How To Conquer The Green-Eyed Monster

"Someone else’s success doesn’t detract from yours."

Despite attempts to remain grounded and positive, it's difficult to ignore jealousy when the green-eyed monster rears its ugly head. We can't help comparing ourselves to others — especially our friends and family members — when success strikes. Yet, while these negative emotions often feel like they are eating us from the inside out, we must recognize that we are not alone.

As Tim Herrera recently wrote for The New York Times, you're not a bad person, as our brains are programmed to feel this confusing mix of pride and jealousy, thanks to the self-evaluation maintenance theory.

"This phenomenon was first studied by the social psychologist Abraham Tesser, who, in a 1988 study, wrote that our self-evaluation is threatened far more by loved ones who excel in areas we define ourselves by — like our work or a particular skill — than by strangers who excel in the exact same way," he explained. "We instinctively compare ourselves more to people who are close to us, even though, paradoxically, it can engender bitterness."

"When someone we love is successful at something we also want to be successful at, our brains subconsciously sets up a battle — fueled by our instincts for self-interest — between pride and jealousy," Shankar Vedantam writes in his book The Hidden Brain. "We're generally unable to say why we have these feelings, but nonetheless they are very real," Herrera added.

But what can we do to work through these feelings and turn our negative emotions into positive motivators? Here are five steps everyone should take whenever they feel the green-eyed monster looming:

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1. Give thanks for what you have.

Before you become overwhelmed by thoughts of inadequacy, you must pause and give thanks for what you have and what you've accomplished. You might feel low, consumed by the shadow of their success, but you're so much more than the sum of your achievements.

2. Remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Although you might want to trade places with the person you envy, you must realize that this individual's life and career might not be as perfect as it appears. Instead of wanting to be them, use this opportunity to simply learn from their example, instead. 

3. Take stock of your insecurities.

Jealousy remains rooted in our own insecurities. When we dwell on others' successes, it's because we don't want to acknowledge our own flaws. But, by identifying our insecurities, we can effectively determine how to go about improving who we are.

4. Establish attainable goals that'll put you on the road to success.

Instead of fixating on what others have achieved, create your own to-do list to determine the steps you need to take to attain your own goals. By mapping the path you must take, you'll know exactly how long and bumpy the road to success will be.

5. Celebrate your friend or family member's accomplishments.

Transform your negative energy into positive affirmations by celebrating your loved one's achievements. They've worked hard and they deserve recognition. If nothing else, you can look to these festivities as the dawn of your own journey toward success.

Cover image via  Subbotina Anna / Shutterstock

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