Shakespeare originally coined the phrase “jealousy is a green-eyed monster” but it’s so widely circulated that today the expression has passed into common speech. Why has this image endured for centuries? What spared this characterization from fading into oblivion when so many others slipped into the dusty cracks of history?
I suspect it’s because no other writer has so precisely described this tortuous emotion. Jealousy is a monster: horrid, terrorizing. When we covet what another has, when we enviously behold our colleagues becoming math teachers and going off to doctoral programs at Stanford, we feel narrow, less than. “What in the hell,” we wonder, “are we doing with ourselves?”
28 and I-like many in their turbulent 20s-feel like I’m not nearly where I thought I’d be at this point in my life. Whenever I’m visited by these feelings of disappointment and disheartening doubt, I find consolation in the wise words of Francois Lelord’s delightful Hector & the Search for Happiness:
Rule #1: Happiness does not come from comparisons
Rather than use our envy as an instrument of torture with which to brutalize our self-worth, why not reframe our relationship to the green-eyed monster? Instead of feel bitter when our peers triumph, why not view their successes as proof that we, too, can get what we’re after? We too can teach English in a local high school. We too can gain admittance to Stanford.
The first step to manifesting what we want is believing it’s possible. Why is it that so few of us possess certainty of our own worth? Why do so many of us so adamantly contend that what we most deeply desire is not available to us? No, no we couldn’t have “real” careers, we couldn’t make six figures. No, no we couldn’t teach English in India/join the Peace Corps/ride camels in Peru. We couldn’t get our Master’s in Buddhist studies/write a novel/go to journalism school.
If we want to achieve our most precious dreams, we must overhaul all this “I’m not good enough.” We must believe with all our hearts that we’re worthy and that the universe is generous and abundant and wants to deliver exactly what we want to us. There will always be someone we know who realizes an ambition we fervently lust after. But why begrudge their success? That they procured what we believed unattainable proves we’re not very good judges of what is possible.