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Jealousy and Envy as a Map

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Photo by Tamas Tuzes-Katai on Unsplash

On Friday, I invited you to write about jealousy. One of my writer friends corrected me: what I was referring to was more envy, seeing as jealousy has the flavour of romantic protection. However, if we think of the meaning of wanting something that someone else has, we can treat this feeling as a map of where we want to be.

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron writes, “Jealousy is always a mask for fear: fear that we aren’t able to get what we want.” (p. 124). She encourages us to make a “jealousy map” containing who we are envious of, why, and what we can do as an antidote - what can we do to get what we want?

It’s important to remember that envy doesn’t consider the whole picture. We never know the entire story. For example, I’m jealous of my friend for being confident and talking to people easily. What I don’t envy is her inability to say no to people, sometimes strangers. But these are two sides of the same coin.

This tendency to not see the whole picture can contribute to impostor syndrome and a general lack of self-acceptance. We’re envious of someone, but because we are comparing a narrow sliver of who we are and who they are, we don’t take into account our whole selves. Jealousy, Cameron reminds us, produces tunnel vision.

There’s a delicate balance between self-improving and self-acceptance. Comparing ourselves to other people flattens both experiences and narrows the lens. On the other hand, if we only allow ourselves to be who we already are, we don’t grow. The question is, how do we grow without constantly trying to “fix” something that is “wrong” with us?

I’ve seen a good talk by Judith Katz recently about working with strengths. It’s a whole thing, and an excellent questionnaire helped me identify my strengths (more on that next week). Judith told a story about a tennis player with a superb forehand but a weak backhand stroke. Instead of fixing the weak backhand, the coach worked with the player on getting more forehand strokes—running faster, strategising, etc. I can’t remember who the player was, but the story was fascinating and got me thinking about my strengths. Maybe that is a good way to counteract jealousy: to focus on one’s strengths.


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