How To Prevent Jealousy From Getting In The Way Of Being Happy For Your Thriving Friends

The more you compare yourself to others, the more miserable you will be. Luckily though, you can shift your mindset to use your jealousy as a catalyst for positive change. Say you have a close pal who scored a promotion or bought their dream house early. You naturally want to feel happy for them, but you can't ignore the nagging feeling in your stomach telling you that you should be in their place instead. Apparently, this is part and parcel of humanity, with a 2017 study published in Frontiers in Psychology noting that we tend to channel our envy toward people of similar age, status, and social circle. But succumbing to envy is not only damaging to your mental health but your relationships, too. 

A 2018 study in the Social Science & Medicine found that envy can stunt your psychological health, while licensed therapist Dr. Deborah Vinall told Well+Good, "It causes you to feel unhappy at the success of others, believing it dims your own star. If your envy is fueled by insecurity, you may feel threatened by others' success, and be driven to tear down your friend, sabotage her success, or minimize the accomplishment." While you cannot prevent yourself from ever feeling envious, you can acknowledge your feelings and turn them into something productive.

Acknowledge your feelings but also try to distance yourself from them

When it comes to dealing with envy, many make the mistake of punishing themselves for even harboring the feeling. They don't allow themselves to feel resentment, sadness, and other emotions associated with envy. But there's a big difference between feeling envious and marinating in it. If you can't embrace your emotional vulnerability and accept your feelings, you'll have a hard time alleviating your jealousy in the long run. "Admitting it to yourself, actually, grounds you in a more realistic perspective," Gerrod Parrott, a psychology professor at Georgetown University, told Vox. "Then, maybe move on to thinking of ways in which you can do better."

Once you've been honest with yourself and recognized that what you're feeling is indeed envy, you'll be better equipped to distance yourself from it and prevent it from swallowing you whole. "Emotions are not right or wrong, they just are. Shaming or guilting yourself for experiencing the emotions won't help you heal," Raquel Martin, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and scientist told Wondermind. "This is the first step to managing any and all feelings."

During times when you think you're turning into a green-eyed monster, allow yourself to feel your feelings, but also remind yourself that they don't define who you are. Envy is not a sign that you are a bad friend. It's just a feeling — it, too, shall pass.

Practice gratitude and use your envy as motivation

Whenever you find yourself resenting others' success, it's easy to lose sight of what you do have. You tend to let your envy convince you that others have it way better than you do when it's far from the truth. When you think you're starting to feel irrational, take it as a time to focus on what you have instead of what you lack. This also helps to change your mindset about success and avoid making your thriving friend a barometer. "You're showing yourself that it's like comparing apples to oranges," Piercarlo Valdesolo, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Claremont McKenna College, told Time. "It kind of puts you in a situation where their successes and their status don't really apply to you, [and doesn't] have implications for what you could be capable of."

You can also turn your envy into something positive. Psychology Today notes that envy comes in two forms: malignant and benign. Malignant envy is when you let it spiral into resentment, while benign is when you use it as fuel to work harder. The latter is what you want to aim for as it allows you to be happy for other people, too. Use your envious feelings as a tool to encourage growth, rather than inhibit it. This mindset will help you not feel threatened by your friend's success, but rather use it as inspiration.