those cases, we must examine the situation to determine that it isn’t the life we are jealous of, but something else. Maybe we want the connections, or the freedom, or the rest, or the ease. We have to start diving deeper to figure out what it is about the situation that we are jealous of.

Jealousy can suck a lot out of us if we let it fester. It can be ugly if we act out. But if we examine why we are jealous, and are willing and/or able to make changes either in our mindset or our actions, it doesn’t have to be a wasted emotion.  

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