Dealing with Jealousy

Originally published on LiveJournal, 8.13.07

There are only three productive ways to deal with your jealousy:

1) Improve. Take a good look at what it is that makes you inadequate, mediocre, merely tolerable. Ask yourself where you can realistically be, and then devise a plan towards getting there. This can be anything from changing your “personality,” your quirks, to your looks and style. This is often rather hard, because over time we tend to develop justifications for who we are. For example, if you’re rather plain-lookin' (hi, that’s me!), you might find yourself clinging to certain rational-sounding “principles,” such as hippie/spiritual values, or a brainy/nerdy contempt for “shallowness.” Let go. I said, let go. None of us can truly live according to our principles. If that were true, socialism would have been achieved in 1848, and there would be no suburban, nightmarish blight. We have to separate the fight for a better world from our own neurotic, defensive justifications. If we don’t, the social struggle is nothing but self-indulgent, self-centered, new-age liberal barf. Are you upset about people being superficially polite? So am I! But being a rude bastard and alienating all your friends won’t encourage depth. Improve! Be nice! And use a newly gentle demeanor to show the way.

2) Accept. Sometimes no plan can save you, no makeover, no decision. What you want to be is too far away. You will never be a supermodel, a rockstar, a world-famous author. This doesn’t mean you’re worthless, not at all; it means that what makes you valuable doesn’t fit all that well with what is popular. Unfortunately, this approach is taken too often without considering the first alternative, and it’s easy to pretend you are “accepting,” when you really are being as self-indulgent as the “principled” defenders from part 1. Usually, there is a realistic way to improve. Even your plain-lookin' looks, supposedly goD’s “gift” to you, can be improved dramatically with some attention, some posture, some clothes and some attitude. Working out has also killed very few people. But it gets ever slippier: some people demand to be accepted by others. Listen to me: it won’t work. In fact, it’s a sure sign that you’re not accepting of yourself, merely yet another defensive justification of your own worthlessness. Contempt for others will not make you appreciate yourself. It will make you twisted and bitter. Accept your limitations for your own sake, without telling yourself, secretly, that you are superior. Your limitations mean one thing, and one thing only: that you are limited. They are not commentary about anyone else. Focus your diligence instead on what can be improved, and admire what’s admirable in others. Does others' contempt for you bother you? Allow yourself a tiny smirk, then, and know this well-known secret: their contempt stems, too, from jealousy. They’ve got them some problems. And now stop smirking, and stop acquiring their limitations: find a way to admire something in them.

3) Both. It takes some untraining of our fake modernism to realize that it’s possible, even necessary, to have opposite logical principles operating at the same living moment, when the source is our psyche. We want to live, and at the same time want to sleep forever. We love, and we hate our dependence on the object of love, and we hate the blackness beyond the precipice of potential loss. Similarly, we want to be better, and also to be happy with what we have. The desire to improve and the desire to accept are not mathematical operators, but ones of the soul. There’s no logical contradiction between being being pleased with your artistic talent and wanting to be a better artist at the same time. Wanting life to be better does not equal unhappiness; contentment does not equal fear of change. What the stupid dictionary defines as opposites, the soul uses to dance. I’m mentioning this as a third productive way to deal with jealousy because it’s easy to get caught in trying to decide between way #1 and way #2. Yet another neurosis to embrace. More precisely, it’s a meta-neurosis: obsessing not about a specific topic, but about “proper” compartmentalization of all our topics. Let go. Allow yourself contradiction, and leave the worrying about it to authors of stupid dictionaries that say nothing to us about our lives.