Comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s ingrained in us; it’s a survival mechanism. Comparing ourselves only becomes detrimental when we’re encompassed by it, when it hinders us and makes us overwhelmingly resentful.
We know that jealous feeling. We may consume unnecessary seconds or minutes thinking about that person on Instagram with that “perfect” body or your friend who seems like her life is wonderful. That’s the hard part about these difficult feelings, when they’re more than fleeting, when we’re swallowed by them.
So, what can we do about it?
Here are some journaling exercises to cope with feelings of jealousy. It happens to all of us and it’s normal!
What are you avoiding?
When we're feeling jealous, we’re most likely focused on others. For some of us, we direct our attention on others because it’s easier than shedding light on ourselves. When this emotion arises, think about what are you insecure about and what it is that you want to change about yourself. Or maybe you do not actually want to change anything, but maybe it’s a question of, “What do I need to accept about myself?”
To clarify, let’s say that you’re focused on how someone has a big house and you find yourself feeling resentful. It’s totally normal. But in this case, maybe overwhelming thoughts come about--perhaps it’s a sadness that you don’t have that house. Or it could be that you’re working sixty hours a week and you feel as though you feel as though there’s nothing to show for it. Or perhaps there’s acceptance that might need to take place, that it might take longer for you to get that house or perhaps it’s that you just need to accept that you’re angry that that person has it and you don’t.
Understand your own expectations.
Do you expect yourself to be perfect? In what ways are you too critical on yourself? By seeking certain outcomes, from whom might you be trying to seek approval?
What recognition do you really need? Often we might want recognition from others. Why am I bringing up recognition? When we’re jealous or feeling insecure, we might really want confirmation that we are doing well or that we are working hard. In these fleeting moments of jealousy, there might be a part of us that wants that recognition that we might give others.
Are you HUNGRY, ANGRY, LONELY, or TIRED?
When we’re feeling resentful, maybe it’s our mental state that’s causing the raucous in our heads. We’re affected by how tired we are or the kind of week we’ve had. Reflect upon what types of situations that make you more vulnerable, and therefore more likely to experience these overwhelming feelings.
It's all relative.
There’s always someone who’s is going to be richer, smarter, more athletic, or whatever adjective that creates jealousy for you and there’s always someone who’s going to be on the opposite end. What are some things that others don’t have? Maybe you grew up with both parents or perhaps you have a pet dog or maybe you were able to attend college.
But the point of it is, what will help you gain perspective? Is it volunteering at a neighborhood thirty minutes away from you, where there’s more crime? Or the better question is, what is it that you have gained over the course of your lifetime? How can you compare yourself to you from one year ago? What is different? What have you learned?
We, as people, we are resilient. We grow, we change, no matter what comes our way. I think that’s what makes us pretty special, no matter what our external circumstances are. We are able to push past those difficult times. So when you’re having a rough day, think about how much you have overcome. Gain some strength from that!
When you feel like "everything is happening to me"...
See what you can do to shift this narrative. Identify what actions you can take to play the main role in your story. Life can be tricky. Make room for yourself and what you need. Take the time to reconnect with people who know you as the wonderful being that you are. Ask your friends what they admire about you? We all need those reminders from time to time.
Be Open & Flexible.
You might not know it, but something will come your way that will make you smile, if you’re open to it. It reminds me of that Robert Frost phrase about pursuing the “road less taken”. From a literal standpoint, maybe, if you take a new route home, you might run into some friends that you haven’t seen for some time, or you might see the mountains from a new perspective. Or it might be just as boring or predictable. The reason I bring up this openness, is that sometimes if we are open to something, we will land upon something that might spark something within us.
I know, it’s definitely not an easy task. So how do we go about trusting ourselves? Start taking small actions that please you and only you. If you want to be bold, try something without worrying about how your actions might affect others. Of course, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt that you are kind and respectful when you try these new things. Why would these actions matter? You’re practicing what feels good to you! You’re putting yourself first, and therefore, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions that align with you and what makes you happy. Trust that you will have the skills to continue despite the rough patch you might be encountering.
Sometimes we might wish that we were in one of Harry Potter’s invisible jackets. It’s safe when we’re with those who make us feel loved. Maybe we’re worried about being judged about what we say or do. This might impact whether you say something. You might be worried that what you say is unintelligent. Or maybe you think that others are upset with you.
It can be overwhelming when we’re caught up by our thoughts and concerned with others think of us. It can make it hard to do the things we want to do if we’re cloaked in anxiety. We might want to feel carefree, or at least less worried.
Are you ready?! Here are some tips to worry a little less about what others think!
It's none of our beeswax.
Sometimes, shifting our narratives can help us work through these thoughts. One way to rewrite this story is to tell yourself, “What others are thinking about me is none of my business.” If the person is really upset with you, he/she can tell you. That person is responsible for telling you.
Otherwise, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were kind to that person and did nothing wrong!
In the case that person has negative thoughts about you, it often has to do with the other person. If that person is jealous, it means that that person is insecure. Most likely, that person has to do some internal work on themselves and gain awareness of these insecurities if it’s leaking into your space. When we’re worried about what others think, we’re also giving that person a lot of our power. What do I mean by this? Also, the person that you’re concerned with, perhaps you wouldn’t want to be friends with that person anyway. The people that we’re around (and worry about what they think) might not share the same qualities or values we hold.
Another way to approach this is to talk to that person. Maybe you’ll find out that person wasn’t thinking what you thought they were thinking! Or if they confirm your thoughts, it’s a reminder that your intuition is on point. By talking to that person, we might learn something about them. We might find a new friend!
Share about it.
Our feelings can have an effect on us. If we’re tired or sad, we might be more self-conscious. Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel worried about how others see you. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling might be making you feel uncomfortable. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Talk about how you feel self-conscious. Sometimes when we share about it, we take the power out of it. Chances are that if you share about it, someone will understand what you’re going through and see you as bold and courageous for telling them about it. Other times, that person you tell might even share that he/she feels the same way. By putting ourselves out there and sharing the truth, we’re brave. We make space for others to experience our humanity. We model that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
Think about the activities that you are entirely engrossed in, to the point that you don’t care about what others think of you. What is it about those activities that makes you feel self-conscious? Maybe you’re in a comfortable space, surrounded by people that love you. Or it could be that you’re so consumed in the activity that you’re not worried.
Do what you love.
Moments are ephemeral. Think about what you really want to cherish. You make your life. You deserve to enjoy it. To be the main role in your show. Don’t let anyone else take away that power. Do you. If there’s a song you love, belt it out. When we’re doing what we love to do, it no longer matters what others think. If it’s meaningful to you, do it.
We’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s when we’re tired, we might be more prone to worrying. Our worries might even stop us in our tracks because we’re focused on what might happen in the future. It can be overwhelming to say the least. What can you do to take care of yourself in this moment.
I’ve outlined some tips to manage those thoughts.
Handle what we can right now.
Sometimes this means focusing on what we can do in the next ten minutes. When our minds are racing many miles a minute, we’ll be more at ease when we can focus on what’s in front of us.
Get into the zone.
We all have those activities that make us feel like nothing can touch us. They’re challenging, but to a point that’s just right, and we’re still able to enjoy it. Usually we become consumed by it and our friends have to pester us to stop doing it. Maybe it’s writing a poem, or going for a hike, or playing the guitar.
Sometimes we might think that if we put ourselves into a worrying stupor, that somehow our worries will go away. We often find that worrying more about it continues the spiraling of thoughts.
If you’re worried about what someone is thinking, ask the person. When we’re immersed in these thoughts, we can’t confirm them. When we ask someone what they’re thinking, we can take control of these worries and learn whether they were fact or fiction. In the case that you can’t speak to the person, remind yourself that you’re being kind and respectful. Make a list of all the qualities that you do have and soak it all up.
Yes, I’m going to say it--take a break from the internet and social media. Maybe it’s only for ten minutes, but give yourself that time away from it and to focus on what’s really meaningful to you, rather than on what others suggest is important. Ask yourself which people are there for you and what you value most.
We’ve all been there. That feeling that everything is happening all at once. It seems like it’s just too much. You might feel consumed by your thoughts. The hard part about feeling overwhelmed is that it sometimes takes a big cry or a surge of intense emotions before we realize that we need to slow down or take a break.
Redirect Your Focus.
List 1 thing that is important right now. Can you solve anything right now? If the answer is no, we might need a break. This doesn’t mean that it continues forever. Remind yourself that you’ll come back to your problem. Remind yourself that worrying will not make your worries dissipate.
If you’re fixated on one problem, shift to a different problem. This mental break gives us some perspective. It’s a form of brainstorming.
Help Someone Else.
Call someone else and ask her/him about her/his day. This doesn’t mean that you ignore your needs, but if you’ve been thinking about your problem all day, it might distract yourself from your thoughts. Not only will you be there for another person, you might feel useful and feel less powerless overall.
Imagine one of your favorite places. Here, you feel at peace. You’re reminded of the grandeur surrounding you as you visualize. Use all of your senses to imagine this place. How do the clouds and sun interact? Where are you sitting? Imagine how the ground feels and what the air smells like. With this visualization, we’re provided with a temporary escape and chances are, you won’t feel worse than before you tried this exercise.
Repeat a mantra.
Identify an affirmation and repeat it. Take 20 slow breaths. As you breathe, imagine that your body continues to relax five percent more. Feel the tension lifting from your shoulders.When we experience fear and our heart rates increase, our bodies interpret this situation as a threat, but as our heart rates decrease, our bodies inform our brains that this threat (your problem) is no longer an issue. Continue these slow breaths and repeat your mantra.
Sometimes we feel like we’re unable to be open with our friends because we’re worried about how they will react. Or maybe we already know how our friend will respond.
We might worry that we'll be judged.
Or we know how our friends will respond when we bring it up. Sometimes, we’re conflicted with the decision that we’ve made and that makes it harder to talk about it with our friends. So what does this mean? Maybe, we ourselves need time before we can share with our friends. And that’s okay. As long as you’ve got other friends that you feel safe sharing with, you’re still getting the support that you need.
It can leave us feeling isolated...
...when we can’t reach out to our friends, especially when we need that support.
How do we take care of ourselves when we’re unable to share with friends?
Maybe it's about going through your rolodex of friends and asking yourself what you need from them. It could be their company, without any words exchanged. Or maybe it's time and space for you to talk without them dishing out the advice.
And it's okay.
You can even set a time-frame for your friends to check in with you. Or let them know that you won't be able to answer the phone for the night. You are allowed to ask for space. If your friend loves you, she/he/they will understand and respect what you are communicating.
If they don't get it, you know that it's their own stuff that's coming up for them. Their response lets you know that they're uncomfortable with you setting your own boundaries and what you need. But by being able to get through that discomfort with that friend and by talking it out with him/her/them, your friendship will get even stronger.
So how do you ask for what you need?
It might look like...
"Hey I don't have the energy to talk right now, could we just sit and watch a movie?"
"I'm feeling really sensitive, and I just need someone to listen. I'm not looking for advice right now."
"I'm really exhausted, could we just go to a show and have fun?"
"I can't talk today. I'll let you know when I'll have the bandwidth."
"Hey can I vent without any feedback?"
"I just need you to listen."
"This is hard for me to share. Would it be okay if you just listened?"
"I'm worried about feeling judged. I really need your non-judgment right now."
"It's been a long week. Can we catch up next week?"
What’s your habit telling you?
Whether you’re adding something or getting rid of a habit, it’s often helpful if we decrease the difficulties faced with this new change. For example, let’s say that we’re trying to exercise more. You might want to start with 20 minutes, as opposed to an hour and a half. This way, you will be more likely to continue exercising on a regular basis. On the days that you are tired, an hour and a half of exercising might seem too overwhelming, but 20 minutes may seem more manageable.
There’s a reason that we as a species have been alive as long as we have been. We’re focused on survival. Think about how your habit is helpful. Let’s say that the habit that you’re changing is watching less TV. Maybe watching your favorite show is something that you look forward to or allows you to relax after a long day. You might turn to it because it takes no effort. There’s always something under the surface. What you’re really yearning for is something that requires little effort because you’ve worked too many hours or you don’t enjoy your job. Or maybe TV gives you that time to yourself. Whatever you're seeking, see how you can get in that relaxation another way. This could be putting your phone on airplane mode or spending time with friends.
Decrease the pain that you’ll endure:
There’s a reason that habits are hard to change. They’re familiar. They’re comfortable. It makes it easier to function when we have routines. Otherwise, we’d have to think about every action throughout the day.
When we have so many options, we might get stuck in analysis paralysis. Instead, we need to simplify the process so that we don’t give ourselves the chance to get out of the task related to your goal. Let’s say that you want to leave the house earlier, but making breakfast always slows you down. Maybe this means that you have a yogurt or prepare your breakfast the night before. You have no other choice but to get the yogurt from the fridge and you can possibly leave five minutes earlier.
Because it’s challenging to change our behaviors, we need spaces that reinforce what we’re doing. We need all the affirmation that we can get. Congratulate yourself by recording every time that you complete a task related to your goal. Join an online community with others that share your common goal. We need that positive feedback and understanding from others when we’re making these changes. Tell your friends about your goal and share about your progress.
Sometimes we make impulsive decisions. It happens. But after awhile, we begin to notice how these quick decisions get in the way of our happiness. We might regret those choices. Or we might feel anxious and question our decisions. Those times when you do slow down and listen to your gut, your decisions are aligned with you and what feels “right” to you. You become more confident and you trust yourself.
Nevertheless, I’m here to tell you that you can improve your ability to listen to your intuition. Let’s get to it
Acknowledge those “negative” feelings so that you can make room for a decision that’s aligned with you. When we’re a neutral or positive state, we’re better equipped to make decisions. We have more perspective. If we’re in a “negative” mood, we might be more likely to react.
Even if this voice tells you to do something that you don’t want to do, recognize that it might feel uncomfortable. We might not want to break up with our partner(s). We might not want to get off the couch. We might not want to put away that box of cookies. You get it. Generally when you get these feelings, you might not want to follow through because it might mean some “pain” on the other side, whether it’s feeling your feelings or feeling sad or lonely after leaving a relationship. You’ll have more space to think and to make decisions that fit for you.
Do something creative or “mindless” and focus on one activity at a time.
When we engage in these activities, we are less over-stimulated (unless there’s music playing and people talking and you’re watching a TV show). When we multi-task, there’s less room for us to pay attention to our internal cues. Get into your body. When we’re walking or practicing yoga poses, we generally aren’t overthinking. We don’t think about that next step when we’re walking (except if we are re-learning how to walk from an injury or accident).
Allow your mind to wander. When we are curious, we’re more likely to be open and intuitive. Whatever comes to your mind, let it arise. See what it’s like to allow thoughts without resisting them. Mindfulness is another way to practice this exercise.
Lieberman, M.D. (2000). Intuition: A social cognitive neuroscience approach. Psychological Bulletin, 126(1), 109-137.
Volz, K.G. & Von Gramon, D.Y. (2006). What neuroscience can tell about intuitive processes in the context of perceptual discovery. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18(12), 2077-87.
I’ve always struggled with letting go. It often comes in the form of aligning my thoughts with the situation. What do I mean by this? Often I’m tempted to alter the situation so that I get the outcome that I'd like, but I gain self-acceptance when I no longer tamper with it. I take action, and then, once I acknowledge that there is nothing more that I can control, often with an internal struggle, I finally arrive at a place of self-acceptance.
If you are a future-focused person, you might find it helpful to imagine what you’d like to see. You might imagine what acceptance looks like for you. How would you feel once you’ve let go? Or maybe this means investigating what is making it difficult to let go. The feelings that you’re experiencing might feel uncomfortable. It might be scary to acknowledge what waits on the other side of acceptance. Or maybe you’re hoping for closure and there’s this stuckness that you’re experiencing. You might wonder about what you might be resisting and how this might make it difficult to let go.
It’s not an easy process. If another person is involved, it’s not a matter of whether the person deserves this forgiveness. It’s about whether you want to continue holding onto this pain and resentment against this other person. So how do we go about this pain?
It starts with compassion towards ourselves.
We acknowledge what we’re dealing with, while maintaining responsibility. It’s not about having pity for ourselves, but rather validating our own experiences. We’re metaphorically embracing ourselves and showering ourselves with the love that we need during this painful process. When we treat ourselves with kindness and non-judgment, we can work through the pain and start to forgive ourselves and others involved. These are some phrases that you could use to acknowledge your own pain and be compassionate with yourself:
“This hurts and I’m here for you.”
“No one should go through this and it’s painful.”
“It’s hard to be in so much pain. What do I need right now?”
I used to hesitate and question what I had to say. Remaining in self-doubt required so much energy, and I wondered if my thoughts were valid or valuable. My self-consciousness furthered this spiral; because I felt insecure about what I would say, I prevented myself from interacting with and connecting with others. I felt alone in these thoughts. But through personal work and through practice, I learned that none of this was true. Soon enough, it no longer mattered what others thought. It was through this openness and walking through this discomfort that I gained meaningful relationships with others and felt more comfortable in my own skin. I began to love myself and feel more confident.
Because of my own path, confidence is one of those topics close to my heart. I am excited about sharing these exercises with you!
We often focus on negative memories.
These memories are often based in fiction, or prevent us from investigating other pieces of evidence that contrast our strengths and our abilities. When we focus on negative past experiences, we often leave out factual information reflecting our true qualities. I challenge you to identify five qualities associated with five different memories. The purpose of this exercise is to pinpoint your strengths despite the outcome. Even if it were a so-called “negative” or neutral experience, I am almost certain that you emulate positive attributes.
Let’s reflect upon an experience.
Perhaps you received feedback at work. What are some of the qualities that you exemplify at work? I can guarantee that you are hard-working, determined, attentive, and kind. I am assuming, but I am sure that there are many examples in which you demonstrate these qualities. When are you attentive to others’ feelings? When have you arrived early or stayed late at work? Or maybe you give it your best effort at your meetings.
Be a role model.
When we show others how to do something based on our skills, we’re reminded of our redeeming qualities. In those moments, we will focus on someone else, while reinforcing our own competencies. Perhaps you will gain excitement by mentoring someone and find yourself rooting for that person. Or maybe you will see yourself and your own strengths through this person.
It’s All In The Little Things.
Do something small for yourself. Buy yourself flowers as an act of appreciation for showing up today. Write yourself a note and place it somewhere you will come across it later. Wear your favorite outfit that makes you feel like a million bucks. Cut out an image or phrase from a magazine that reminds you of your amazing self. Send yourself a card so that you receive it at work.