“I have been pulling away from you lately because I have been so jealous about your success with Project Self.
I love you, but I can’t make the feeling go away.
I’m fully aware that your success has come because you’re doing the work and I’m not, I know it’s about me, not you, but I didn’t want you to see my jealousy, so I’ve been avoiding you.”
This was a conversation I had with a close friend recently. Thank god for friends who have done enough work on themselves to be able to say how they’re really feeling. I’m so in awe of this friend’s ability to own up to a feeling that she feels guilty for. What a legend. Yet she actually has no control over it.
I so much prefer to know that this is why she has been pulling away, now my mind can stop guessing! (What it guessed was so much worse! Minds are natural catastrophisers.) Now it’s not such a problem for either of us and we can get on with enjoying our friendship with a much deeper level of authenticity; knowing that whatever our mind and emotions say to either of us, we can observe it, chat about it and move on.
This is what it’s like to be friends with someone who truly understands mindfulness.We both know that our minds are not us, so we can talk about what they’re up to without taking it too personally. Click To Tweet
Of course it feels personal initially. But we can see beyond our automatic reactions.
I then had my own jealousy to confess to – just a few minutes before this friend had been telling me about some amazing opportunities she’s made for herself, and as she told me I thought “god that’s awesome” at the same time as feeling a sharp pang of jealousy + the thought, “fuck, why didn’t I think of that?”, followed closely by “what the fuck Andrea, why on earth would you be jealous of your friend’s achievement? What’s WRONG with you?”. I even had the thought that I must hide the feeling from her, until she suddenly had the balls to own up to her own jealousy; and in doing so she allowed me the space to own up to mine.
As women, we often subconsciously feel we have something to prove (to ourselves, or others, we’re not sure).
In a Dr Libby talk I went to she spoke about how in looking at the number on the scale (a measure of comparison against the “ideal” woman), most women will see this as a defeat/ a loss to our own self-worth, whereas a man will tend to see it as a challenge. She posits that women often react this way because of all the oppression and inequality that women have gone through in history which cause us to feel the need to prove ourselves.
In many cases we tend to prove ourselves by comparison.
The only other measure of proof is our internal measure of self-worth, which is a war zone for most of us. So few women (and men, for that matter) feel sure of ourselves/ good enough because we don’t know how to tame our judging, analysing mind that tells us that we’re not.
Jealousy is something we all experience, it’s completely normal, and it doesn’t mean anything at all about the person we’re jealous of. The feeling is all about US. It’s only our mind that tells us
“ARGHHH!!! HIDE THAT HORRIBLE EMOTION YOU HORRIBLE HUMAN, HOW COULD YOU?!!”
This is pretty much how all of us go through life. We have emotions that we can’t control, they fuel thoughts that we also can’t control, then we assume we’re the only person ever to have such reactions, and then we hide it by plastering on a smile and saying something opposite to what we think and feel.
It makes you wonder doesn’t it, are our friends really our friends if we’re all just pretending all the bloody time?
This is part of my mission with Project Self – to spread the word that we’re basically all just instinct-driven machines, we all have the same feelings and thoughts to some extent, and these feelings and thoughts are autonomous, we have very little control over them.
This is why I have no problems telling you guys the innermost workings of my mind without shame or embarrassment.
Because after coaching so many people and peering into their minds with them,
I know that everything I think/ do/ fuck up, you think/ do/ fuck up too.
If we all knew that our emotions and reactions were automatic (not by choice), we wouldn’t feel the need to hide them from each other.
We’d be able to announce “my body just had an automatic physiological reaction to what you just said. It feels like the feeling that we collectively label ‘jealousy’”.
There would be no need to feel guilty about it.
How can we be guilty or embarrassed about something we have no control over? Feeling guilty about our automatic physiological responses (emotions) is like feeling guilty about our heart beating. It’s only because it’s common knowledge that our hearts are all beating that we don’t feel like it’s weird or embarrassing. If we can make it common knowledge that our emotions are almost as automatic as our heart beat, we would realise they’re not worth hiding after all.
It’s the hiding and embarrassment that makes emotions fester. We resist our emotions, and so they persist. This is the part we have control over. We can’t stop them coming, but we can take charge of how long our emotions stick around, and how much we let them govern our reactions.
Let me explain this further, it’s a concept I go into in great detail with my clients, but I’ll attempt to simplify it here.
When faced with a tiger, do you think that you rationally CHOOSE to conjure up a ‘fear’ reaction (emotion)? Does that happen by choice?
Nah mate. Your body does it for you.Emotions are an automatic physiological response to an internal (mind) or external (event/ person) trigger Click To Tweet
Usually related to our survival in some way.
If we could control our emotions,
we’d never see anyone blush with embarrassment or shake with nervousness.
No one chooses that!
So when a certain event, say, watching your friend become successful at something that you want to be successful at, your mind might say “that person is doing the thing that I know I should be doing and I’m not.” This triggers an automatic physiological response that feels something like anger or resentment.
My theory is that we’re actually angry and resentful towards ourselves for not doing the Thing that we want to be doing. Having a friend who does do said Thing highlights our own inaction, and it makes us seethingly, boilingly resentful. Towards ourselves.
But the mind doesn’t like to accept blame. It would hate to admit “shit, yea, I haven’t done X Y Z, and that’s why I’ve not succeeded yet, it’s my fault and it sucks”. This would feel more like shame, and we hate shame, so the mind steps in to protect us by redirecting the emotion towards the person that triggers us in the form of anger and resentment. And then we label it jealousy.
This is why we’re always jealous of people for doing things that we know deep down that we could/should/would be doing (if only we could get out of our own way).
If we have no interest in celery and our friend grows the most amazing celery plant, we’re going to be happy for them, not jealous, because we don’t particularly care about celery.
(By the way, I’m that friend. My celery plant is out of control! Feel free to be jealous.)
So in this scenario with my friend, the anger and resentment she has been feeling is nothing to do with me, it’s an automatic physiological response in her body. Project Self’s success is just a reminder of where she could be if she had been doing X Y Z like I have. And by X Y Z I mean working my ass off and doing everything in my power to keep myself on track by hiring damn-expensive business coaches to hold my hand. My friend knows that rationally, but it doesn’t change the emotion for her;
Project Self still triggers the mind pattern that leads her to being angry with herself which her mind then redirects at me in the form of what we call “jealousy”.
She didn’t choose the emotion, no one does, her brain and body did it by themselves.
But as my friend realised, as much as we want to, we can’t rationalise our way out of our emotions. They didn’t arrive through rational thinking, and they won’t disappear using rational thinking.
So what the hell do we do with them?
Well, most of us have a wine, watch TV, scroll FB, take drugs, drink coffee, eat too many Magnum icecreams and drown our sorrows in Tinder swiping. Or we surround ourselves by so many people and so many to do lists that we never have time to stop and feel whatever random emotions we are hiding from.
But if you’re finding these tactics don’t work as well as you’d hoped, or they’ve worked too well and you’re feeling a bit numb, I’m here to offer you a different solution, when you’re ready for it.