Last week, someone I know shared with me his challenge dealing with people in his close surroundings because of the loss of his son. He said it was very difficult for him the fact that he was looking at other people and he felt as if he is “not like them”. I asked him, “What do you mean when you say ‘not like them’?” And he replied he felt he doesn’t have an equal status like the people around him because he had lost his son. They have something, which he no longer has. They succeeded in life, and he failed. They are happy, and he will never be able to be happy again.
I explained to him that what he was feeling was jealousy (a.k.a the green-eyed monster). Yes, jealousy can meet us even in places of loss. The feeling that pierces us, that someone has something that we don’t and can never have. The feeling that we want something we do not have and have no way to regain what we have lost.
What is jealousy?
Jealousy, by the dictionary definition, is an emotion that arises in a person, due to the success of another person and due to a sense of relative inferiority compared to him. It is an emotion that arises in a person when the other person has something that the jealous person thinks he deserves or is taken from.
If you think about it for a moment, jealousy is an emotion – something that is created due to the perceptions we have acquired and the values we have grown over the years. These together have grown into a thought, and we know that thoughts are nothing but “brain chemistry” – a term I often use to help me break down patterns of negative thinking.
How to overcome jealousy?
Once we understand that everything is ultimately chemistry in our minds, we can say that comparative thought is total fiction. It’s not real. As human beings, we constantly compare ourselves to other people: In what company do we work compared to others? What’s the level of our salary compared to others our age? What property have we accumulated so far compared to the property of our neighbors?
We constantly evaluate ourselves, and others, in domains like jobs, wealth, property, and success. According to studies, as much as 10% of our thoughts involve comparisons of some kind. Social comparison theory is the idea that individuals determine their own social and personal worth based on how they stack up against others (source)
While these comparisons, which stem from bubbling jealous feelings, create long-term damage, and first and foremost – they are not real. Each of us has a different life story, there is a way we chose to go, life circumstances we grew up with, different luck, a different destiny, and the list goes on. The automation of creating a comparison between ourselves and other people is fundamentally wrong, and harmful to us in the long run.
Going back for a moment to the story I started with, I replied to my interlocutor that I too faced a similar comparison. After losing both my wife and my brother in such a short time span, even when I stand in front of almost every one of my friends and take the same comparative approach – I too am “inferior” to each of them. My close friends at the age of 36 already have 2-3 kids. Most of my friends come from large families, so each of them has several siblings.
Can I really compare myself to them? Is it right to make a comparison when the fate befell me has brought me into such a complex life situation? And is it really healthy to produce such an absurd comparison?!
So I decided to take a different approach!
First, I decided that there is no more room for comparison in my life. For me, comparisons only lead to mental damage, and they negate all logic in my life. As I explained above, these comparisons do not exist at all. They are the fruit of my thoughts, and it does not make sense at all to make comparisons with others when everyone has a different fate, a different story, different opening conditions.
Second, I decided that if one person has something I don’t, I will start repeating certain mantras, which will reprogram my thinking, and reprogram my mind:
- “I’m glad he gained everything he has, I just wish him well”
- “If this person is my friend, it says something good about myself”
- “If this person is around me, it means that what he has I also have”
- “I’m so happy for him, soon what he has will come to me too”
- “I believe I deserve good things too”
I realized that my mind is my temple: if I want to sanctify it, I must take care of it and nourish it with positive thoughts. I realized that just as I go to the gym to train my muscles, I must go to the “Gym of Thoughts” every day and train my thinking to be healthy, positive, and vital. When I say “vital” I actually mean, that it will benifit my body and my mind. This is my way of avoiding comparative thinking. Hope I was able to shed some light on this topic and helped you nourish a positive approach in this regard.
* The story has undergone a change in order to maintain the privacy of those mentioned in it