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Turn Jealousy into Motivation and Self-Acceptance

Jealousy is a tricky emotion, and one that we’re all vulnerable to at various points in our lives. According to Psychology Today:

Jealousy is a complex emotion that encompasses many different kinds of feelings that range from fear of abandonment to rage to humiliation. Jealousy can strike both men and women when they perceive a third-party threat to a valued relationship, it can be a problem among siblings competing for parental attention, or envy for a wealthier more successful friend. Conventional wisdom holds that jealousy is a necessary emotion because it preserves social bonds. But jealously usually does more harm than good to relationships, and can create relationship conflict and violence.”

This negativity associated with jealousy can be harmful not only to others but to the individual feeling jealous as well. Jealousy can be paralyzing – taking the form of a negative voice which can keep us from reaching our greatest potential by causing us to compare ourselves to others and quit when we feel that we’re not on the same pedestal. Jealousy, simply put, is an inhibitor.

3 Keys to Turning Jealousy into Motivation

So how can we take something negative like jealousy and turn it into something positive and productive? By turning the same feelings that contribute to jealousy instead into motivation. After all, there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve oneself to become a better person so long as the motivation is positive. Need an example? Here are three ways to turn jealousy into motivation and self-acceptance.

  1. Using Jealousy as an Opportunity to Learn – Jealousy does not have to be inhibitive. Perhaps there’s someone who demonstrates a skill or quality that you envy. Perhaps there is something you enjoy doing that you feel someone else is better at. Rather than quitting that activity that you enjoy because you think others are better, instead you could focus on what skills they possess that you could learn from. Take dancing, for example. Perhaps there’s someone whom you feel is swifter and more graceful at certain maneuvers. Instead of comparing yourself to them in a negative way, see what ways you can learn from their movements. Turn feelings of jealousy into something more productive. As Susan Harrow of Psychology Today says: “Jealousy doesn’t have to “freeze” you. It can be turned into motivational fuel, inspiring you to study and train more precisely, more intensely. Or perhaps, simply try something new to achieve the result that you want.”

  1. Using Jealousy as a Way to Ground You in the Present – Oftentimes when feelings of jealousy come about, they signal that our minds have “left” the present moment. After all, how can we be focusing on our present selves when our minds are instead focusing on the actions and successes of others? When feeling jealous, your “mind is caught up in what other people are doing and how they are doing it better. That kind of mental departure leads to distracted, fragmented work. It’s hard to do your best work when you’re not fully engaged in the present moment and it just doesn’t feel good either.” Instead, learn to be aware of this departure from the present. Take a few deep breaths and ground yourself in the moment. Don’t worry about what others are doing, focus on you.

  1. Turn Jealousy into Self-Reflection and Acceptance – As we’ve previously discussed, jealousy can come from a departure from the present self and a misdirected focus on others, which often leads to negative thoughts and inhibitions. It’s important to remember to not be overly concerned about how others do things if it has no impact on you. After all, we have our own skills and abilities to be proud of. As Harrow states: “We all have skills and strengths that other people find enviable. Sometimes, though, caught up in a whirlwind of jealousy, we can’t see our own gloriousness. Not surprisingly, self-acceptance is a key happiness factor.” Its unfortunate that aspirations of success often come with the consequence of comparing ourselves with others; after all, success is all too commonly defined against its absence, therefore many believe that in order to be successful, others must be less successful. However, this isn’t the case. Learn to appreciate your own success, as well as the success of others. Similarly, each person possesses valuable traits and skills unique to them, so learn to identify and accept your own unique qualities as well as those of others. The talents of others do not diminish your own talents. Be proud of who you are and, in doing so, learn to accept the successes of others without using them as a negative comparison to yourself.
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