09 Feb Why you should embrace envy & jealousy.
“It is possible to project from the shadow the very best of oneself onto another person or situation”.
Robert A. Johnson, Owning your shadow.
If you are human, then chances are at some point, you’ve been struck by a serious case of green-eyed envy. Intense jealousy. Festering resentment. Gross and uncomfortable feelings, causing you to behave in less than desirable ways. I’m sure I’m not alone here!
Owning up to envy and jealousy is the very last thing you feel like doing. Unless you know a little secret about what is hiding in those shadows. And let me tell you, beneath the darkness and shame can be something entirely golden.
Here’s a story about an experience I had a few years back. I had a beautiful friend who was living large in her life, kicking goals in her business, working flexible hours and always seemed to have plenty of money. She was really grabbing life by the balls and running off to all kinds of fun adventures. She was bright, happy and could easily engage with anyone which is why she had so many contacts and lots of friends.
At the time I was struggling to find myself and I yearned for my own freedom of self expression and success in my life. I was blocked, stuck and a little lost. I was doing some difficult inner work and feeling less than spritely.
Enter good ol’ green eyes. Now being envious and jealous is something I am happy to admit to (now that I know it’s sneaky secret), however the behaviours and actions that it encourages are not something I am proud of. We’re talking passive-aggressive remarks, aloof-ness, exclusionary vibes. Whatever your particular brand of less than desirable behavour, one things for sure, it’s not pretty. Thankfully I had the foresight to know that whatever was triggering me about my friend was actually MY issue and before I let it get (even more) out of hand (ie. project my shit all over my beautiful friend), off I went to unpack it with my counsellor.
It seemed like a petty topic to take to my counsellor, but I really wanted to get a handle on what was going on as it had reached the stage of being all-consuming. And so my counsellor, who is also a Sandplay Therapist, asked me to choose two objects from her collection. One that represented me and another that represented my friend. After taking a deep breath and allowing my body to guide me, I chose two animals: a small brown turtle and a beautiful white horse, raring it’s head and standing on it’s hind legs as if to gallop off into the sunset, wild and free. They could not have been a more accurate representation of how I saw myself in relation to my friend.
After some dialogue with my counsellor about the positive and negative traits around both animals/qualities, something powerful dawned on me. I went from looking at the objects externally as representing my friend and I to understanding that both of these aspects represented parts of my inner most SELF. Like all good insights, this one resonated deeply in my body. With the help of my counsellor I was able to recognise that I had elements of that beautiful white horse within me, but I was too scared to let it run wild. Instead, I had over-developed more introverted & thoughtful qualities, represented by the snail.
As soon as I understood this, waves of compassion and deep knowing rippled through my body. The very thing I was envious of in my friend also exists WITHIN ME. And my feelings of envy and jealousy were signposts pointing this out. This is what is known as the Golden Shadow. Positive qualities that exist in us, yet are hidden from our conscious mind because somewhere along the line we have become afraid of our own light.
The best bit for me was also the realisation that it wasn’t about becoming the white horse or emulating my friend. It was about integrating these qualities into my being in a way that was unique to me. Afterall, my girlfriend is a full-blown extravert and I’m an introvert, so I could never match that level of energy and exposure, but what I could do is take those qualities and make them my own. Express them through the unique filter that is me. This experience was my psyche’s way of saying, hey! you are out of balance here and it’a time for you to come out of your shell (literally) and show yourself to the world.
This was a HUGE learning for me and a lesson I am so grateful for. Now when envy, jealousy or even intimidation, sneaks into my awareness, I look for what it is I admire about the person and smile to myself knowing that that quality exists in me, I just haven’t integrated it yet.
So my top tips for working with Envy and Jealousy are:
- EMBRACE IT.
Own it. Fully step into the ickiness of those feelings. Admit when you are feeling jealous to yourself and even better, someone you trust. Voicing it diminishes its power over you.
- GET CLEAR
What is it exactly that you are most envious of? Is it their career success, their earning capacity, their relationship. Whatever it is, make sure you pinpoint the exact quality.
- LOOK FOR THIS QUALITY IN YOURSELF
It may not look the same way, or be as strongly present as your friend, but it’s there. Otherwise you would not have recognised it.
- DIALOGUE WITH THIS ASPECT OF SELF
Find out more about it. Why is it hiding? How does it want to be expressed? Try asking for guidance and then journal out whatever comes to you.
- BE KIND TO YOURSELF
You are growing. You are in a vulnerable space. Give yourself time to integrate this quality into your being by journalling, drawing or sharing with a trusted friend or therapist. Know that you will add your unique expression to this quality and invite it to show itself to you.
One other important thing: envy and jealousy can not thrive (or fester!) when they are no longer hidden, so consider this your official invitation to expose them in the comments below. Let me know what you are envious of in another and where you are able to see a glimmer of this quality within you. How can you make it shine that bit brighter? Would love to hear your thoughts below.