Last year, I completely overhauled my life and my self image by focusing on one activity. I was the kid who faked sickness to get out of running the mile for the entirety of middle school. I got doctor's notes. My parents and the school nurse thought perhaps I had a chronic stomach problem for how often I went home sick. I was not athletic and I definitely didn't run.
From outdoorsy to athlete
Since then, I had become consistently outdoorsy, but never what I would consider an "athlete."
Then at the beginning of 2014, I was looking to tire out my young, energetic dog. I started jogging with him through the neighborhood, and within a couple weeks, something strange happened.
I liked it. The dog didn't, but I did. It was hard and I was sweaty and, somewhere amidst the difficulty and the sweat, I realized that I actually liked running.
So I kept doing it. I joined a running club. I woke up at 5:00am to run before work and at 6:00am on the weekends for my long run. Blisters ground into my feet. My legs grew dense with muscle. My life revolved around my running schedule. I talked to anyone who would listen about my latest run and my upcoming races. I trained five days a week from complete non-runner to half marathon finisher in six months.
You might ask, what does my running stint have to do with jealousy?
As I neared my half marathon race last October, I knew deep within me that I wanted to run a full marathon. After I crossed the finish line of my first ever 13.1 mile race, elated with endorphins and sheer accomplishment, I already started mentally racing into marathon planning.
But during my two week recovery phase, I fell out of love with running. Post-race depression is fairly common among runners, suddenly faced with the crash after months of training and the immediate post-race high.
I told myself I still wanted to run a marathon, but then I stopped running entirely.
I remember sitting in the car on a holiday road trip on December 31, registering for the Portland Marathon on my phone. It was ten months away and I figured I would start running again as soon as I registered.
Feelings of green
I did run some, but I never started training again. I wanted all the glory without the hard work. Anyone who runs knows that running is hard work the vast majority of the time, so my marathon non-plan was a fantasy. Running was no longer a priority like I thought it would be.
So when this October rolled around, I had a bittersweet moment seeing photos of friends who had just completed the Portland Marathon.
I was over-the-moon happy for them and all of their hard work—but I also had a twinge of that embarrassing feeling: jealousy.
And unbidden thought surfaced: "That's supposed to be me."
But you know what?
No, it's not.
If that had been my priority this year, I would have been running all of these months as I had the year before, doing dynamic warm-ups, foam rolling, spending hours of early weekend mornings on long runs. I would have shelled out the $1200 ticket to fly from Cordova to Portland (yeah, it's expensive), and I would have run it.
So, no. That was not supposed to be me.
This year, I dove into months of yoga teacher training; I moved across the country; I explored the beginnings of business. All that time, I could have run, but I didn't.
Life comes up. Dreams evolve and shift.
Using jealousy as a tool
Jealousy comes unexpectedly and is an unwelcome guest. But it's a deep, primal feeling that helps us clue into our desires.
One important thing I did learn from this (besides "keep your eyes on your own paper") is that my heart feels sad knowing that I haven't run a marathon yet. So, hey, my jealousy actually came with super good news.
My knee-jerk reaction meant that running (which I've been on the outs with for months) is still hugely important to me.
Running a marathon didn't happen this year, but it's not some arbitrary goal--the fact that I'm still not ready to give up the goal even though I haven't done it means that it's something I still want in my life.
That's how all jealousy functions. Even if you don't want exactly what the object of your jealousy has, there's something about their circumstances that calls to you and is not being fulfilled in your own life.
How to deal with your envy
Jealousy is a gut reaction. We can't control when it comes up, but we can control how we react to it and decide what it means for us.
Guilt, not shame
Guilt and shame are not interchangeable. Guilt is based on behavior; shame is based on feelings of self.
First off, you're not "a bad person" for feeling jealous. It's an automatic reaction to comes up for everyone from time to time, so there's no need to feel shameful.
Jealousy is not preferred behavior, so feelings of guilt may come up.
It's natural to feel guilty for being jealous, but jealousy is not an inherently "bad" emotion. Like any emotion, it's a tool to tune in with our deeper circumstances, our wants and our whys.
Jealousy is born out of insecurity, but all that means is that we can tap into how we can make ourselves feel more secure.
The next time you feel that green twinge of envy, approach your feelings with curiosity.
Why do you want what they have? What's missing from your own life?
Often, jealousy is not what they literally have and you don't. Sometimes it's a feeling that you can develop in other ways.
Most importantly, how can you cultivate what's missing?
The jealousy is there for a reason. Make sure you're taking the time to build yourself up regularly so it doesn't feel like you're trying to tear down others.
"Don't be upset by the results you didn't get from the work you didn't do."
Once you've had enough cool down time to explore your feelings and circumstances, take time to acknowledge and celebrate the other person's accomplishments.
In my case, congratulations were in order. Those runners put in hours of warm-ups, runs and cool downs. Because of my previous race training, I knew that they did as much as I had and more to reach the full marathon distance.
Hit the reset
In my case, that means realizing that I still want to run and now I finally need to do it.
Your case may be different. Either way, you've identified what you're lacking; now go fill yourself up.
If you're consistently doing all you can to focus on your own successes and what makes you joyful, you won't have any time for jealousy anyway.
Can you identify a time that jealousy reared its green head? What helped you overcome the feeling?