I have the coolest friends in the whole entire world. It’s true! They do amazing things, have amazing jobs (and they're successful in them), have found incredible life partners, have wonderful children, and so much more. Plus on top of all their accomplishments they are some of the kindest, most generous and creative people I have ever met.
Simply put, I love them dearly.
One of my favorite things about working in a creative field is meeting so many talented people and befriending them, which is how I ended up with such amazing friends in the first place. Some of the people in my groups have huge online followings and are well known in their fields. They get to work on cool projects with other amazing people. They get to go to cool places and get exclusive looks at movies, books, or video games. And all their talent and successes help them be in a place to hit life's benchmarks right when they “should”.
And then, there’s me. I have hardly done any of those things.
Don’t get me wrong. I really like my life, and I love hearing about all the amazing things my friends get to do, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little jealous sometimes.
It can be a tad demoralizing to be hanging out with them and they all are talking about the cool stuff they are doing, and I’m just kind of there. Doing the same old same old. I absolutely love my friends, and wouldn’t trade them for the world, but man I wish I could do the things that they do. I’m sure I’m not the only person out there with friends who are way more successful than they are.
It’s a weird place to be in isn’t it?
My jealousy of them isn’t on purpose. I don’t start my day listing all the cool things they do, and how much I wish I was doing those things. But the thing about feelings is that you can’t always help that they are there.
So, as much as I try to dissuade myself from my jealousy, sometimes I just can’t help it.
I’ve realized that I start to think about my friends differently when I’m in a jealous mood. In actuality, my friends are incredibly hard-working and talented people who deserve every opportunity given to them and so much more.
Unless I’m jealous of them.
Then they just got lucky!
And why can’t I get lucky too?
Where’s my big break, huh?
When I start to think like that I usually try to distract myself, use some of my coping skills, and think about all the cool things I get to do. But at the end of the day, I still want what they have.
Dealing with wanting and learning to be purposeful about love
I want to be clear for a second that there’s nothing wrong with wanting. That’s just a part of life. The problem enters when I let my wanting and my jealousy get in front of my love for my friends. And it took me a long time to understand where my head was at, and better yet, how to deal with it.
Growing up I had to attend a lot of weddings. And all of them talked about loving each other through the good times and the bad. As a kid, I thought that was a little silly. Why would it be hard to love someone in the good times? Shouldn’t we focus more on making sure our love survives turmoil and strife?
It took me a while to realize that loving someone during the good times can look a lot like loving someone even when you want what they have. When that clicked in my brain, a lot opened up for me.
The thing about love is that it's actually a tough emotion to be purposeful about. Because love, like jealousy, doesn’t always listen to rational thoughts. Sometimes despite our best intentions our emotions do things without our consent. I want to love my friends, and I don't want to be jealous of them.
What does being purposeful about my love for my friends look like? Great question! I wish I had the answer.
I’m still working on it myself.
As I’ve been on this road to working through my jealousy over watching my friend succeed I’ve come up with some strategies to remind myself that I do, in fact, love my friends. I’ve also thought a lot about how to support my friends when they are doing well. Because support isn’t only for when things are bad. It’s like love. It should be there all the time, even, or maybe especially when it takes work.
A unique 4-step process to work through jealousy
As I’ve been working through my jealousy and trying to remind myself to love them through the good, and the bad, I’ve started a four-step “cool down” process. I use this when I’m having really big feelings over something cool happening in their life.
The first thing I do is just start by saying over and over again “I love my friend” Repeating it again and again, sometimes substituting their actual name in place of “friend”. Sure it sounds a little weird, but it’s a really helpful way for my brain to remember that I do still love my friend even while I’m feeling envious.
The second step in this process is I write my friend a really nice note. I tell them how proud of them I am, how exciting this new development is, and of course how much I love them. I always end the note by offering my support in any way they might need it during this change. Because we have to keep remembering that love and support are needed in both the good and the bad.
These notes can be super short, even three to five sentences will do the trick. Though, I will admit sometimes I have to do a few edits to the note to make sure I’m being actually genuine and not sounding passive-aggressive. So I’d recommend giving it a once over before you send it.
The other helpful step for me is to name at least ten things I have done with my life that I’m super proud of. Sometimes I write them down, sometimes I just say them out loud, but either way, I reflect that I’m not as bad off as I might think. Taking this little time to reframe always makes me feel so much better. If I'm in a really bad place, I challenge myself to name 15-20 things, or more if possible. A nice side effect of this step is that it boosts my confidence and helps me launch myself into new opportunities, so it’s a doubly good thing to do.
The last thing I have found that helps dissipate my jealousy is to let myself be a little selfish about something. Doesn’t have to be anything big, but I get myself a consolation prize. Whether that’s a treat at the store, or I spend a little more time playing video games that day. Whatever it is that I want to do that day I just give myself the grace to do it. I joke that it’s my “participation trophy” because it does make me feel better about not “winning”.
… but it’s a long journey
These steps force me to be intentional about my love for my friends, but they’re also for myself. Because, if I want to be intentional about my love, and give it a purpose for the better, I need to remember that supporting my friends no matter what is usually the best thing I can do. If I want my love to have a purpose I don’t expect it to be easy. But I do expect it to support my friends authentically.
Unfortunately, I think this is a long road. It’s going to take me a while to learn to be more comfortable with my friend's success, and not see it as a poor reflection on myself. But nothing that’s worth it is quick. I am giving purpose to my love no matter how long it takes because at the end of it all I really love my friends.
I have the coolest friends in the whole world. And even when sometimes I might feel like I’m getting left behind, or feel bad about myself for how little I have accomplished compared to them - I stop myself.
I think of all the cool things I have done.
I tell myself and my friends how much I love them.
And I offer my unconditional love and support.
Watching friends succeed isn’t going to be easy for me, and it might not be for you either.
But with a little self-trust, at least we can make it a little less hard on ourselves.