Ever used LinkedIn to stalk an old coworker’s new job? Or looked through an ex’s tagged photos to find their new partner on Instagram? Or felt that initial pang of heat and resentment when a friend tells us something fantastic happened? We want to be happy for them, but sometimes we feel jealous.
Jealousy can be a very strong emotion. We even call it the green-eyed monster. Because of this, most of us try to ignore or suppress these feelings, but that doesn’t make them go away. We might start to feel competitive, isolated, argumentative, judgmental, or even a growing sense of self-doubt and low self-worth. But just like other emotions, we can learn how to use mindfulness to reframe jealousy. First, we have to let go of the shame we feel towards certain emotions, which starts by talking about it. Think of it as the antidote to jealousy. To stop being jealous of others, we first have to be kind to ourselves.
Mindfulness helps us reframe jealousy as a feeling trying to communicate with ourselves
Learning how to manage feelings of jealousy starts with being kind to our mind
Try meditations for letting go of jealousy with Headspace
Jealousy is one of our most complex emotions, and it usually comes from a place of lack. No matter what we do, we feel it’s not enough or that we’re not enough. So we compare ourselves to others around us. In doing so, our thoughts can turn towards a sense of competing with someone or something. Maybe we’re suspicious of our partner giving someone else attention. Or that our coworker got picked for a promotion over us. But these thoughts and feelings make it hard for us to find perspective. We might do things that cut someone out of a conversation so we look good, or we hold back information that might help someone — all because we think it might benefit us.
Admitting these things out loud might make some of us feel uncomfortable. While jealousy can lead us to act in ways we don’t love, feeling jealous doesn’t mean we’re a bad person. None of our emotions define us. Happiness, sadness, anger, and jealousy communicate something to us about ourselves. We often think that jealousy is about someone else, but really it’s bringing our awareness to a fear, an unmet need, or a sense of inferiority that we can address.
To let go of jealousy (and feel better about ourselves), we first have to get comfortable with uncomfortable feelings like defeat, shame, or rejection. When we're acting from a place of pain and hurt, we’re more likely to act reactively. Meditation helps us increase our awareness, which allows us to press pause when our emotions are triggered. Once we create space for our feelings to breathe, we might find it easier not to act on jealousy.
Even if we understand jealousy, it still doesn’t feel good. Especially when it happens easily and often. Sure, some people are less jealous than others. We may have encountered an overly jealous ex or a relaxed friend who never seems phased, leaving us unsure of where we fit on the jealousy meter. What is normal jealousy? What is too much? Am I getting jealous too quickly?
People say the pixelated grass is always greener on the other side. Social media filters, poses, and thoughtfully articulated posts are everywhere. It’s no secret that social media has negative effects. Most of the time, we know that what we see on the internet is curated. So why do we take the bait? Maybe we’re constantly scrolling through home inspirations that are a dream come true, and then we look at the “need to organize” pile on our desk. Or we see the constant stream of cute proposals, and we’re still single. When we get jealous or have FOMO, it might be because we’re comparing what we see on the internet to what we see IRL.
It’s okay to get frustrated by what we feel we’re missing, but it’s important to remember we’re not alone. Insecurities are universal, and so is jealousy. Mindfulness can play a huge role in how we cope with jealousy. That’s because mindfulness is about staying in the present moment, accepting ourselves, our minds, and our lives exactly as they are. We can even give ourselves permission to accept strong feelings and then let them go.
By intentionally choosing to sit with the mind, we can better support those around us, too. Meditation opens our perspective to other people’s experiences to see that we all struggle sometimes. That makes us human. This can help us to lean into kindness and compassion rather than jealousy and competition. It's a journey, so remember, let’s be gentle with ourselves.
Women are trained to compare each other from an early age. We’re taught by society and from past experiences to judge our bodies, love lives, careers, social lives, homes, and…everything else. These measurements ultimately become obstacles we feel we have to keep proving to ourselves and others.
We unconsciously carry these judgments with us. And they can affect how we act in current situations. Maybe a previous relationship ended badly, and our present becomes riddled with doubt, comparison, and jealousy. But this story is just that: a story we tell ourselves when we’re focused on thinking the worst.
There might be a scientific reason, too. Research suggests that hormones affect how easily we feel jealous. Look at this study of jealousy and ovulation. Participants looked at two photos of the same woman: one taken during ovulation and one taken after. Researchers found that participants could detect subtle signs of a woman during ovulation. Those participants asked during their peak estrogen cycle (before ovulation) were more likely to see the woman ovulating as dating competition. This hormonal link might connect to our primal responses. When we’re biologically prepped to reproduce, our hormones can make us jealous of other women.
But it doesn’t have to feel this way all the time. We can actively work to heal our inner girl and better support the women in our lives.
The next time we feel jealous of someone else, we can use that as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. We might realize it has nothing to do with them. What lies behind jealousy might be rooted in our self-esteem, a sense of betrayal, or loss. When we can pinpoint the cause more specifically, we can bring compassion to ourselves versus judgment or anger towards others.
Meditation helps us accept and move through our feelings without judgment. When we take time to sit with the mind, we begin to notice any strong moods or emotions that are present, not trying to push them away. Instead, we try to notice what's already there and meet them with a sense of kindness.
We can also notice if there are any thought patterns or stories in the mind, and validate them instead of pushing them away or adding to them. If we get distracted, simply pay attention to our breath. Focusing on each in-breath and out-breath will help the mind rest.
Meditation expert Sarah Desai joins Headspace to talk about jealousy. She says: “Whenever you notice a mean or unwarranted thought, think about the root of why. Then, turn that into a moment of compassion for yourself.” The mind will still get caught up in thinking. Maybe memories of a particular event or situation. We can acknowledge and validate the emotion by saying, “I’m feeling jealous.” Hopefully, the more we open up to ourselves, the more we can say, “I understand why I am experiencing this feeling.” Giving ourselves permission to let go can take time.
The interesting thing about jealousy is that we’re not usually jealous of people we don’t relate to. If we want to be a singer, we’re not really jealous of Beyoncé. But when a college acquaintance, who didn’t even do acapella, gets some recognition for their voice, we’re furious. Surprisingly, that’s often the case with others, too. Results from this survey showed that participants said they would be more jealous of someone very similar to them who was 50% wealthier than they would be of Bill Gates.
It seems counterintuitive, right? If our jealousy stems from wealth, why wouldn’t we be jealous of one of the wealthiest men in the world? Or, in our case, Beyoncé?
That’s because jealousy is tied to our inner critic, the harsh voice in our heads that tells us we aren’t quite good enough, and other negative self-talk. We tend to admire people who seem further away from us. But someone similar? Who made it just a little further than we did? That can have us questioning, “Why wasn’t I enough?” But this isn’t a weakness. We might have a fantastic voice, too, but we chose to take care of a family member or return to school. Someone else had the opportunity to pursue a similar dream, but that doesn’t take away from our dreams or accomplishments.
If we compare ourselves to others we see online, that might trigger our feelings of jealousy. Say we see a friend post from a trendy new restaurant when we couldn’t get reservations. Or we find out an influencer with the same creative skills gets sponsored by a brand, while our content doesn’t. If noticing these follows always bums us out, we can mindfully mute or unfollow them. Instead, we can seek out accounts that make us feel uplifted, confident, and part of a supportive community.
When we slow down enough to write about our experience, we can release the hold it has on our mind. If we like how writing feels, we can also try talking about it. Sharing our experiences out loud might help us feel less alone.
To help us stay present with ourselves, we can spend a few minutes focusing on what we’re grateful for. Over time, this practice can give us more confidence in where we are, versus what we lack.
To help us shift our overall perspective towards others, we can do something that brings joy to someone. When we write a thoughtful note to someone or surprise them with an act of kindness, we focus on the here and now. We might feel warmth and connection, or notice how their faces light up. In meditation, we can practice a technique called loving-kindness, where we direct well-wishes and goodwill first to ourselves and then, as a ripple effect, to others.
The primal feeling of jealousy often leaves us in a scarcity mindset, meaning that if someone else gets a promotion when we’re working hard, gets a dream job when we’re applying, or buys a house when we’re searching, we never will. But we can shift into a growth mindset using meditation and the mindfulness tools listed above.
When we’re able to notice that we’re feeling jealous and try to understand why we’re feeling that way, we can choose to do something supportive for ourselves. Maybe we rework our ideal timeline to house ownership, broaden our search, or come to terms with the fact that we just haven’t found the one yet. That doesn’t make us unlucky, bad, or doomed never to own a home. And that doesn’t make our friend lucky, good, or charmed.
Now that we’ve gained a healthy sense of perspective, it’s easier to support others, too. We can celebrate our friend’s new home and be genuinely happy that they hit their major goal. When we genuinely cheer on others' wins, we lift each other up. And maybe even push each other towards bigger dreams.
The Headspace app has hundreds of guided exercises to help you build your practice. Start by searching these three meditations to help you let go of jealousy. A happier, healthier you is a few breaths away.
Letting Go of Jealousy meditation. Recognize when you may be acting from a place of pain.
Building Self-Confidence meditation. True self-confidence isn’t dependent on circumstance, material things, or how we’re perceived.
Inspired By Women meditation. Reflect on the women who have shaped you as well as the roles you play yourself, to celebrate each other’s strength, resilience, and love.