The Anatomy Of Jealousy

I think we’ve all been there. Coffee mug in one hand, mobile phone in the other, scrolling through our social feeds. And then we see them. The images of a friend on a fabulous vacation, or a colleague with some major business wins, or a FB friend’s beautifully filtered new home or car, the recent trip to Japan -I mean who has the time to travel like this -right?

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Or the friend that also posts about her upcoming partnership with a brand you’ve been stalking for a year, followed by her keynote speech happening next month in LA at that woman’s conference you just applied for.

WTF universe? California has been on your vision board for 4. Damn. Years. FOUR YEARS!

You want to ‘like’ the post and feel genuinely happy for her and celebrate her successes. But you’re secretly hoping she trips and falls into a pit in some far, far, far, FAR away land.

It’s ok, I’ve been there too!

Jealousy is universal.  It is the distress people feel when others get what they want. The Harvard Business Review has actually spent the past 11 years, studying hundreds of executives and their organizations in an effort to discover what role this deadly sin plays in the workplace. They found that regardless of the economic climate, people at all levels of a firm are vulnerable to envy.

It also intensifies in times of economic crisis and as losses mount, employees worry that they’re in jeopardy. They grow to resent successful colleagues.

Jealousy damages relationships, disrupts teams, and undermines organizational performance. Ultimately, it harms the one who feels it.

When you’re obsessed with someone else’s success, your self-respect suffers. You actually neglect and even sabotage your own performance, even your career.

Yes, jealousy is a difficult emotion to manage. And the reason why is because it’s difficult for us to admit that we actually feel it. That discomfort causes us to suppress our feelings, which makes things even worse. And repressed jealousy, well that’s for another post.

THBR found that it is actually possible to prevent yourself from being consumed by jealousy and even to flip it and use it to your advantage. Find out below how to recognize potentially destructive thoughts and behaviors. Then, how you can flip them into kinder, more productive ones, making yourself more open to others, more receptive to change, and filled with more meaning in your life and your business.

So, in order to turn the jealousy you may be feeling and use it to your advantage, here are a few simple techniques:

  1. Identify what makes you jealous. Your jealousy reflex is a useful source of information. Recognize the circumstances and qualities in others that trigger the feeling. Ask yourself if your feelings reveal what you are most insecure about lacking. When you nail down the things that set you off, you can begin to wrangle the feelings of jealousy before they turn into a shit-storm. This can help you shift your focus on improving in the areas you’ve now discovered you care about.
  2. Run your own race. Comparing yourself with others is natural. It can serve as motivation. Too much of it however, leads to jealousy. Try instead comparing your present self against your past self.
  3. Affirm who you are and what you’ve accomplished. If you feel threatened every time someone other than you does well, do one simple thing: remind yourself of your own strengths and successes.
  4. If you’re in a leadership position, share the privilege and power. When you share the glory with others, you help both your peers and yourself. I love the concept of earning a reputation for helping develop future leaders. At a women’s organization I co-founded, ETTWomen we firmly believe that, “Together, we achieve more!”
  5. Operate from a space of abundance, not scarcity. Often, people on teams throw sharp elbows as they compete for resources they perceive to be limited. However, sharing resources, ideas, connections with others will always help keep jealousy at bay. Hoarding resources does not guarantee your survival, it only isolates you and causes you to lose people who could actually help you. Sharing the wealth, in contrast, lays the groundwork for reciprocity.

The non-stop news about our socio-economic inequalities remind us that others enjoy rewards we don’t. Social networking sites tell us who gets the promotions and are enjoying better vacations than our own. Anxiety about our own performance undermines our insecurities. All of this and more, has helped produce the perfect jealousy storm.

Know this: Jealousy, while natural and automatic, is controllable. Flip it by reflecting on your strengths, your accomplishments, your ability to take a breath this morning, what you actually have. You can turn a humiliating emotion into the bridge that transforms both your own performance and that of those around you.

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