When I was graduating from high school, I had the opportunity to present at a local drama festival. The play my school presented was called “Jealousy Jane” and I had the supporting role of being the green monster. Although this was years ago now and I have forgotten the intricacies of the play, the main premise was that Jane (a high school teen) kept a monster in her purse. The monster’s name was Jealousy. At first, the monster was cute and even a bit playful and Jane regarded it as a pet. She kept it on a lead (leash) and was able to command it where to walk or when to sleep. However, every time Jane got jealous the monster grew until one day she could no longer control the monster and the monster controlled her. The monster now had her on a lead. The only way for Jane to combat the monster was to learn to give up her jealousy. Everytime Jane genuinely complimented someone or was truly happy for that person the monster got smaller and shrunk. Eventually the monster became pet size again and one day it disappeared completely. What a great story for most teens who constantly compare themselves to others. What a great reminder as well for everyone who owns a social media account and has found it difficult to not give into the temptation of jealousy.
The dictionary describes jealousy as “feeling or showing an envious resentment of someone for their achievements, possessions or perceived advantages.” Jealousy basically means wishing you had something that someone else does (or perceives to have). Sometimes jealousy is just a niggling feeling one can walk away from, but other times, jealousy can destroy friendships, marriages, and basically eat away at your mental and physical health. It can cause one to stay up all night grinding their teeth, it can even cause ulcers. Grudges, jealousy, resentment and unforgiveness have even been linked to very serious medical conditions such as addictions and even cancer.
I briefly touched on it in other posts, but let’s quickly recap. During this lockdown period, most of us have spent more time online than we normally would. Mindlessly scrolling social media has become a favourite pastime of many. Suddenly you see a post about a high school friend who beat the odds and managed to have a socially distanced wedding, you read about another friend who has been accepted into grad school because quarantine has finally clarified what they want to do with their life, your cousin has posted that they have written a new book which has been sent off to the publishers because their creativity hasn’t stopped flowing during their time off work, and your great aunt Edna just got herself an adorable puppy and her smile in the selfie says it all. And what about you? You glance away from the screen feeling embarrassed and you notice your flushed cheeks in the bedroom mirror. “All I’ve done this whole quarantine is binge watch Netflix.” You lament. “I can’t believe life is getting back to normal and I have nothing to show for it. Where have these last 3 months gone? There’s so much more I was capable of accomplishing.” And then your mind starts to spiral out of control. All of a sudden you regard yourself as a horrible person. A waste of space. Not just that you may have “wasted” time in the pandemic, but you seriously start contemplating if you truly do have any good and admirable traits. The problem with a spiral is that if it isn’t stopped, it continues. I know because back in the day, my mind spiralled for weeks, months and years at a time. I have been there.
Ok, so maybe that’s an extreme example. Maybe some people can relate and others reading this think “yeah right, I’ve never gone that far.” Maybe not, but consider: have you ever wished you had a partner just because you constantly see pictures and posts about your friends in relationships? Have you ever gotten bitter about your situation in life barely making ends meet because you see pictures of your friends posting about trips, clothes and holidays? Has reading through posts made you feel insecure – perhaps questioning if you are pretty or make the cut? Do you come away from social media truly feeling happy for your friends or do you come away in a state of depression more frustrated than when you logged in?
For those of us who face the normal human emotion of jealousy from time to time, I would like to offer a few practical tips and suggestions:
1) Remember that people only post their “best life.” For every picture of something amazing someone has done during lockdown, there have been many more moments which weren’t pictured of them being frustrated, discouraged and maybe even depressed. There might have been one day when all the children got along and a beautiful family selfie was snapped, but there were probably many other days of an exhausted mother wishing her kids could just get back to school.
2) Remember that everyone is on a different timeline. There are certain challenges we may face in life that others would not consider a burden at all and vice versa. Always have patience and grace for someone when they are going through a winning period, you have no idea what they may have lost during their losing season.
3) Create goals for yourself rather than for anyone else. What are the things you want to learn? Where are the places you want to travel to? What hobbies and interests do you want to further explore? What books do you want to read? What music do you want to listen to? Do these things because they fuel your soul, not because you need to catch up with what everyone else is interested in.
4) I mentioned this in another post, but I’d like to reiterate it here – hide or unfollow any celebrities or friends who are triggering to you.
5) Be aware of your own internal triggers and state of mind. You may notice that certain topics are more touchy to you than others right now. That’s okay. These are unusual times for all of us and all of us process it differently. Have grace with those you interact with online, but also have grace with yourself. If something online upsets you, walk away from it and ask yourself why it upset you. Knowing your personal triggers will enhance your self-awareness.