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Jealous? Are You Sure?

Updated: Jan 11

I had an interesting conversation with someone the other day that really made me think. I had been running at a pretty fast pace with work, putting in very long days. As a result I had gotten way behind on some family obligations. The cupboard was bare, the library books and prescriptions were get the idea. For the previous several weeks I had not had a day, or even an afternoon, off in spite of being up at 5 every day and in bed at 11. I’m not complaining...just setting the scene. So I woke up last Monday and was delighted to realize that I had an extremely rare morning with no appointments, other than one client I was meeting at a property for a quick inspection. After that I had a full docket of errands to run during those few precious unscheduled hours before I needed to be at work again that afternoon until late. After my early morning meeting, my client asked me if I was heading to the office and I said no I had some personal items to attend to. She said something along the lines of, “You’re so lucky. I’m so jealous of your job. I would never get to take a Monday morning off. I really could use a break too. Soooo jealous.” It was kind of an offhand comment, and she wasn’t trying to be rude at all. But she repeated the sentiment a couple more times and I could tell she really did think in that moment that my job was easier than hers, and that I had all the perks. She truly was feeling a tinge of envy. It got my ire up a tad with a sudden sense that I needed to justify myself somehow. I mentioned that I work most weekends and evenings so I have to grab free moments as I can, and she softened a bit. “Oh that’s true” she said. “I hadn’t thought of that. I guess I do get weekends and evenings off. I just really don’t feel like going to work today.” I totally get that. We all have days like that.

That was the end of the conversation, but it stayed with me throughout the week. She hadn’t meant a thing by it, and I’m certain didn’t give it another thought. It was just a passing interaction. But it was curious to me to ponder how quickly people (myself included) can make assumptions and jump to jealousy. Usually in minor insignificant ways like this, but sometimes in much larger scale confrontations. Envy can be an insidious thing. I’ve always known that, and try hard to avoid it. In spite of best efforts though, most of us can’t help but battle the green monster from time to time, or even most of the time if we are honest. So often others around us seem to have it better than we do. They live charmed lives while we slog away at our average or difficult ones. We wish we had her thick long gorgeous hair, or drove his luxury car. We wish we had her prestigious job, or could dance the way he does. We wish our kids were as easy and well behaved as hers are, or that our husbands brought flowers like we saw being delivered next door last week. Why does she get flowers? What’s so special about her? It’s not fair that she stays so skinny without even trying, while we gain weight by even looking at a donut. We bemoan that he gets to travel to so many exciting places while we are stuck at home. Playing this comparison game leads to a great deal of discontent, but my conversation last week reminded me once again how much jealously can be based on perception rather than reality.

At first glance my client saw that I was not going to the office that morning and that she was. The natural assumption was that she worked harder than me, and I got more time off than she did, and it wasn’t fair. But she couldn’t see the whole picture. It is true that I have some flexibility in my schedule at times. I am basically my own boss. That’s the main reason I chose my current work situation actually, so that I would be able to schedule work around the needs of my large family sometimes. What my client did not know though is that I work multiple jobs, and that my work schedule often includes nights, weekends and holidays. It’s just the nature of the work that I do. She couldn’t see that I hadn’t had time off for weeks, and was up very early every morning like clockwork. She didn’t know that because I am an independent contractor I don’t get health care or a 401K. I don’t have regular set paychecks I can count on. That she has many blessings in her situation that I do not have as well. All she knew in a fast assessment was that I seemed to have something she did not, and that she was tired that morning and wanted the break she thought I was getting. The actual truth of my work life and schedule wasn’t quite as idyllic as she thought though. I personally love my job(s), but they have distinct pros and cons just like nearly everything does. If my friend had to trade just that morning with me would she? On a day when my job’s pros were paying off and I had some flexibility? You bet. But if to get that Monday off to run errands she had to take on the whole total package, would she still switch with me? If she had to go weeks (or even months) without getting paid sometimes? Be on call nearly round the clock? Bring her work on vacation with her every time? Maybe...maybe not. We all have different personalities, and truth be told we generally gravitate toward situations that suit us best. So while we all have days when we don’t feel like going to work, we most likely chose our current jobs for a reason. If we tried out someone else’s we would often find that we preferred the one we had before, once we knew all the ins and outs of both.

I’ve been thinking all week about how easy it is to feel jealous based on incomplete information. And how easy it is to want the blessings we see others enjoying, without even realizing the prices they pay to have those blessings. That friend that stays so “naturally” thin and fit...she probably is up exercising at 6 am every morning and strictly avoids junk food. You CAN wear the same size jeans as her IF you want to keep to the same regimen she does. But do you? Or does a piece of chocolate cake sound good now and then? That family down the street who has the nicer house and more money...if you could see behind the walls of their home you might learn that he travels half the month, works 80 hour weeks and they rarely spend time together as a couple. They are in counseling, because they are growing apart. Would you still trade your happy marriage to have their gorgeous house if you could? What about that neighbor that got the flowers? What if you knew that someone sent them because her brother had just recently been killed in a car accident? Would you still want the flowers if it was for a reason like that? Of course not. The thing is...most envy is misplaced. Many things we covet we could also have if we were willing to live the lifestyle that goes along with it. If we don’t want to then why bother coveting the outcome? Most things that seem easy for others actually aren’t. Almost every benefit comes at a price. That doesn’t mean it is bad. Just that we can’t reap what we don’t sow. So it makes no sense to be jealous. If we really want something than we should start sowing. If we aren’t willing to, then we should realize that in truth we like our current situation better all in all. Also, we usually are only seeing a surface picture, and what seems wonderful at first might not really be as great as we think if we found out more information. So much better to just be happy for others for the happiness and good things that come to them. We never know what pains they might be facing behind the scenes.

Next time envy rears its ugly head, stop and ask yourself - Are you really sure you’re jealous?? If you had to swap the whole package of that person’s life with yours, would you really do it? Could there be things you aren’t seeing or just don’t know? Are there things to be grateful for in your own life that you are momentarily forgetting? Jealousy cannot stand in the face of gratitude and love for others. So let's retrain that impulse to envy into an impulse to be overjoyed when others succeed. In fact, to help them to do so as often as possible. Let’s turn that envious moment into a gratitude fest and watch how fast that changes our feelings. With this mindset the answer to “are you sure you’re jealous?” will almost always be NO!!

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