On the surface jealousy appears to be a simple thought, one that has you wanting something or someone that someone else “has”. But that thought has very deep roots and is itself rampant with all-or-nothing thinking which only makes you feel stuck, hopeless, and diminished. Anger is a response to a threat. We only ever feel angry when we truly feel sad and scared about something. Jealousy has a strong element of anger, a sense of judgement and injustice that belies our underlying fear and sadness. And why are we sad and scared? Well because when we’re aware of feeling jealous of someone it means we must have had the following thought just a second before:
“They” have something you not only want but believe you “should” have, and by virtue of “Them” having that thing, you are less likely to have it yourself, and not having that thing makes you less valuable, less worthy than they are. Therefore, your worth / okay-ness as a person is dependent on that person.
Now how’s that for some A+ all-or-nothing thinking!? And we all do it, that is, until we learn why we do it and learn to do otherwise. Interestingly enough, the process of overcoming jealousy with anyone, anytime, is the exact same process we use at The CEDRIC Centre to support you to overcome any of your stressful behaviours and feelings around food. So, whether you want to work on your insecurities first or food first, you’ll end up in the same peaceful, happening place!
Some of you may be asking, “Okay, but what’s so all-or-nothing about the story above?” If you’re new to this process and to your own introspection, it is a perfectly reasonable and healthy question to be asking. It also implies that you are very, very accustomed to thinking in all-or-nothing and therefore, the above doesn’t seem out of line, it seems true and, however frustratingly, reasonable.
Now, since the rigid and stifling thought pattern that we call all-or-nothing thinking is at the root of any harmful coping behaviour such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, alcohol or drug dependency, procrastination, isolation, workaholism and all the other, not-so-helpful things people do to try and make themselves feel better but that really only end up creating more problems and distancing themselves from their true feelings and needs, it is fundamental that you learn to identify it and nip it in its little bud asap!
So let me point out the all-or-nothing thinking (aon) in the above story so you can start to see it more clearly and to find it yourself in your own thinking as you go about your day. Then I’ll fill out a bit more of the jealousy puzzle for you and show you how to step way, way beyond that very unhelpful and paralyzing thought process.
First off, what we’re telling ourselves on the surface in the story above is this:
“They” have something you should have.
This is all-or-nothing simply because we are telling ourselves that just because we believe something “should” be a certain way, it should be that way. Um, okay. That would make you the creator of the Universe then? Nice to meet you!
I know I’m being a bit of a smart ass here, but the point needs to be clearly made that just because you believe something should be a certain way doesn’t make it so. Your current relationship with food and with your body would be evidence enough of that fact I would think, as would your first painful breakup or your first parking ticket.
If the world actually worked the way your aon brain thinks it should, none of that stuff would have happened. Except it did. And often, you have to admit, it was actually for the best. You learned something. You gained something. You got an opportunity to see something in yourself or someone else that helped you grow. Painful? Maybe. But helpful? Yes.
Any time you hear yourself say that someone or something should or shouldn’t be X, it is so incredibly freeing and refreshing to just stop and say (however begrudgingly at first):
“Wait a sec, I’m playing God again. Just because I think something should be a certain way, doesn’t make it so, nor does it mean that anyone else has to agree with me.”
And, if you add this extra piece on to that statement, you will absolutely overcome the green-eyed monster in record time:
“What is it I’m telling myself I can’t have, do or be because X is the way it (he/she) is?”
And whatever you turn up, then ask yourself, “What am I telling myself it means that…”
“I can’t have the job I want because Louise just got it…and that means…I’m not good enough and that means I will never have the job I want and that means I will never be successful at anything….etc., etc.”
The farther we take this process, i.e. the more “and that means” statements we identify for ourselves each time we begin to feel the jealous/insecure feeling stealing through our being, the more obvious our all-or-nothing thinking becomes to us and the easier it is to understand why we were feeling the way we were and to step free of those uncomfortable feelings and the stories that were triggering them.
You see, if you’re new to this process, the story, “I can’t have the job I want because Louise got it,” will not in any way sound like all-or-nothing thinking. But when we reveal the story “Because Louise got the job, I will never be successful at anything” – even if we fear it might be true, it is much easier to identify the extreme thinking and therefore to let go of it and in so doing, let go of mounds of anxiety and stress and the urgent need to numb out from the present moment with food.
The truth is, all the statements in the above Louise example are all-or-nothing. You’re hooked into believing that you will never be offered that job; that Louise will stay in it forever; that she’ll do a good job; that there is no other job anywhere that has the same qualities that that one has; that if there were you’d never be offered it; that the choice to not hire you for the position was personal and not professional; that Louise didn’t have any skills that qualified her over you and that you couldn’t possibly gain those skills yourself for the next time the position comes up; that because the powers that be chose not to hire you for this job, it means you will never again be successful at anything you try or want.
Whew!! No wonder we’re upset! No wonder we can’t be happy for Louise like we know we should be! No wonder our Drill Sgt. is beating the crap out of us for not getting that job! No wonder we want to go home and binge (and maybe purge).
When you begin to see that every single scenario in your life that triggers you to feel anxious or unsettled does so in large part, if not entirely because, of the all-or-nothing stories you’re telling yourself, it begins to be very clear that most of your stress and therefore, most of your use of food to cope stems not from any true crisis or failing on your part, but from the grandiose stories you’re telling yourself to try and make sense of what you think happened.
On top of that initial aon story that triggers our jealousy, we go on to add a few more doozies!:
…and by virtue of “Them” having that thing, you are somehow less likely to have it yourself.
The Scarcity Mentality is at play here (a major all-or-nothing story many people buy into): There is only so much happiness and peace and success and love and confidence and intelligence to go around, and if this person has a whopping load you can’t also be happy, etc.?
…and not having that thing makes you less valuable, less worthy than they are.
You have to be the best, perfect, far and away above all others and, frankly, this person, whoever they are, whether intentionally or otherwise, at this moment, is messing with the program! And that means you suck! You will never be worthwhile, acceptable, sexy, lovable, etc., etc., etc.
Therefore, your worth / okay-ness as a person is dependent on that person.
This person has all the power. They have to change….or disappear…in order for you to be or have whatever it is you want. That makes you insecure around them and diminishes your ability to both celebrate their good fortune and learn from them.
Okay, first off, words like best, and perfect and above others, are words that need qualification, they are not an end in and of themselves. Better than who? When? Under what circumstances? For how long? In whose eyes/mind/estimation?
As soon as you start to ask yourself those questions in relation to words like “perfect,” or “best,” the intense pressure (anxiety/depressed feeling) that you have around that situation releases because once you start to qualify those words you see that it’s really only one or two people or a small group of people that you’re telling yourself have the power to judge whether you’re the “best” or “perfect” etc., and once you become able to recognize, as mentioned above, that your “shoulds”/perspective on the world does not mean it should be so, you can begin to apply that same thought to these people, whoever they are and ask yourself:
“Just because so and so might think this, does that make it true across the board? Am I telling myself that their perspective is more valid than my own? Why would I do that?”
Well, once you start to be able to see your all-or-nothing thinking more clearly, you see that the truth is, what you’re really telling yourself every time you feel that pang of envy or downright raging jealousy, is that as long as that person has X (or is X), you will never be safe. That’s right.
Every single time you’ve ever felt jealous of anyone or anything it’s because at your core, their success or gain is, in your mind (thanks to all-or-nothing thinking), taking away from valuable resources that you desire/need, and you believe that there is a scarcity of those resources and therefore, that person is a threat to your safety and security either physically (through real or potential impact on your finances, home, or overall health) or emotionally (through real or potential impact on your significance, acceptance and belonging with another individual, a group or in society at large).
What is really so very freeing and powerful to recognize about jealousy is that regardless of what you’re telling yourself about how it looks on the surface, if you’re feeling jealous or envious of others it only means that in some way you know you’re not doing your best for yourself / you’re not the best that you can be and you know it (not necessarily in that same area that you’re feeling jealous around). You are out of integrity with yourself and something that you see in that person is reminding you of that.
That’s all – it’s not about them. And it’s not about you needing to be the same as them or to get what they’ve got. It’s about you identifying the ways in which you feel you’re not the best you can be/doing your best for yourself and setting reasonable goals and a realistic timeline to achieve them, and then witnessing yourself taking consistent steps towards the fulfillment of those goals.
Just think about it. Let’s assume Sally is dating George, and you really, really, really like and want George. You are aware that you feel small, petty, and jealous when you see Sally. You feel anxious and insecure around her and around the two of them. What are you telling yourself about Sally or about yourself that triggers those feelings?
It’s not that you’re sad that you’re not dating George. That’s only about 10% of your energy around that situation, and is easily moved through. It’s that you are telling yourself there is something wrong with you that George isn’t with you, and/or that Sally has something you don’t and therefore, you aren’t as good as she is.
Well, it may be so that Sally has something you don’t. In fact, you can guarantee she does. We’re all different and have different strengths and weaknesses. But you’ve got two all-or-nothing stories going here that are harming you:
- George should like you, and because he doesn’t, it means there’s something wrong with you (here you’ve decided that George is the representative of all men and therefore if he’s not into you, no one ever will be).
- “Whatever it is Sally’s got is something you should have”….really? Do you want to be a carbon copy of Sally or is it just that you think you need to be like her in order to get someone like George?
But imagine you were taking great care of yourself. Imagine you no longer used food to cope and you were a healthy, natural weight for your body. You’re exercising moderately. You’re making time for the people and interests that are important to you. You’re moving forward towards your ultimate career goals, whether that’s to take a course, refresh your resume or apply for a new position, you’re on it. You’re being responsible with your finances and getting on top of debt (if you have it).
Imagine that. There you are, feeling your best, truly knowing that you’re doing your best for yourself in the world. Are you going to feel the same jealousy and frustration that George is with Sally as you would if you were still binging or overweight, or in a dead-end job, or not honoring your values around family or the environment, etc?
Nope. You’re going to feel a little sad, perhaps, yes. But overall it’ll be: “Oh, well, it wasn’t meant to be. I wish them well, and, by the way, what’s next on the horizon?”
Yes, when you begin to see yourself doing your best for yourself in all areas of your life, i.e. living from integrity and not from the desperate need for external approval, you will absolutely feel happiness for the success of others and happy for the world that good stuff is happening.
In the meantime, if you find yourself feeling envious, whether it’s envy of a Hollywood star and their success or physical beauty, or envious of a friend and their new hubby or car or house or job, or whatever, just remember that the only reason you really feel that way is that you know in some way you’re not doing your best for yourself and you’re hooked into the scarcity mentality, looking outside of yourself and assuming that someone’s gain implies a loss for you. Just remind yourself there’s more than enough approval and safety to go around. Let go of focusing on the specific thing that you seem to be jealous about, and ask yourself:
- In what way would I say that I am I not doing my best for myself?
- In what way am I out of integrity (my words and actions, to myself or to others, are not in alignment)?
- In what way am I judging myself as not being the best that I can be?
The answers to those questions will be very illuminating. You’ll instantly feel released about that person and their stuff and be able to set about attending to your own self-care and your own successes in key areas of your life.
I encourage you to print this out, or at least write out those questions and carry them with you, and the next time you see someone crossing the street with a great body or a sweet outfit or with a sexy man/woman on their arm, etc. and start to feel that old pang, just remind yourself that it’s got nothing to do with them and everything to do with your all-or-nothing thinking and with the ways in which you feel you’re not doing your best for yourself. Commit to working on that and get the tools you need to make those changes, rather than focusing on what someone else has and how that means there is less for you. And then, sit back and enjoy your newfound confidence and freedom!
Whether you prefer one-on-one counselling (in-person, by phone, or email), our intensive and transformative workshops, the self-help approach, with the book, or our Food is Not the Problem Online Membership Program, take action today to have a stress-free relationship with food. Sign up for our free newsletter today (see the left top side of your screen). Newsletter subscribers receive exclusive product discounts and are first in line to get on all the latest new at CEDRIC.
© Michelle Morand, 2010