Your workout buddy just reached her goal.
Your entire newsfeed is engagement photos.
Your friend and colleague just got promoted.
Your sister bounced right back from a pregnancy.
The common theme? You’ve got a choice in all four situations to give into the grips of envy or to celebrate the achievements of someone in your life.
Envy and jealousy are natural emotions that evolved with humans out of necessity. But like all emotions, if you’re not keeping tabs on the reasons that you’re feeling envy and jealousy and dealing with the source of the emotions, they can overcome you as a person and get in the way of you being a supportive friend.
In fitness and in life, it’s not always easy to be happy for those who have when you want, especially when it’s six-pack abs or a sub-four-hour marathon. When you see evidence of these achievements on Instagram, it’s easy to scoff instead of tapping twice. When you’re able to accept who you are as a person and that your accomplishments are separate from those of your friends, you’re able to be a better friend by truly celebrating others’ accomplishments. And supportive friendship is contagious.
So, I know you’re asking for a friend, but how do you deal with jealousy and envy? According to Family therapist and educator SaraKay Smullens in the Huffington Post, controlling envy is a function of maturity.
“People who reach maturity successfully are able to come to terms with what they have, whom they value, and who values them. In other words, they have learned to accept themselves and what they have and to make peace with dreams that may never be realized. If or when feelings of envy and jealousy pop up toward one cared about, the feelings can be put in their place; and others can be sincerely congratulated and wished well.”
Let’s break that down into something you can use to get past the green-eyed monster.
1. Accept yourself and what you have.
You are never going to be exactly who your friend is. You are never going to have exactly what your friend has, whether that thing is her job, her body or her relationship. But accepting your job, your body, your relationships and your unique self makes it easier to celebrate others.
2. Make peace with dreams that may never be realized
Never. Ever. Stop pushing towards your goals. But realize that goals change, life changes, who you are as a person and what you value all change. You’re not always going to be where you thought you’d be when you were 20. Ask 20-year-old me where I thought I’d be right now and the answer is a career woman with two kids who manages to balance everything flawlessly. None of that stuff is true outside of career woman. My opinion on kids changes week-to-week. One kid? Two kids? No kids? Twin baby girls? And balance everything flawlessly? Pffffftttt.
The point is that you’ve got to remember that the dreams and goals that have shifted did so for a reason. You are exactly where you’re supposed to be.
3. Put feelings of envy and jealousy in their place
Envy and jealousy, again, are natural. What you do with those feelings is up to you. Your friend just totally crushed you in a fitness class. Do you a) choose not to look her in the eye or b) acknowledge to yourself that your friend’s achievement doesn’t diminish yours. Choosing option b) will keep you in the good graces of your friends and will stop you from taking a trip to a terrible place called Bitter Land.
4. Sincerely congratulate and wish others well
Last step to vanquish the green-eyed monster: say “congrats” and mean it. It can come in the form of a hi-five or a text when you find out that a friend has awesome news. Acknowledging and appreciating others’ accomplishments makes people feel good and making others feel good will make you feel good. That’s a win-win, friends.
Why change the way you react to envy? Because what you put out comes back to you. As you look for others to support your goals and acknowledge your accomplishments, the best way to get that support is to give that support out, even when it’s challenging.